Lansbury digs deep to bring another late Norwich City win
NORWICH CITY 2, MILLWALL 1: Henri Lansbury turned Lions tamer as his first goal in the yellow and green earned Norwich City three more valuable points in their promotion race.
The Arsenal loan player set up the equaliser 13 minutes from time, his free-kick coming off the woodwork for central defender Elliott Ward to knock the ball home – another first in City colours.
But the real drama came with only seconds of the game remaining, when Lansbury's sublime skills took a back seat as he prodded home a loose ball to make Carrow Road erupt into an explosion of sound.
City's last two performances have been gritty, workmanlike affairs, and while the early stages of this one suggested something more pleasing on the eye, that didn't always materialise.
It was left to City's now famed never-say-die attitude to see them through with another late win, although going into the game with only one defeat in 14 games and Millwall beaten just once in their previous 11, no-one expected a one-sided affair.
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Lambert made four changes to the team which won a point at Crystal Palace at the weekend. Adam Drury, who picked up a thigh strain at Selhurst Park, failed to make it, giving Marc Tierney his first start since joining from Colchester last month.
Ward, Simeon Jackson and Simon Lappin came in, with Zak Whitbread, Chris Martin and Wes Hoolahan all on the bench.
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Millwall made one change from the side which beat Barnsley 2-0, Danny Schofield on the bench with Jack Smith coming in.
City lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, Lansbury down the right.
Home keeper John Ruddy did what he has been doing so well in recent weeks, grabbing the first corner of the game, by James Henry, in the opening minutes, while opposite number David Forde was soon brought into action, running out to take the ball off the toes of the advancing Jackson,
Lansbury found Jackson down the right flank, and although the striker's low cross ricocheted out for City's first corner, it was clear his pace was expected to be an issue.
Simon Lappin skied a good chance from the edge of the area at the end of a good move which saw Andrew Crofts put away down the right flank by Russell Martin.
There was a swift reminder of the dangers of leaving the highly-rated Steve Morison with space when, from more than 25 yards, he shot a foot over Ruddy's bar.
Jackson's backside and persistence got in the way of Forde's kick, but the ball wouldn't quite fall for a shot at goal.
Lappin, without a goal in more than three years, had another chance, albeit a little more difficult when he connected with Crofts' cross from the right, with the same result.
Crofts then set up Jackson down the channel – Darren Purse's tackle in the area was poor, but the City man was denied by the keeper's legs.
Millwall were dealt a blow in the 16th minute when Morison limped off, to be replaced by Theo Robinson – and it was the substitute who forced Ruddy into his first big save, tipping over a 20-yarder. Ward was lucky to see his sliced clearance from the corner go over as Millwall enjoyed a little spell of pressure.
Purse almost took advantage of some lax defending from Scott Barron's 32nd-minute corner, which evaded everyone and landed at the feet of the surprised central defender but he clipped it wide.
Crofts went into the referee's notebook for the seventh time this season for a late challenge on Jimmy Abdou. By then the game had started to level out, with Millwall looking more comfortable in and around the City area.
Holt got a sight of goal after picking up Lappin's ball forward, but Jack Smith's challenge was enough to put him off and the effort trickled harmlessly wide.
James Henry put a free-kick wide as the half rather petered out after the early promise.
The second half started explosively, with Jackson booked for diving in the area as he tried to beat Forde to Grant Holt's pass – replays suggested it was more of a slip although the furious keeper obviously felt otherwise.
Millwall responded well, with two efforts blocked, Holt forced to help his back four and an offside flag bringing a possible break to an abrupt end.
Then disaster struck as City were caught on the break. Trotter freed Henry down the right and his cross was perfect for the unmarked Robinson to slot home unmarked from eight yards.
Lambert made a triple substitution after 58 minutes – Anthony McNamee on for Lappin, Aaron Wilbraham for Jackson and Hoolahan for Fox.
Hoolahan almost made an immediate impact, knocking Lansbury's cross into Holt's path only for a blue shirt to get in the way of his shot.
Henry – showing more on the night than he did on a loan spell at City early in 2008 – twisted and turned in the area as he searched for a second, but saw his effort deflected off Tierney for a corner.
But City were level after 77 minutes – and it was Ward to the rescue, slotting home from a narrow angle two yards out on the left after Lansbury's brilliant free-kick had hit the right hand post and rolled across the face of goal.
Millwall will have felt hard done by, but if that was painful, then what happened as the third and final minute of time added on approached was a kick in the teeth.
Ward turned provider, sending a long punt forward. Wilbraham flicked it on, Holt tussled with Tamika Mkandawire and Lansbury was there to poke the ball home from from six yards.