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Holt Leads Canaries On A Ruddy Rampage Over Villa…
THE CANARIES completed their 2011/2012 Premiership campaign with a more than comfortable 2-0 win over Aston Villa. First-half strikes from Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson did the damage, with Norwich turning in a near perfect performance to round of the season in style.
TEAM NEWS – Understandably Lambert kept things as they were after last weekend’s thrilling 3-3 draw against Arsenal. That meant John Ruddy began in goal, under the watchful eye of Ray Clemence. The back four were Simon Lappin, Russell Martin, Ryan Bennett and Kyle Naughton. City’s midfield comprised of Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson, Elliott Bennett and Wes Hoolahan. Up front the Canaries had Simeon Jackson and skipper, Grant Holt.
FIRST-HALF – Under glorious sun, Villa won an early free-kick thanks to Ciaran Clark. Warnock whipped it into the box though Ruddy climbed highest to take the ball. The visitors were having a decent opening to affairs, seeing a corner fizzle out before Ireland salvaged things and fired wide. Up the other end Jackson nearly manage to steal in, but Richard Dunne managed to get a foot in before the Canadian was penalised for handball. On 8 minutes there was a rather puzzling moment as Collins smacked a free-kick straight against Holt. It fell kindly for City and Jackson was set away, rounding Given and finding the net. But, rather lately Atkinson had blown up and subsequently booked Holt. The Carrow Road faithful certainly were not very happy. Though seconds later they were to be bouncing up and down with wide smiles on their faces. The Canaries won a free-kick on the far side, Bradley Johnson curled in a lovely ball for Holt to charge onto and chest into the back of the net. The Canaries were off on one now as Howson picked the ball up from distance. He curled a cracker at goal and saw himself denied by a brilliant Shay Given stop. Given was called into action again minutes later as Bennett was bundled over by Lichaj. Simon Lappin took control of the situation, placing the ball. The Spanish Scotsman stepped up and curled a lovely effort towards the near post, Given managed to scramble across and claw the ball away again.
After a charming touch on 19 minutes, where all fans applauded for Stiliyan Petrov, wishing him well in his fight against leukaemia, Norwich doubled their lead. After a swirling ball forwards from Ryan Bennett, Holt tussled and tangled with his marker managing to get him to head the ball back into the danger zone. Jackson picked it up and saw his initial effort well blocked by Given, though Simeon reacted quickly to prod home the rebound. Holt was having a sterling first period, involved again as he knocked the ball down for Jackson. Jackson beat two men before seeing his drive blocked by Cuellar. Despite handball appeals, there was nothing given from Atkinson. Defensively Norwich were incredibly solid as Lappin brilliantly took the ball off Agbonlahor before winning a free-kick. Villa managed to force a corner in a rare attack, though Ruddy was on hand to punch clear and set City away on an attack. As City attacked Elliott Bennett took control, zipping inside before firing wide as he tried to find the inside of the near post. The former Brighton man was involved again on 35 minutes, driving forwards before letting fly with a low drive. But for Shay Given getting down and diverting the ball wide, they would have had a third.
Villa were really offering little going forwards, with Cuellar being excellently closed down by Hoolahan and finding touch. The pressure City were putting on their opponents when not in possession was excellent and keeping John Ruddy’s goal well protected. Though when Villa finally had a sight, Ruddy was more than equal to it. Lichaj took matters into his own hands, charging forwards before clipping a low effort towards the corner. Ruddy got down and turned the ball around the post. Atkinson again denied City a possible penalty as half-time approached, with Howson being blocked off as Hoolahan looked to find him. A free-kick was given right on the edge of the box, though apparent TV replays depicted the challenge to be inside the box. Regardless of that, after the initial free-kick was cleared Hoolahan got a swirling shot in that Given held well – one of his more comfortable saves of the first period.
SECOND-HALF – Villa actually started the second half the better, to be fair they couldn’t have got much worse! Though John Ruddy excelled as they peppered his goal with several efforts. First Steven Ireland looked to find the corner from the edge of the box, though Ruddy beat the ball away. They recycled the move and Heskey was set through, the former England international let fly with a decent effort though Ruddy denied him with a smart stop. From the resulting corner Ireland whipped in a volley at the edge of the box, though Ruddy, again, turned the ball over the crossbar. The Canaries woke up and put together a decent passage of play, Bennett’s deep cross found Hoolahan who flung a volley over the bar. City began to turn it on again as Howson found Holt, he cut inside saw his shot blocked and bobble through to Given. Norwich were keeping the ball nicely despite the game fizzling out a tad. They moved the ball well with a lovely move being capped by a low Naughton drive, which was straight at Given.
After a City corner had temporarily fizzled out, Grant Holt of all people put the ball back in with a rather brilliant cross. Ryan Bennett rose highest though his header was held by Given. Yet again Given was called into action, making a super stop from Jackson. Hoolahan and Jackson combined, before the Canadian saw his vicious drive tipped around the post by Given. Bradley Johnson was the next to try his luck, smacking a long range effort wide of goal. With 20 odd minutes left, Lambert took off his two strikers of Jackson and Holt, who both were given a deserved standing ovation, before Morison and Wilbraham entered the fray. Villa came forwards via Agbonlahor, he cut his way inside before curling a low effort at goal. Ruddy brilliantly got across and tipped the ball onto the post, before the ball was cleared by covering defenders – an excellent save. Up the other end Wilbraham charged into the box after some neat inter-play on the edge of the box, though his terrific effort flew over.
Lambert made his final change a tad later with Jonny Howson handed a rest, after another impressive display with Andrew Crofts coming on. The game truly did fizzle out as full-time approached, with both sides making little of possession. There were some nearly moments for City with the final ball lacking, before Wes got a shot away which was deflected and held by Given. Villa nearly had the final say as Bannan tried his luck with a long range effort. He struck it well but it flew wide as Ruddy scampered across, giving the big man a deserved cleansheet and City a cracking 3 points to end a memorable campaign.
MAN OF THE MATCH, GRANT HOLT – The big man was immense, he absolutely tore the Villa defence to shreds before being subbed. He scored a goal, his overall link-up play was excellent and maybe that sub was as Mr. Lambert had, had a call from a Mr. Hodgson and the latter wants Holt fit and ready for some event type thing that’s apparently coming up in the Summer. Watch this space!
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