Sting in the tail from Hornets

RICK WAGHORN A 90th minute winner from Watford's Matthew Spring condemned the Canaries to a 3-2 defeat at Carrow Road this afternoon following a thrilling Championship contest.


A 90th minute winner from Watford's Matthew Spring condemned the Canaries to a 3-2 defeat at Carrow Road this afternoon following a thrilling Championship contest.

Twice City edged in front only to be twice pegged back as Hornets' striker Henderson twice latched onto a rebound off Canary keeper Robert Green.

As the Canaries stormed forward in search of a third strike following Paul McVeigh's first half penalty and Peter Thorne's opening goal in Norwich colours, so heartbreak awaited just around the corner in the shape of Watford's late, late winner.

With Dean Ashton again absent through injury and the speculation rife that he had played his last game for the Norfolk side, the sight of Robert Green throwing his shirt into the Barclay End come the final whistle, may yet be a sign of his intentions as the transfer window prepares to slam shut.

Be it transfer talk or indeed 90 minutes of high drama Championship football, there is, right now, never a dull moment at Carrow Road.

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Earlier, as the two sides were announced for this afternoon's Championship clash at Carrow Road, it came as no surprise when the name of returning Canary favourite Malky Mackay was greeted with a long and heartfelt round of applause from the home faithful.

The brave hearted Scotsman always gave his all in Canary colours and this afternoon's contest was likely to find the former City centre-back in similar determined mood as he faced his old employers.

For the home side, once again the build up to the game had been dominated by one topic of conversation only - the whereabouts of Dean Ashton.

Believe the back page of today's Daily Mail and the 22-year-old England U21 striker was busily finalising an £8m move to the East End of London.

In reality, he was sitting in an executive viewing lounge alongside Canary left back Adam Drury - both of whom missed this afternoon's game through injury with Ashton still struggling with a nigglesome groin, whilst Drury was reported to have picked up a twisted ankle in training yesterday.

All of which ensured that Simon Charlton reverted back to his traditional role of left back leaving Andy Hughes to fill the vacancy in midfield - complete with his protective mask.

Up front Peter Thorne stepped into Ashton's shoes with Paul McVeigh - back from his one match ban relegating young Ian Henderson to the bench.

The only other interesting point to make was the presence of England goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence among today spectators - a fact that should concentrate Robert Green's thoughts as he continues his quest to secure that third goalkeeping ticket to Germany next summer.

With Watford kicking off in front of the Barclay Stand, it was cagey opening from both sides.

Jason Jarrett forced the first save of any note in the fifth minute with a well struck 20-yard drive that forced keeper Ben Foster into a sharp save low to his right.

Green performed similar heroics two minutes later as on loan Manchester United youngster Chris Eagles squeezed his way inside the Canary penalty area before drilling a low shot towards the bottom corner which Green diverted wide for a corner with his outstretched fingertips.

As the game drifted towards the half hour mark, so clear cut chances were proving few and far between.

Norwich found their best intentions falling foul of the linesman's offside flag, though they did have a huge claim for handball waved away in the 26th minute when Thorne's flick appeared to flick up off Mackay's upper arm.

Given against Craig Fleming the other week, it was roundly ignored by referee Atkinson as the Canaries continued to put the Hornets' back foot under pressure.

City came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 29th minute when Etuhu met a teasing Charlton free-kick with a thumping far post header that fell no more than a foot wide of Foster's left hand post.

With Thorne, in particular enjoying the better of his aerial dual with Jay DeMerit, Norwich continued to pose the greater threat. In the 32nd minute Charlton once again slung the ball deep into the Watford box where Thorne once more rose highest to meet it and when the ball fell neatly at McVeigh's feet, by the time he prepared to shoot, so there were three red, Hornet shirts there to close the opportunity down.

At the other end Spring caused a moment of alarm in the Canary box when he gained half a yard of space on his marker Gary Doherty, only to lift his shot over the Norwich bar.

Norwich had to survive an almighty scare in the 40th minute when Thorne's defensive header fell to Spring and from a good 25-yards he unleashed a fierce, first time volley that bounced once before slamming against the base of Green's left hand post.

Watford would have cause to regret that two minutes later as Norwich stole into the lead via a McVeigh spot kick.

Jarrett lobbed an inviting ball onto the edge of the Watford box where McVeigh pirouetted away from Mackay.

