A late, late strike from Canary skipper Grant Holt gave Norwich a 1-0 win away at Celtic Park this evening and ensured that Chris Hughton’s pre-season plans continued to bubble along nicely.
The aim of such occasions as tonight’s re-match with the Scottish Premier League champions was for the squad to avoid picking up any major injuries as they sharpened up their training ground acts with at least 45 minutes of good, competitive football.
That they certainly got with Celtic only a week away from their opening bow in Europe and, for decent periods of the game, looking sharp and confident in possession.
But the fact that 31-year-old Holt was on hand to poach a late winner, however, just added a silver lining to Norwich’s night out in Glasgow – and proved once again the skipper’s happy knack of being in the right place at the right time. Time and time again.
In a goalless first-half that again featured a fully committed performance from James Vaughan, Anthony Pilkington came closest for the visitors with a sharp, near post effort that required an equally sharp save from keeper Lukasz Zaluska.
At the other end, Kris Commons proved to be the biggest threat for the Bhoys as the Glasgow giants twice found John Ruddy’s woodwork as they continued to gear up for their forthcoming Champions League qualifying campaign. The Scottish Premier League also starts a fortnight earlier than their English counterparts – the reigning SPL champions playing host to Aberdeen on August 4.
It was an opening 45 minutes that also featured an injury to Rangers old boy Steven Whittaker; sympathy was in rather short supply as Russell Martin was handed a rather longer gig at right-back than originally intended.
Martin and keeper keeper John Ruddy were the only players to re-emerge after the break as Hughton continued his weekend policy of giving everyone a full 45 minutes at this early stage of the summer.
Holt was saved for the second period as Steve Morison made his opening appearance of the summer in the first; the likes of Wes Hoolahan, Jonny Howson and Andrew Surman joining Holt when it came to the ‘all change..’ policy of late.
It was, however, Commons who continued to offer the biggest threat; a sweet strike from 20-yards out being only bettered by a neat exchange between Hoolahan and Chrissy Martin finally forcing sub keeper Fraser Forster into a fine save.
Paddy McCourt delivered a perfect through ball for Celtic skipper Georgios Samaras only for the Greek centre-forward to loft the ball onto the roof of Ruddy’s net.
It was, in truth, a rare moment of genuine attacking threat from either side with Celtic, in particular, enjoying plenty of possession without ever really unduly troubling Ruddy or, indeed, the second-half pairing of Ryan Bennett and Leon Barnett in front of him.
Five minutes from the end and Simeon Jackson delivered a dipping, 25-yarder that Forster could only awkwardly punch away. Four minutes later and Forster was finally beaten.
Hoolahan’s jinking run down the right-hand channel found the Irishman whipping a decent cross onto the edge of the Bhoys six-yard box. Half-cleared, it fell to a lurking Howson whose low drive found Forster doing no more than pushing the ball into the feet of Holt.
Six-yards out and the keeper floored and long beaten, the Canary skipper had the simplest of chances to tuck the ball home and give the travelling City fans something to savour on the long journey home.