WBA 0, Norwich City 1

DAVID CUFFLEY Robert Earnshaw made a triumphant return to the Hawthorns this afternoon with Norwich City’s winning goal over West Bromwich Albion.Earnshaw scored his 11th goal of the season after 57 minutes with a header from a centre by Jurgen Colin.


Robert Earnshaw made a triumphant return to the Hawthorns this afternoon with Norwich City's winning goal over West Bromwich Albion.

Earnshaw scored his 11th goal of the season after 57 minutes with a header from a centre by Jurgen Colin.

It was the Canaries' fourth 1-0 victory in six league games under new boss Peter Grant.

They achieved it with a battling display in which the back five players were all outstanding, but they certainly rode their luck at times with Albion hitting the woodwork on no fewer than five occasions and goalkeeper Paul Gallacher making three excellent saves.

Albion's Jason Koumas struck both the crossbar and the post during the afternoon, while Kevin Phillips and Curtis Davies also hit the woodwork, as did a deflection by Dickson Etuhu in the closing minutes.

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City boss Grant made one change to the starting line-up from last Saturday's 1-0 victory over Sunderland.

Midfielder Andy Hughes was recalled after his brief outing as a substitute last week, at the expense of Paul McVeigh, who was relegated to the bench.

Apart from that swap, the City 16 remained unchanged with the veteran Dion Dublin continuing in defence in the absence of injured pair Craig Fleming and Gary Doherty.

West Bromwich boss Tony Mowbray, a former Celtic team-mate of Grant, made three changes to the team beaten 2-1 by Derby at Pride Park.

Out through injury were Zoltan Gera (calf) and Richard Chaplow (back), while striker Nathan Ellington was dropped to the bench.

Back into the side came striker Kevin Phillips for his first start since scoring a hat-trick in the 5-1 win at Ipswich, plus midfield pair Darren Carter and Paul McShane.

Both sides were wearing shirts adorned with the symbol of the poppy to mark Armistice Day with those shirts to be auctioned off after the game in aid of the British Legion Poppy Appeal.

Before kick-off, a minute's silence was observed to mark Armistice Day.

When the teams were announced just before the start, there was a very warm welcome from the home crowd for City striker Robert Earnshaw, playing against his old club for the first time since joining the Canaries last January.

City began by trying to feed Huckerby on the left in a couple of attacks and on the second occasion, the ball was played back to Etuhu, but his attempt at finding Earnshaw was misdirected and Albion cleared their lines.

Norwich's first attempt on goal came in the fourth minute when Safri struck a right foot drive from 20-yards but it went harmlessly past Hoult's right hand post.

Etuhu was in action at the other end, heading clear from Albion's first corner and as City broke quickly, Huckerby tried to set up Robinson for a shot, but the midfielder's effort was charged down.

When City pushed forward again, Robinson picked out Hughes on the right but his centre was fractionally too strong for Earnshaw and the striker was unable to control it.

It was quite a bright opening from Norwich and after nine minutes they came close to breaking the deadlock when Hughes met a cross from Drury with a fine header which Hoult had to tip over the bar.

Albion squandered one attacking opportunity after 14 minutes when, with plenty of men forward, Greening played a fairly harmless centre straight into touch.

Apart from the effort by Hughes, the opening quarter of an hour had been fairly subdued stuff.

City built a promising attack as Huckerby burst clear on the left but, with three players - Earnshaw, Robinson and Hughes - waiting in the middle, his cross fell behind all three of them and the chance was gone.

Albion were off target in their next attack when Carter was wide with a reasonable heading opportunity.

The home side won a couple of corners in quick succession but just as before, Etuhu was in the right place to head clear at the near post.

There was a delay after 20 minutes when Shackell needed treatment from City physio Reynolds for a bang in the face.

City were briefly down to 10 men until the big defender was allowed back onto the field.

It was a cold and blustery afternoon at the Hawthorns and there had so far not been a great deal of excitement to warm either set of fans.

A poor back header from Davies gave City a corner on the right, and when Robinson's kick came over, Dublin managed to get in a header but it did not fall kindly for his colleague and Phillips, back in defence, was able to clear.

The Canaries were handed another flag kick when McShane halted a surging run from Huckerby but Robinson's kick did not reach the near post and was easily headed clear. As West Brom counterattacked, Carter had a powerful drive blocked and moments later a miscued effort from Greening flew over the bar.

The action was starting to warm up and after an error by Drury allowed Albion to break, it took a crucial interception by Hughes in his own six-yard box to deny Phillips as a through ball was threaded beyond Gallacher.

The City keeper was then called into action twice in the space of a minute, diving to turn away a fierce right foot shot from Koumas, and then saving a similar effort from Greening.

City had one promising break of their own when Earnshaw for once escaped his marker and his close range effort squeezed just the wrong side of the post off the boot of an Albion defender.

Dublin came to City's rescue 10 minutes before the break when Kamara weaved his way into the area and the veteran just managed to get a boot to the Albion man's cross at the expense of a corner.

Suddenly it was end to end stuff with City frantically clearing their lines after a cross from the right came back off the post and then breaking through Earnshaw, whose determined run ended with a shot which Hoult was grateful to claim, falling to his left.

Albion came the closest yet to a goal after 37 minutes when Phillips ran at the home defence and let fly with a powerful right foot drive which beat Gallacher but bounced back off the crossbar.

