Bennetts Elliott and Ryan put the Canaries within sight of the survival finishing line at Carrow Road this afternoon with a nerve-shredding 2-1 win over bottom of the table Reading.
Carrow Road had to endure six minutes of added on time as Chris Hughton’s men failed to kill the Royals off completely following two goals in the space of 90 seconds from first Ryan Bennett and then his namesake Elliott.
But in the end Garath McCleary’s 72nd minute response from the edge of the City area counted for precious little.
City had only their second win in 17 outings in the bag; sat on 38 points with 12 left to play for, Norwich are all-but home and hosed.
Never say never when it comes to all things Canary, but Wigan’s defeat at West Ham leaves them seven points distant in that final relegation spot – albeit with a game in hand.
QPR – defeated at home by Stoke City – are effectively gone; ditto after this result Reading.
Norwich have that all-important momentum; wind back in their sails; three, huge points nailed on the door.
Premiership survival could, of course, be guaranteed in the home game against Aston Villa; the poignancy of which will be lost on no-one given the cast of characters involved.
Newcastle are the other club with plenty to think about. Following the riots on the streets on the back of their nightmare 3-0 home defeat to them across the river, today’s 1-1 draw away at West Brom will have done little to stop the alarm bells ringing on the banks of the Tyne.
On the banks of the Wear Paolo di Canio can do no wrong on the back of his second, successive win with today’s 1-0 win over Everton.
The club did its very best to get Hughton’s men off to a flying start as the triumphant Under-18s led the opening chorus of ‘On the Ball City!’, whilst some famous old faces in the shape of the three Ds – Dion Dublin, Darren Huckerby and Darren Eadie were on hand to rouse the Faithful into life.
That they did with a passion – Norwich responding with a fierce, yet wholly frustrating opening which would run out of steam long before the break.
City’s momentum and rhythm was not helped by the loss of central defender Michael Turner to injury in the 18th minute. Given the nature of the contest and the circumstances of his arrival, it was a big test of the young man’s resolve.
His response would come after the interval with the first of City’s two, decisive strikes as he pounced on a half save from Royals’ keeper Alex McCarthy to fire the ball high into the net. Cue general delirium all round.
Heaven awaited just moments later when the other Bennett stepped up to the plate and saw his effort fly up and in off the luckless McCarthy. Nigel Adkins’ pre-match boasts that the young Royals keeper might oust City’s John Ruddy in the England keeper stakes over the next seasons proved somewhat premature.
If the first came off a denial of Grant Holt’s opening effort, Bennett’s killer second was less than convincing. On a big game, on the big stage, the young Royals prospect still has a way to go.
Two goals in the space of three minutes and Norwich were cruising… condemning Reading to life in the underworld of the Championship.
McCleary’s strike from nowhere was the last thing anyone needed and would have added a few more grey hairs to Hughton’s mop before the final whistle went.
The sense of relief that engulfed Carrow Road afterwards needs little telling.
City are almost there. Hughton close to getting a huge job done.