Premier League: Norwich City 2, Wolves 1
17:12 24 March 2012
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Skipper Grant Holt produced a matchwinning Premier League double against relegation-threatened Wolves at Carrow Road before being sent off in the closing minutes.
Matt Jarvis put bottom side Wolves ahead in the 25th minute when he tucked home a cross from Michael Kightly.
But it took just a minute for the Canaries to reply, Holt nodding the equaliser after neatly flicking the ball over goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey from Simeon Jackson’s pass.
City went ahead in first-half stoppage time when Holt scored from the penalty spot after Wes Hoolahan’s shot was blocked by the arm of Eggert Jonsson.
His two goals took him into ninth place in the club’s all-time goalscoring list, but the gloss was taken off his afternoon with his late dismissal.
The Canaries failed to make the game safe in the second half despite numerous chances, and had to endure a nervous finale when Holt was sent off four minutes from time for a second yellow card for a tackle from behind on Kightly.
Victory ended a run of four Premier League matches without a win for Paul Lambert’s team and took them to 39 points with eight matches to go, surely enough to dispel any thought of a nervous end to the season.
City boss Lambert made wholesale changes once again with five of the team that started the 1-0 defeat at Newcastle left out.
There were recalls for Russell Martin, Simon Lappin – making only his second Premier League appearance of the season – Wes Hoolahan, Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson.
Kyle Naughton, Andrew Surman and Steve Morison were left on the bench, Adam Drury did not feature in the 18, and Anthony Pilkington was also missing after hobbling off with a hamstring problem at St James’ Park.
Wolves boss Terry Connor made three changes after the 5-0 home defeat by Manchester United. With Ronald Zubar suspended after a red card against United, skipper Roger Johnson returned in defence. Michael Kightly and Eggert Jonsson replaced Kevin Foley and the injured David Davis.
Foley was among the substitutes, as was Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, with five goals in his previous three games against the Canaries.
Ward had the first shot of the afternoon for Wolves, firing a long way wide in the opening minute after Howson cleared Jarvis’s cross.
Then Doyle almost gave Wolves the lead with a header from Kightly’s free-kick that forced Ruddy to dive to his right to save at the second attempt.
City responded well and after Hoolahan and Howson both had shots blocked, Hennessey kept out Jackson’s effort from a tight angle.
In the 11th minute, Whitbread went close to opening the scoring with a firm header from Fox’s corner, but Kightly, guarding the post, headed off the line.
Fox and Jackson combined well to find Bennett, but the winger pulled his shot across goal.
City earned a corner on 20 minutes when Jonsson cut out Holt’s cross, but Holt’s header from Lappin’s kick did not trouble Hennessey.
Jarvis caused more problems with a jinking run down the left and his cross only just cleared the head of Edwards, leaving Whitbread to head clear.
And it was Jarvis who broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when Kightly got the better of Lappin on the Wolves right, crossed into the six-yard box and a faint touch from Doyle set up Jarvis to sidefoot home.
City were level inside a minute, however, when Holt scored his 13th goal of the season with a splendid finish.
A flick by Bennett set up Jackson as the provider with a neat lob into Holt’s path, and the City skipper lobbed the ball over Hennessey before following up to nod it home as it dropped.
Kightly wasted a useful position for Wolves as they attacked in numbers, shooting into the crowd four minutes before the break.
In the final minute of the half, however, the Canaries were handed the chance to take the lead when referee Clattenburg awarded a penalty for handball by Jonsson.
A sustained City attack ended with Lappin setting up Hoolahan for a powerful shot that struck the left arm of Jonsson, and the official had no hesitation pointing to the spot.
As the half entered stoppage time, Holt drilled his penalty straight down the middle as Hennessey dived to his right.
The goal took Holt to 67 in his Norwich career, moving him one ahead of Jimmy Hill, Ron Davies and Ted MacDougall into ninth place in the club’s all-time scoring list.
Even then, Jarvis might have levelled before the break when he pulled a decent chance wide.
• Half-time: Norwich City 2, Wolves 1
Lappin’s return to the side was short-lived as he was replaced at the restart by Naughton.
Howson let fly from Naughton’s cross three minutes after the interval, but his effort struck team-mate Jackson before being hacked clear.
Jackson then missed out on a good opening when Naughton’s superb pass put him through on the left but with one touch too many, the ball ran away from him.
Wolves almost levelled at the other end with a curling shot that Whitbread diverted out for a corner.
Holt might have completed his hat-trick on the hour when a great cross by Bennett reached him at the far post, but Bassong got in a vital header to deny him clean contact at the expense of a corner.
Then Howson weaved his way into a shooting position before firing left-footed just over the top.
There was a yellow card for Wolves skipper Johnson after a clash with Holt. Johnson aimed a kick at Holt at one point before the City skipper responded by blocking him off, and also appeared to be booked.
Then it was all change with 25 minutes to go as Wolves made a double change, Milijas and Ebanks-Blake replacing Jonsson and Doyle, and Surman being sent on for City in place of Bennett.
There were some tasty challenges going in now and as City stepped up a gear, Whitbread shot wide following a corner, and Hennessey had to race out to deny the lively Jackson.
Lambert made his final change after 73 minutes, Jackson’s good afternoon’s work coming to an end as Morison replaced him.
A great piece of work by Hoolahan put Morison through on goal but Stearman got back to close him down and prevent him getting in a clean shot.
Then Hoolahan took an eternity over a shooting chance in the area and the ball dropped for Howson, whose low shot Hennessey saved, diving to his right.
With six minutes left, Jarvis threatened again but his shot was deflected into the side netting.
There was drama with four minutes left when Holt was sent off for a second yellow card after a bad challenge on Kightly.
In the final minute, Whitbread was booked for bringing down Milijas on the edge of the penalty area, conceding a free-kick inside the D in the process.
Ebanks-Blake fired the free-kick into the wall as the game entered four minutes’ stoppage time.
Milijas wasted Wolves’ final opening when he fired into the crowd.
• Result: Norwich City 2, Wolves 1
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Russell Martin, Elliott Ward, Whitbread; Elliott Bennett (Surman, 66), Fox, Howson, Lappin (Naughton, 45); Jackson (Morison, 73), Hoolahan; Holt. Subs (not used): Steer, Bradley Johnson, Crofts, Wilbraham.
• Wolves – Hennessey; Stearman, Roger Johnson, Bassong, Stephen Ward; Kightly (Gorman, 89), Edwards, Jonsson (Milijas, 65), Jarvis; Fletcher, Doyle (Ebanks-Blake, 65). Subs (not used): De Vries, Berra, Foley, Price.
• Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
• Attendance: 26,752
• Goals: City: Holt (26, 45 pen). Wolves: Jarvis (25)
• Red card: Holt (86)
• Bookings: City: Holt, Whitbread. Wolves: Jonsson, Johnson