Carter then wasted another opportunity when he planted a free header wide when it seemed easier to hit the target.

City full back Colin was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon three minutes before the break for a foul on Koumas.

Norwich had not made the most of their dead ball opportunities and they wasted another when Robinson played a free-kick short to Huckerby and Perry was able to clear.

On the stroke of half-time, Safri became the second player booked for a foul and from the resulting free-kick, Koumas curled a shot narrowly wide of Gallacher's left hand post.

Half-time: West Bromwich Albion 0, Norwich City 0

As City went forward immediately after the restart, Earnshaw tried to find Huckerby but his attempted through ball was easily collected by Hoult.

As Albion switched to attack, Carter needed treatment when he was caught above his left eye by the boot of Colin, but the midfielder was soon able to resume his duty.

A cross from Koumas looked dangerous as it swung into the six-yard box and it took a timely clearance from Shackell to ease the pressure on the Canaries.

Five minutes into the half, Greening was the first Albion player to be booked when he caught Huckerby with a high challenge five yards into the Norwich half.

A first time centre from Hughes, following a raking pass from Colin, posed problems for Davies and he had to lob the ball back to Hoult, although the referee did not deem this to be a back pass.

Norwich pressed again and Dublin, moving up field for a Robinson free-kick, got in a header which was just a couple of yards wide.

Koumas was just over the top with his next effort from the edge of the area and when City moved forward, Colin again found Hughes with an excellent ball, but this time the midfielder's cross ballooned behind the goal.

With 57 minutes gone, the Canaries stunned the home crowd by taking the lead and it was that man Earnshaw scoring against his old club for his 11th goal of the season.

Etuhu started the move on the left and picked out Earnshaw who ran along the edge of the Albion area before playing a backward pass to Colin. When the full back floated a cross into the area, Earnshaw was there again on the end of it to beat Hoult with the gentlest of headers.

As Albion immediately went in search of an equaliser, Drury and then Shackell both made timely interceptions from within their own six-yard box.

Gallacher made an important claim minutes later when he dived at the foot of the post to gather another dangerous looking cross from Koumas.

Albion made their first change of the afternoon after 62 minutes when Ellington was sent on in place of Watson.

As the visitors won another corner through Huckerby, Robinson aimed his kick towards the far post where Shackell appeared to go down under challenge from Carter but the referee instead awarded a free-kick to Albion.

Gallacher distinguished himself again by holding on to a skimming effort from Kamara as Albion threatened once more.

With three quarters of the match gone, the home crowd were becoming increasingly impatient with their side's effort and Norwich were starting to knock the ball around without too much trouble.

Colin was enjoying an excellent second half and it was his interception which enabled Huckerby to set off on a twisting run which he foiled with a rather wayward shot over the bar.

Greening's passing had been erratic for much of the afternoon and there were further groans from the Albion fans when he sent a diagonal ball straight into touch and ruined another attack.

There was a narrow escape for City after 71 minutes when Koumas played a free-kick short to Phillips and his right foot drive took a deflection off a City player and flew just wide.

Shackell did superbly to get his head in the way of a powerful drive by Carter and then, from the resulting corner, Davies rattled the Norwich crossbar with a header, the third time Albion had struck the woodwork.

With less than 15 minutes to go, Safri could have been in trouble for a late challenge on Carter on the halfway line and although referee Laws at first allowed play to continue, he later called the midfielder over for a lecture but resisted the temptation to show him a second yellow card.

Huckerby and Hughes had swapped flanks by this stage and it was a cross by Huckerby from the right which Davies struggled to head clear but Etuhu, following up with a volley, was well off target.

Hughes, now operating on the left, was giving valuable assistance to Drury and got back to head clear a dangerous looking centre from Albrechtsen.

With eight minutes to go, the hosts made another change when Hodgkiss was sent on in place of McShane.

There were just six minutes remaining when Albion hit the woodwork for the fourth time. Koumas produced a brilliant effort from a free-kick from 30-yards and it thundered against Gallacher's right hand post and bounced out to give the Canaries another escape.

Four minutes from time, City boss Grant decided to make a change, putting McVeigh on in place of Hughes. Huckerby immediately reverted to a left sided role with McVeigh operating on the right.

Shackell had been impressive alongside Dublin in the Norwich rearguard and he produced another important header to clear a centre from Koumas as the seconds ticked away.

As the game entered the final minutes, Albion fans were beginning to drift away.

In a frantic goalmouth melee in time added on, Albion found the woodwork amazingly for the fifth time but on this occasion it was a deflection off Etuhu which bounced off his own crossbar, which rather summed up the home side's misfortunes in front of goal.

With two minutes of added time already played, Grant sent on Thorne instead of Earnshaw.

Result: West Bromwich Albion 0, Norwich City 1

West Brom: Hoult, McShane, Perry, Curtis Davies, Albrechtsen, Watson, Koumas, Carter, Greening, Phillips, Kamara. Subs: Steele, Ellington, Nicholson, Wallwork, Hodgkiss.

Norwich: Gallacher, Colin, Shackell, Dublin, Drury, Robinson, Etuhu, Safri, Hughes, Earnshaw, Huckerby. Subs: Ashdown, Thorne, McVeigh, Eagle, Spillane.

Referee: G Laws (Tyne & Wear)

Attendance: 18,718