The ex-City favourite's hand was certainly on the little Canary striker's should but the contact appeared minimal.

More tellingly it did appeared half a foot outside the Hornets' box as McVeigh headed towards the turf.

Not that that deterred referee Atkinson as he pointed straight at the penalty spot.

Up stepped McVeigh and just as he did with the consolation goal against West Ham United, so he smashed it straight down the middle of the goal and gave Foster no chance as he dived away to his right.

McVeigh's sixth goal in just eight games sparked Watford into a swift counter attack which suddenly found the home side all at sea in the dying seconds of the first period.

Anthony McNamee's initial shot was desperately blocked clear by the covering Jurgen Colin, only for the ball to fall back at McNamee's feet, he took aim for the far corner with the softest of lobs and it needed a superb goal-line headed clearance from Charlton for Norwich to head off at the interval still a goal to the good.

Half-time: Norwich City 1, Watford 0.

Norwich's hard earned advantage lasted just 84 seconds of the second period before Henderson smashed Watford level.

Skipper Mahon floated a fine pass out to King through the inside left channel.

Tight on the touchline he smashed the shot goalward which Green could only palm two handed straight out to the feet of the lurking Henderson.

Faced with an open goal it still needed the base of Green right hand upright to help the ball across the line as Norwich's advantage disappeared in an instant.

With the Canaries now pinned back in their own half as Watford began to enjoy by far the better share of the possession. It took some monumental defending from Doherty and Fleming in particular to keep Watford at bay.

On the hour mark, however, and Norwich began to find their feet again.

First Hughes would combine sweetly with McVeigh on the right before delivering a teasing cross through the Hornets' six-yard box that floated little more than a foot in front of Thorne.

Two minutes later and the delivery was spot on as Huckerby wriggled away from Doyley as he lifted the ball back into the six-yard area and there was Thorne to nod home his first goal in 18 Canary appearances.

The lead however lasted less than three minutes before Henderson grabbed his second of the game.

Colin finds himself horribly misplaced with a deep Watford cross and gives away an awful handball.

Little more than two-yards outside the Norwich box it is King who drives goalward forcing a fabulous one handed diving stop off Green.

Once again, however, and the ball merely falls out to a lurking Henderson who from little more than four-yards out, has the easiest of opportunities to smash an equaliser home.

Before the restart City boss Worthington makes his first change of the afternoon as McVeigh is replaced by Ian Henderson.

Watford follow suit as Clarke Carlisle replaces DeMerit.

To Norwich's credit they continued to up their game with Etuhu embarking on a storming 60-yard run from deep inside his own half that left at least four red shirt trailing in his wake.

On 70 minutes and Etuhu was again centre stage as he met a Huckerby free-kick with a firm header that slammed against an upright, only for the referee to spot an infringement.

That merely prompted a double substitution from the Hornets as Alhassan Bangura came on for McNamee and Hameur Bouazza replaced Eagles.

With the contest now proving a rip roaring affair it was the Canaries who were thundering forward with a winner firmly in their sights. Hughes produced an excellent run and cross down the right which Jarrett almost squeezed home at the far post.

Moments later and Huckerby was turning substitute Carlisle inside out only for Henderson to horribly miscue his subsequent low cross.

With Huckerby in particular now in full cry it was Watford who were clinging onto the point with belief and determination flowing through Norwich's limbs.

As hard as Norwich pressed they could not, however, find that clear cut opportunity they needed to steal all three points.

Indeed in the 85th minute it was Watford who almost stole the show as Henderson found himself in space to grab his hat-trick, only for Colin to block his final shot wide for a corner.

It was certainly a thrilling contest, even if the result was not - as yet - what City were looking for.

With everyone firmly on the edge of their seats, Watford skipper Mahon became the first player booked in the 89th minute as he smashed into Jarrett away by the far corner flag.

From the resulting free-kick however, the ball was comfortably cleared and with the first official announcing there would be a mere two minutes of added on time, so worse was to follow as King beat Charlton to the ball before teeing it into Spring, who having gained a yard on both Doherty and Colin, controlled the ball with one touch and then drilled it home with his second from little more than eight-yards out.

Not surprisingly it left Carrow Road in a state of shock come the final whistle after missing out at the very death of a thrilling contest.

Full-time: Norwich City 2, Watford 3