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Norwich City 1-0 Tottenham : Snodgrass strikes to lift Hughton pressure
Norwich chief executive David McNally, nicknamed McNasty by Canary fans, had told manager Chris Hughton in no uncertain terms to improve results or face the sack, warning that the club had already lined up his successor. After one victory in eleven matches and the reality of being only a point above the dreaded relegation zone, it could be argued that the potential sack facing Hughton would be a justified decision. And with McNally in attendance, with the best away side, winning six of their last seven on the road, in town, the timing could not possibly be worse. Most expected the news of McNally's decision to deliver the sack upon Hughton post-match, but he was just reduced to tears.
The magnitude of the victory holds more than just historic significance. The Canaries' first victory over Spurs at Carrow Road in seven attempts, it was enough to lift them from the perils of the drop zone and into the relative safety of 14th place.
It came courtesy of their fantastic effort and commitment to the cause. It was clear Hughton had not lost the dressing-room, with his eleven selected players busting a gut for his stay. John Ruddy was excellent, and while Roy Hodgson may be in Nice quelling over England's favourable draw for the Euro 2016 qualifiers, the Canaries 'keeper has certainly staked a claim for himself for this summers' World Cup. Ricky van Wolfswinkel prolonged his lengthy goal drought, dating back to the opening day, but his work rate could not be faulted. Tettey and Johnson were instrumental in the core, clearing up loose balls and igniting promising counter-attacks. Nathan Redmond's inexperience showed at times with his poor decision-making while Robert Snodgrass capped of a brilliant individual display with a well-taken effort.
Their opponents, Tottenham, were poor and the effects of their tiresome exploit to Ukraine in mid-week, concluding in defeat, seemed to have taken a toll on their performance as they served up an uninspiring, flat performance. Aaron Lennon seemed to be their bright spark in the first period but he faded during the second forty-five. And as if to compound Tim Sherwood's misery, the Londoners now lie six points adrift of Liverpool and the coveted fourth Champions League position following the Reds' thrilling victory over Swansea earlier in the day.
The Norwich players huddled in an united manner as they demonstrated their unflinching show of togetherness prior to kick-off, and it set the tone for what was a superb team performance.
The Canaries, as they have so often done so this season, went into half-time without a deserved advantage having been the better side. Their most appealing opportunity arrived after 23 minutes, with Martin Olsson's pull-back from the by-line managing to somehow evade the clutches of Snodgrass and Tettey.
Hughton's men may have been shorn of a killer instinct in the final third before the break, but found their finishing touch after the restart in what was a blistering start to the second-half for the hosts. Having disposed Bentaleb, Norwich sprung a proficient attacking move. Johnson brilliantly threaded the ball into Snodgrass's path who managed to get goal side of Danny Rose to finish into Lloris's bottom left hand corner.
Redmond's poor decision-making could have proved costly after the England U21 winger firing well wide with the option of threading in the ball to Snodgrass, who had made a wonderful run, looking the most sensible.
Courageous goalkeeping from Ruddy thwarted Adebayor from sealing the equaliser, having stole the ball from the disinclined Bassong only for the brave England 'keeper to dive at his feet.
Sherwood was aware of the ramifications a defeat would hold and conducted an attacking substitution, with Roberto Soldado, who was guilty of a shocking miss on Thursday evening, replacing Paulinho. His gamble almost paid dividends after brilliant link-up play with Adebayor provided Soldado with a glowing opportunity, only for the Spaniard to strike the side-netting, such as been his maiden season in the Premier League.
Norwich refused to settle for their exposed one goal lead and targeted a second which would surely seal the vital three points. Snodgrass saw his free-kick drift just wide of the goalmouth before Johnson's incredibly powerful effort from the dead ball rocked the cross bar and left it shaking, with Lloris blocking Redmond's follow-up effort.
But Spurs, in truth, should have scored were they exempt from Ruddy's heroics. The 27 year-old, to the admiration of the vocal home support, was alert to the danger posed by Chadli to thwart the Belgian's attempts for the equaliser in what was Spurs' best chance of the game.
Substitute Gary Hooper, who was rejected by Tottenham aged fourteen following a twenty minute trial, got the better of Dawson and selflessly looked to find Tettey in the box, whose audacious flick eluded the ball.
With their fans imploring them to stumble over the finishing-line, they did just that as Craig Pawson's final whistle was greeted with raptures of wild celebration. Even McNally, who had threatened to sack Hughton, was reduced to tears.
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