Barnsley 1, Norwich 3
DAVID CUFFLEY Three first-half goals gave Norwich City their second precious away victory in the space of five days as they disposed of relegation threatened Barnsley at Oakwell this afternoon.
Three first-half goals gave Norwich City their second precious away victory in the space of five days as they disposed of relegation threatened Barnsley at Oakwell this afternoon.
Darren Huckerby put the Canaries ahead after six minutes with an excellent finish after being set up by Youssef Safri. It was Huckerby's 10th goal of the season and the lead was doubled after 25 minutes when Lee Croft fired home for his first goal since August.
City scored a third five minutes before the break when Chris Martin headed home from Huckerby's cross for his fourth goal for the club, rounding off an excellent four-man move.
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Barnsley gave themselves some hope when Hungarian striker Istvan Ferenczi headed in Martin Devaney's cross in first-half stoppage time.
But the second half failed to produce the same fireworks and the closest Barnsley came to scoring again was when Jason Shackell headed off the line from Brian Howard.
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In stoppage time at the end of the game, on-loan goalkeeper Tony Warner - the fifth keeper used by City this season, made an excellent save to keep out a header from Ferenczi.
It was a victory which, together with the midweek success at Luton, will have done much to push City well clear of the trouble zone but the result will only have increased Barnsley's worries.
City fielded their fifth difference keeper of the season with Tony Warner, on loan from Fulham until the end of the season, making his debut in preference to Paul Gallacher. Gallacher was not even on the bench at Barnsley, that role going to Joe Lewis.
The Canaries showed one more change to the team that started Tuesday's 3-2 win at Luton with Mark Fotheringham preferred in midfield to Dickson Etuhu, who was among the substitutes.
There was another surprise on the bench with Luke Chadwick figuring in the 16 for the first time since injuring his knee on his debut at Ipswich in November. Chadwick was included less than a week after returning to full training.
Skipper Adam Drury managed to shake off a back problem and was making his 250th senior appearance for the Canaries.
Barnsley made one change to the side that started Monday's 1-0 win at Stoke with Bobby Hassell returning at right-back after suspension in place of Neil Austin.
The Yorkshire side included one ex-Canary in their line-up in left-back Paul Heckingbottom, who spent one season at Carrow Road in 2002/03.
There was a late change of referee with Colin Webster, from Tyne and Wear, replacing Mark Clattenburg.
City kicked off in bright sunshine defending the goal behind which their travelling fans were gathered. Barnsley tried to set up their first attack down the right with Shackell heading clear at the expense of a throw and Warner soon had the first touch, safely gathering a cross from Togwell.
City won a free-kick halfway into their own half when Safri took a blow in an uncomfortable place from a challenge by Devaney, but Barnsley were soon pushing forward again and a cross from Reid almost had Doherty in trouble but Warner was able to collect as the centre-half mis-kicked.
As the Canaries tried to build their own attack on the right, Croft was penalised for handball.
There was delight among City's travelling fans, however, after six minutes when Huckerby gave them the lead with a delightful goal. Safri's 50-yard pass from halfway into the Norwich half was brought down neatly by Huckerby, wide on the right, and he cut inside before firing a splendid curling left-foot shot beyond Colgan. It was his 10th goal of the season and just the sort of start Norwich were looking for.
Barnsley went in search of an equaliser and won a corner when McCann's shot squirted off Fotheringham, but Howard and Devaney made a hash of their short-corner routine and Drury was able to clear.
The home side won another flag-kick when a shot from McCann went out off Doherty with half-hearted appeals for handball. This time, Devaney's corner was cut out by Lappin.
Barnsley were enjoying a useful spell of possession and Drury had to be alert to head clear from Heckingbottom.
City counterattacked and Croft found Huckerby on the right but his low centre was cut out by Reid.
With 17 minutes gone, Warner had to produce his first real save and had to be at his best to deny McCann. It was Howard who found McCann and from more than 20-yards out, he produced a curling, left-foot shot which Warner had to leap to his left to tip over the top at the expense of another corner.
With a quarter of the match gone, there had been little other than Huckerby's goal and McCann's effort to fire the imagination.
Warner almost blotted his copybook in the 23rd minute, however, when he kicked clear straight to the feet of Rajczi and the keeper was relieved when the Hungarian forward miscued with his shooting opportunity and fired wide.
City stretched their lead with 25 minutes gone when Croft scored for the first time since the two sides met in August at Carrow Road. Huckerby began the move leading up to the goal and Martin was also involved as the ball pinballed around on the left side of the Barnsley area and in the end it was Fotheringham's pass which took a deflection and fell perfectly into the path of Croft, who drilled a low, right-foot shot past Colgan for his third goal of the season.
Croft's enthusiasm got the better of him and after the re-start when he was shown the yellow card for a foul on Howard - his fifth booking of the season.
Barnsley won a free-kick on the edge of the area after 31 minutes when Safri tripped Devaney. Devaney ran over the ball and McCann struck a left-foot shot, but Warner was right behind it.
