Ryan Bennett keeps it cool after seeing Norwich City to vital Premier League victory
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Ryan Bennett was the unlikely hero as Norwich City booked the win that took them to the brink of Premier League safety.
With in-form Michael Turner suffering a groin injury after just 18 minutes, the 23-year-old was forced into his first competitive City action since the embarrassing FA Cup exit to non-league Luton Town in January.
And Bennett returned the favour with a resolute defensive display – but perhaps more importantly, arrowing home the opening goal on 50 minutes that set City on their way to a crucial three points.
It was Bennett's first goal for the club, while namesake Elliott scored his first of the top-flight campaign barely two minutes later – a match-winning period for the Canaries that ensured Gareth McCleary's strike was a consolation.
'It's obviously a very good atmosphere in there,' said Ryan. 'We got a result we desperately needed and I think the sort of result we got is reflected in the table, with the points difference that there is now and what it could have been. So it was an important win for us today and we were fortunate to get it.'
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Indeed after a goalless first half and given scores elsewhere, Norwich were sitting 16th and a Wigan goal away from the drop zone being a little too close to home. But come full-time, City's win had moved them up to 13th and restored the seven-point gap to the Latics in 18th – who have a game in hand, which will come in the final run-in of five matches in 15 days and includes an FA Cup final.
A winning result was all that mattered before kick-off, so with the players firing from the first whistle and Carrow Road back to its partisan best in support, City made sure it was their day.
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'It was a bit better atmosphere than against Luton – that one was kind of naughty, 'smiled Bennett. 'But to come out here today, the fans all had clappers and it was loud and vocal throughout the game, which is nice.
'Sometimes you don't hear it but today, when we needed to hear it we heard it and that's the main thing.
'I think we dealt with Reading quite well. Any team is going to get chances over 90 minutes, but we did what we needed to do. Half-time came at a good time for us.
'We should've got more goals and it was disappointing to let them back into the game with 15 minutes to go, but that's going to happen and we rode it well. The result is all that matters, that's all that goes on the table.'
While his goal and Saturday's win have gone a long way to securing City's top-flight status, the pre-match nerves and tension were more of an issue outside the Canaries' camp.
'It didn't feel any different before the game,' said Bennett. 'Training has been normal and the lads have been laughing like we normally do. We had some fun, even before the game.
'I just think the lads here have been in positions like this before. They've been in the fights and I think that showed again today. We had to ride some storms but we all stuck together and dug in. We rode out the 10-15 minutes we had to, dominated and could've scored more.
'I've not really played this year, so to come on was good for me and obviously the goal is just a bonus.
'More importantly it was about getting the win. I would have taken the goalkeeper scoring for us, so it doesn't bother me. As long as we got the win.
'It's not about what others do because ultimately if we get the points we need then we stay up, and if we don't then personally, we deserve to go down.
'But I think within the squad, we knew we would win. We wanted to do our best to get the result we needed.'