Norwich Under-21s 3 Fulham Under-21s 1
- Credit: Archant
Norwich City's youngsters consolidated their top six place in the elite tier of Premier League development football with a comeback 3-1 win over Fulham's Under-21s at Carrow Road on Wednesday night.
Cameron Norman and Carlton Morris were on target for Paul Wilkinson's squad to cancel out Ange-Freddy Plumain's opener, but it needed Declan Rudd to produce a superb 90th minute penalty stop to deny Plumain after Ryheem Sheckleford went down under Michee Efete's challenge.
City then cashed in to full effect seconds later when Sam Kelly finished a devastating counter from Morris' pass.
The watching Alex Neil opted not to risk any of his senior men ahead of the club's Championship Easter programme which gets underway with a Good Friday trip to Chris Hughton's Brighton.
Kyle McFadden captained a side which featured Rudd and Conor McGrandles and Morris led the line after his recent first team debut in the 1-0 home defeat to Wigan.
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Wilkinson's squad went into the game buoyed by only one loss in their previous nine development games – ironically against Peter Grant's Cottagers - with Plumain again spearheading the Fulham attack after his brace inflicted a 2-1 loss last month at Craven Cottage.
Reece Hall-Johnson whipped an inviting cross in front of Morris lurking seven yards out in a bright start from the hosts but Fulham skipper Jonathan Buatu was in close attendance to ensure City's striker was unable to test Magnus Norman.
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The raiding home full-back continued to impress in the early sparring, with another attacking foray deep into Fulham territory ending with a rising left-footed volley that had Magnus Norman beaten but drifted just past his far post.
Grant's youngsters were looking to probe on counter and Larnell Cole underlined the danger with a penetrative burst past Efete before dragging his angled strike into Rudd's side netting.
Cameron Norman tried a speculative shot from 25 yards that dribbled through to Magnus Norman as the adventurous theme of the night continued.
Hall-Johnson was proving a profitable outlet when City did surge forward and another gorgeous ball tempted Morris again in the 26th minute but Fulham were able to crowd out the bustling frontman.
City, however, were rocked in the 30th minute when Plumain rose above Joe Crowe to thump home Jordan Evans' cross against the underside of Rudd's bar.
McFadden's timely sliding challenged halted Dean O'Halloran to halt a fresh promising break from Fulham in the aftermath of Plumain's opener.
Norwich regained their composure approaching the interval and rewarded with an equaliser two minutes from the break when Cameron Norman rose imperiously to head past his namesake from McGrandles' inviting cross, after the young Scot had escaped detection.
Cole spurned a chance to nudge Fulham back in front in first half stoppage time with another slaloming run past three City defenders but his shot lacked any venom to trouble Rudd.
Fulham started the second period on the front foot with Plumain bursting down the left but his cut-back evaded O'Halloran stationed at the near post.
Morris tumbled inside the Cottagers' penalty area under the attentions of Buatu as the rain swept across the stadium but the striker was quickly back on his feet before referee Da Costa had a decision to make.
Norwich centre-back Crowe survived a nervy moment in the 57th minute when he misjudged Plumain's low cross but Jordache Walters failed to test Rudd from 12 yards.
Morris showed a far greater predatory instinct to rifle the hosts in front on the hour mark when he controlled a driven cross on his chest before crashing a left-footed half-volley past Magnus Norman from close range.
Norwich were visibly growing in stature following Morris' strike, with Fulham struggling to get out of their own half. McGrandles' poked a goalbound shot hacked off the line by Sheckleford but McFadden's caution for going through the back of O'Halloran provided temporary respite for Grant's side.
Magnus Norman went full length to push McGrandles' right-footed shot behind in the 81st minute with City looking to put the game beyond the Cottagers.
Plumain curled wide from the edge of the Norwich penalty area in a rare attacking foray for the visitors but Fulham were handed a potential lifeline in the final minute of normal time when Efete was adjudged to have hauled down Sheckleford tight to the byline, but Rudd brilliantly saved Plumain's spot kick low to his right.
City sealed victory in the aftermath when Kelly raced clear with Fulham committing men forward to guide a left-footed finish into Magnus Norman's bottom left-hand corner from just inside the area.
Norwich U21s: Rudd, Hall-Johnson, McFadden, Crowe, Efete, Norman, McGrandles, Grant (Byrne-Hewitt 88), Cantwell (Ramsay 60), Kelly, Morris. Subs (not used): Killip, Couzens, Boateng.
Bookings: McFadden (foul on O'Halloran, 70); Ramsay (foul on Plumain, 78)
Goals: Norman (43), Morris (61), Kelly (90)
Fulham U21s: Norman, Sheckleford, Buatu, Hutchinson, Evans, Smile (Redford 65), Edun (De La Torre 76), Cole (Walters 56), Sambou, O'Halloran, Plumain. Subs (not used): Barnes, Casasola.
Goal: Plumain (30)
Added on time: 1 minute / 3 minutes
Referee: A Da Costa