City threatened again when Safri made a timely interception and sent Huckerby racing clear. This time he tried a low, right-foot drive but Howard's block took the sting out of the shot and Colgan was able to collect with no trouble.
Referee Webster had a word with Devaney after a foul on Lappin and then stopped play to talk to Drury and McCann after the City skipper knocked his opponent to the ground from behind.
The home crowd were becoming frustrated as Barnsley struggled to get back into the match and a few fans were already making their way towards the exits for their half-time refreshment with more than five minutes still to play before the break.
City were so much on top that they were able to stretch their lead to 3-0 with a beautifully worked goal by Martin, his fourth for the Canaries. Safri started the move with a pass to Croft, who in turn found Martin, who spread the ball wide to Huckerby on the right and moved into the six-yard box to meet Huckerby's cross with the simplest of headers past Colgan.
Norwich threatened to score a fourth three minutes before the break when Martin found Croft in the area and he almost wriggled through to create space for a shot before being crowded out by McCann.
City won their first corner of the match as the interval approached but when Huckerby played it back to Croft, the winger's cross was headed clear.
Croft was enjoying the freedom of Barnsley and carved out another chance with a cross to the far post, but the unmarked Lappin headed over.
After being outplayed, Barnsley gave themselves some hope by pulling a goal back in first half stoppage time. Devaney crossed from the right and Hungarian striker Ferenczi was there first with his head to direct the ball past Warner.
Barnsley won the first free-kick of the second half and although Heckingbottom's cross was easily cut out by Hughes, they managed to keep the ball in and around the City area before Howard tried an overhead kick but it lacked power and Warner gathered it easily.
As City pushed forward, Croft found Fotheringham and the midfielder tried his luck from all of 25-yards, but his effort flashed wide of Colgan's left-hand post.
There was an almighty scramble in the City penalty area five minutes into the half which almost produced another Barnsley goal. Warner punched clear from a Devaney cross but the ball fell for Howard, who lobbed it goalwards for Shackell, standing on the line, to head clear via the underside of the bar and the follow-up effort was smothered by Hughes with the keeper still struggling. It was a warning for the Canaries that the contest was far from over.
Croft was still a lively performer and after darting into Barnsley territory, he crossed into the six-yard box, where Colgan had to dive out to get there before Huckerby.
Colgan conceded a corner under pressure from Martin but Lappin's flag-kick was a poor one and Barnsley were able to clear.
Devaney earned a yellow card for a foul on Martin, who had been in the wars since the interval, but the hosts were soon pushing forward again and Doherty had to head clear from a Devaney centre.
Hughes became the next player to go into the referee's notebook with a foul on Howard which angered the home crowd.
Devaney was behind most of Barnsley's better attacks and Rajczi met his centre with a firm header, but straight at Warner.
The yellow cards were beginning to fly around now and McCann was the next man booked with a clumsy challenge on Lappin after the City man made a timely interception and attempted to race clear.
City won their third corner when Hassell challenged Huckerby but Safri's kick was cut out by Togwell, conceding another flag-kick. This time, Safri aimed towards the far post but Heckingbottom was able to head the ball away.
Midway through the half, Safri found Huckerby in space on the left but with Martin hoping for a cross, Huckerby tried an ambitious right-foot volley that sailed into the crowd.
With just over 20 minutes left the home side made their first change when Kyel Reid came on in place of Devaney.
Barnsley had one opportunity to put City under pressure with a long throw from Togwell but Ferenczi was penalised.
City boss Grant made his first change after 72 minutes when Etuhu was sent on in place of Fotheringham.
Barnsley pressed again when McCann tried his luck from just outside the area but when his mistimed shot fell to Rajczi, the striker was penalised for handling.
The Canaries won another corner when Heckingbottom cut out a cross from Hughes after Huckerby had picked out the fullback but Lappin's dead-ball kick was too strong, drifting over the head of Etuhu and out of play on the other side.
With much of the sting appearing to have gone from Barnsley's play, manager Simon Davey played his final cards with a double substitution with 11 minutes left, Jones replacing McCann and Richards coming on for Rajczi.
But Norwich were next to threaten as Lappin tested Colgan with a long-range shot.
Richards was soon into the action when he headed over from a cross from Heckingbottom with seven minutes to go.
The lack of a challenge brought Grant to the touchline to remonstrate with his defence and the fourth official had a job persuading the City boss to stay inside his technical area.
With 85 minutes gone, Shackell came to City's rescue again when substitute Reid produced a smart volley which Warner failed to hold and Shackell had to get in first to knock the ball out for a corner.
Hassell became the next player shown the yellow card as the minutes ticked away when he fouled Huckerby.
With just a minute to go, City made another change with Colin replacing Croft.
As the clock reached 90 minutes, Ferenczi brought Warner into action with a header, but it was an easy catch for City's new keeper.
With three minutes of time added on, there was just time for Warner to make an excellent save from a Ferenczi header to maintain the comfortable margin of victory for City.