A red letter day for Rose and City
David CuffleyNorwich City 2, Hartlepool United 1: One had to spare a thought for Adam Drury as Norwich City's latest signing walked away from Carrow Road clutching the man of the match champagne. Three times in the previous two home games, the long-serving full-back had come desperately close to scoring his first senior goal for five years.David Cuffley
One had to spare a thought for Adam Drury as Norwich City's latest signing walked away from Carrow Road clutching the man of the match champagne.
Three times in the previous two home games, the long-serving full-back had come desperately close to scoring his first senior goal for five years.
Not since his last-gasp equaliser in a thrilling 4-4 Premiership draw against Middlesbrough back in the mists of time - 2005, to be precise - has Drury's name appeared on the scoresheet for the Canaries.
Yet only the agility of Exeter goalkeeper Paul Jones and Brentford's Wojciech Szczesny has stopped him adding to his tally since the start of 2010.
Then along comes an untimely thigh injury and, a few days later, loan signing Michael Rose goes straight into his slot at left-back and scores the winner on his debut in front of City's biggest crowd of the season. There is no justice.
Nevertheless, Drury will share his team-mates' delight at a record 11th successive home win as the Canaries' promotion charge continues unabated.
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After 16 games unbeaten, 14 of them wins, Paul Lambert's table-toppers have opened up a gap of eight points on third-placed Charlton, who play their game in hand at Walsall tomorrow night. As City know from last week's exertions at the Banks's Stadium, it is not the easiest of places, or surfaces, on which to try to grind out an important win.
The Canaries have had to do just that three times in eight days with their victories over Brentford, Walsall and Hartlepool lacking the sparkle of some of their more comfortable triumphs but demonstrating the depth and character of the current squad.
In common with several of City's recent home matches, they were a little slow to stamp their authority on the game and Hartlepool, despite a run of six successive away defeats before their trip to Norwich, began in sprightly fashion. Although Wes Hoolahan missed an early opening for the hosts, they were grateful to newcomer Rose for a couple of important early interceptions and to Colin Larkin and Gary Liddle for wayward shooting.
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster had not been seriously troubled, however, before the game burst into life with three goals in the space of six minutes.
Hartlepool struck first when a throw-in from the left by Peter Hartley was headed away by Korey Smith, but full-back Neil Austin showed some neat footwork before beating Forster with a well-struck left-foot shot from 25 yards.
An instant reply was called for and City delivered it when Cody McDonald, deputising for suspended skipper Grant Holt - after being preferred to Oli Johnson - scored for the second game in a row, his fourth goal of the season.
McDonald found Russell Martin on the right flank and made for the penalty area where he jumped well to meet the full-back's cross with a firm header into the top corner.
Five minutes later, Rose made the kind of impact every debutant dreams of with a splendid finish to make it 2-1. Darel Russell made good ground before finding Chris Martin on the left, and he slipped a pass to the overlapping Rose, who struck a powerful left-foot shot past wrong-footed goalkeeper Scott Flinders from the left-hand edge of the area. The 'keeper's positioning was questionable but the shot was beautifully struck, for all that.
Smith figured prominently soon after the break. Little more than a minute after the restart, he met Simon Lappin's cross with a diving header, but it veered off target. Then a determined run by Smith took him to the byline but his cross fell into no man's land.
Hartlepool were sprightly enough, if lacking punch up front, and with 58 minutes gone, it was left to Forster to preserve City's lead with a fine save from Denis Behan.
A rare moment of uncertainty between Gary Doherty and Michael Nelson meant a through-ball from Richie Humphreys put Behan clean through, but Forster was out smartly to block his low shot and deny the visitors an equaliser.
Nelson almost scored against his old club for the second time this season when he headed wide from Lappin's corner, though he may have been impeded by Liddle.
Andy Monkhouse, Hartlepool's most stylish performer, was then just off target with a long-range effort after good approach work by substitute Adam Boyd and Larkin.
But in the final 10 minutes, there was seldom any sign of City missing out on a record 11th consecutive home win.
Eight league wins in a row, home and away, is also close to the record 10 chalked up in 1985-86, and 16 matches unbeaten is closing in on the club best of 20.
What is certain is that sixth-placed Millwall, with four wins and a draw since their 2-0 Boxing Day defeat at Carrow Road, will be eager to thoroughly test the Canaries' resolve next Saturday.