Norwich City promoted to the Premier League
PORTSMOUTH 0, NORWICH CITY 1: Simeon Jackson, the man who came in from the cold, booked Norwich City's stunning return to the Premier League on a night of high emotion on the South Coast.
Paul Lambert's Canaries completed the rare feat of back-to-back promotions from the third tier to the top flight with their 10th away victory of a remarkable campaign.
And it was Canadian international Jackson, who went five months without a goal at one stage of the season, who delivered the killer blow five minutes into the second half when he produced the perfect diving header from a cross by David Fox to send more than 3,000 travelling fans into raptures.
It was 24-year-old Jackson's ninth goal in seven matches, a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the man who arrived from Gillingham last summer.
Yet again, City clinched promotion on an away ground – in this instance the same Fratton Park where they sealed their top flight place back in 1975.
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The Canaries were given the perfect incentive to finish the job before kick-off when Cardiff City, their rivals for second place, crashed to a 3-0 home defeat by Middlesbrough, the first goal coming from ex-Canary loan striker Leroy Lita.
City boss Lambert relied on the same starting eleven for the fourth game in a row, with defender Zak Whitbread shaking off a hip problem he suffered against Derby. There was a carnival atmosphere in the ground before kick-off with the travelling fans in good voice after Cardiff's extraordinary home defeat and Pompey pumping up the volume for their final home match of the season.
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In the opening minute, skipper Grant Holt felt the force of an elbow in the neck from World Cup defender Aaron Mokoena, giving City a free-kick but there was no yellow card from referee Andy D'Urso.
Fox's kick struck the back of Kanu in the wall and dropped perfectly for Whitbread, but he planted his header wide of the target.
In only the seventh minute, Pompey skipper Herman Hreidarsson kicked out at Holt and, amazingly, was not even shown the yellow card as referee D'Urso chose merely to speak to both captains.
The rough stuff continued as Mokoena chopped down Jackson in full flight and was booked, but not before the official had to separate players as Andrew Surman clashed with the South African.
Andrew Crofts headed over from a Fox free-kick and Jackson squirted a shot across the face of goal as the Canaries continued their impressive start.
Elliott Ward needed treatment after an aerial collision with Hreidarsson but was quickly back in the action.
The early pace subsided rather with no clear-cut opportunities at either end and City's football neat and patient but lacking penetration.
City forced their second corner but striker Kanu was back to head clear from Fox's kick.
Hreidarsson was finally booked on the half-hour when he was dispossessed by Crofts and reacted by tugging the City man back.
Ward was given a ticking off after being penalised for halting Carl Dickinson's progress, though there appeared minimal contact, and 10 minutes before the break the big defender came close to getting on the scoresheet when he glanced a header just wide from Fox's free-kick.
The Canaries were desperately close to taking the lead in the 39th minute when Holt did superbly to bring down Fox's cross from the right, flick it round Mokoena and poke it wide of goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown, but his effort lacked the momentum to carry it over the line and Mokoena got back to hack it clear.
Portsmouth went through the first 45 minutes without registering a shot on or off target, while City had carved out some good openings but failed to make their superiority count.
Within two minutes of the restart, City could have moved ahead as Holt hooked the ball forward splendidly for Jackson to run on to but as he sprinted away from Mokoena, he pulled his left-foot shot across goal and past the far post.
Jackson made no mistake five minutes into the half, however, when he headed home for his ninth goal in seven matches to send the visiting fans wild with delight.
Crofts did well to keep the ball in play on the right touchline and found Fox with the pass, the midfielder curling a delightful cross towards the far post, where Jackson arrived perfectly, ahead of Ritchie De Laet to beat Ashdown with a well-judged diving header.
Russell Martin brought Ashdown into action with a stinging drive four minutes later after a superb crossfield ball from Surman.
Jonathan Hogg won a corner for Pompey when his shot struck Ward and flew out, and there was an escape for City when Nugent's half-hit shot struck John Ruddy on the leg and had to be hacked clear by Marc Tierney.
Tierney did superbly at the other end to get past De Laet and squeeze in a cross to the near post, but Jackson was unable to tuck away his second of the night.
City were pressing for a second and Surman had a shot deflected wide after he chested down Mokoena's clearance from a Ward centre.
Jackson was a constant threat and almost wriggled through to within shooting range before being eventually closed out by the home defence.
City made their first change with 12 minutes to go when Henri Lansbury replaced Fox.
City fans were in full voice as the time raced away and with three minutes remaining, Surman made way for Simon Lappin.
As the clocked reached 90 minutes, a further three minutes were displayed by the fourth official.
The Canaries were called upon to make some heroic clearances in those final three minutes but when Ward hammered the ball towards the halfway line to repel the final Portsmouth assault, it was time for the celebrations to begin.
After all the feverish calculations in recent weeks, City were home with a match to spare.