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Paddy Davitt, EDP Sports Writer
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Norwich City’s matches on the road should come with a Premier League health warning after another pulsating contest at Molineux.
City were pegged back for the second time in the space of four days after they again looked set to claim maximum points away from Norfolk.
Ronald Zubar’s powerful late header cancelled out Simeon Jackson’s scrambled goal just a minute after the Canadian’s arrival. City then had to again dig deep defensively to repel another late onslaught with the assistant referee coming to Norwich’s aid after Steven Fletcher looked to have secured the win before the Scot’s effort was correctly ruled out for offside.
The Canaries had gone ahead in the first half when Andrew Surman headed home against his previous club, only to be pegged back before the break by the recalled Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
Lambert named an unchanged line -up for the third consecutive contest. Zak Whitbread partnered Russell Martin at the back with Grant Holt and Steve Morison again paired in tandem after their recent fine displays against Newcastle and Everton.
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy included Ebanks-Blake for Kevin Doyle in one change to his side from the weekend defeat to Stoke and the recalled striker looked keen to impress in the early stages.
Surman had the first sighter for Lambert’s men seven minutes in from Wes Hoolahan’s precision pass, but the one-time Molineux man was swiftly closed down.
The lively Surman then linked superbly with Morison who burst past Zubar before producing an angled strike that Wayne Hennessey parried behind.
Hoolahan and David Fox were increasingly setting the tempo, but Surman was the catalyst for the opening goal – freeing the Irishman to raid down the left before arriving with a perfectly-timed run to powerfully head past the diving Hennessy from eight yards.
Surman almost worked his magic again seconds later but his header lacked the penetration of the goal as the home fans began to grow increasingly restless despite a vibrant start.
The Canaries carried a potent threat whenever they crossed the halfway line as Wolves’ early confidence began to visibly drain with every misplaced pass and fresh bout of indecision. Holt’s pass just needed a smidgen more weight to free Morison with Christophe Berra and Roger Johnson struggling to thwart Norwich’s front two.
City were almost lulled into a false sense of security on 24 minutes when Kyle Naughton switched off from a quick throw to allow Ebanks-Blake a clear run. John Ruddy parried his intended cut back right into the path of Stephen Hunt who lobbed wastefully over on the half volley from 10 yards.
Stung into a riposte, it was that man Morison again, rising highest to hammer Marc Tierney’s hanging cross straight at Hennessey. Whitbread then showed the jittery Wanderers’ backline how it should be done when he outmuscled Fletcher at the back post from Matthew Jarvis’ free-kick.
Wolves tried to up the ante around the half hour mark, with Karl Henry and Nenad Milijas driving forward, but City’s midfield mix remained in the ascendancy – the craft of Surman and Hoolahan counter-balanced by the energy and work rate of Andrew Crofts.
The Welsh international chased Jarvis all the way back towards his corner flag to earn plaudits from the massed ranks situated in the lower tier of the Steve Bull stand. The Wolves legend would have been less than enamoured with Ebanks-Blake’s lash over 10 minutes from the interval from just inside the Norwich penalty area.
But the bustling striker made no mistake to drag Wolves level with a scuffed finish from seven yards after Martin had blocked Hunt’s initial stab from Stephen Ward’s cut back.
Fletcher caused momentary panic in the Norwich ranks again soon afterwards with the hosts pouring forward.
Tierney and Fox released a degree of the building pressure when City’s playmaker advanced into a pocket of space to test Hennessey, who clawed behind. Wolves poured forward again in a worrying shift in the balance of power but Zubar’s heavy cross evaded Fletcher in stoppage time.
• Half-time: Wolves 1, Norwich City 1
Wolves emerged on the front foot after the restart, with Whitbread forced to take evasive action to halt the improving Fletcher. Holt’s persistence forced Johnson to concede a corner but Berra won the aerial duel.
Ruddy was bailed out by the assistant’s flag when his miscued clearance put Naughton in all sorts of trouble before Hunt was adjudged to have fouled the defender.
Wolves were now undoubtedly bossing proceedings in that key midfield heartland which City had dominated for large spells of the opening period.
Morison’s brooding presence enabled Norwich to push high enough up the park for Surman to test Hennessey with a left footer the Welsh international grasped to his right.
Hunt dragged horribly wide on 62 minutes in a finish that was a poor counter balance for the drilled precision of Milijas’ crossfield ball.
With the heavy drizzle continuing to sweep across Molineux and the contest increasingly stretched, the game was becoming a battle of will and endurance.
Ebanks-Blake dipped his shoulder to fashion the space he needed inside Tierney but fired over. Ruddy then went full length to push away Jarvis’ sidefooter destined for his bottom right-hand corner – the St Ives man deserved his slice of luck when the ball spat between Ebanks-Blake and Fletcher.
City had another escape when Ebanks-Blake headed straight at Ruddy, stationed on the six yard line, from Jarvis’ floated centre.
Lambert dragged Holt off for Jackson and the move paid instant dividends when the Canadian bundled home Morison’s cross from the left barely a minute after his arrival with the striker afforded the freedom of the Wolves’ six yard box.
Jackson then fired over on the run with City looking to seal the win but Zubar climbed above Martin to drag Wolves level on 82 minutes from Milijas’ driven corner.
Wolves poured forward in search of the winner but Fletcher’s joy was short-lived in the first minute of stoppage time when his strike was rule out for offside. It was a close call but television replays showed the linesman had made the correct decision. Ruddy still had time to thwart Adam Hammil, who looked destined to score with a point blank header, before Milijas drilled wide in a breathless finish.
• Result: Wolves 2, Norwich City 2
• Wolves: Hennessey, Zubar, Berra, Johnson, Ward, Hunt (Hammill, 75), Milijas, Henry, Jarvis, Ebanks-Blake (Doyle, 80), Fletcher. Subs (not used): Elokobi, Stearman, De Vries, Guedioura, Forde.
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Naughton, Russell Martin, Whitbread, Tierney; Fox (Bradley Johnson, 75); Crofts, Surman; Hoolahan (Bennett, 88); Morison, Holt (Jackson, 75). Subs (not used): Rudd, Barnett, Bennett, Pilkington.
• Referee: Chris Foy
• Attendance: 27,067
• Goals: Wolves: Ebanks-Blake (37), Zubar (82). City: Surman (12), Jackson (76)
• Bookings: Wolves: Zubar (29), Hunt (32). City: Naughton (39), Russell Martin (72)