GRANT HOLT had an injury-time penalty saved as the Canaries were held to a 0-0 draw in their Barclays Premier League encounter against Southampton at Carrow Road on Saturday afternoon.
The City skipper earned the spot-kick himself after being fouled on the right-side of the penalty area in the 90th minute, but Artur Boruc stretched superbly to his right and turned the ball away.
Southampton would have felt unlucky if they would have come away from the clash with no reward after an even game where they had clear chances through Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert in extremely testing conditions.
Despite that, City will rue the missed opportunity at the end to take all the spoils, although the point does move them onto 33 points, nine points clear of the relegation places with just nine games to go.
“We had a chance to win the game at the end there but we were up against a very good side,” Chris Hughton told Canaries Player after the game.
“I thought we defended very well, and the better chances I thought we had, particularly as the game opened up. We got some good crosses in and Robert Snodgrass’ effort was probably the best chance of the game.
“For anybody seeing the penalty and they feel it’s a soft one, then certainly the one in the first-half when Grant Holt was pulled back by Shaw wasn’t a soft one – that should have been a penalty.”
Hughton had afforded Kei Kamara his first start since joining on loan from Sporting Kansas City in January, replacing Wes Hoolahan in City’s starting eleven in their only change from last weekend’s defeat at Manchester United. Southampton, meanwhile, made three changes from their home reverse against Queens Park Rangers.
Conditions, which had gradually worsened over the day, were proving a challenge for both teams as they found their feet in the opening ten minutes, although City’s keenness to use Kamara’s leap was immediately evident.
Southampton made a surge into the box just after the quarter hour, and Javier Garrido’s perfectly timed challenge prevented Adam Lallana meeting Shaw’s low cross as the visitors got a hold on possession.
Lallana then managed to get a shot at goal a couple of moments later, picking up the ball 20 yards from goal and driving a shot that Mark Bunn tipped over the bar.
City built their first fluid attack soon after, with Howson and Snodgrass quickly finding Russell Martin on the right, but Artur Boruc managed to reach for the ball ahead of Kamara.
Southampton were swiftly on the front foot again a minute later, however, and Bunn made another decent save, this time from Ramirez as he tried to chip the City stopper from Lambert’s pass.
The game was upping in tempo and Snodgrass nearly embarrassed Boruc with a swerving free-kick from 25 yards, but the Polish ‘keeper just managed to divert it wide.
Norwich were grasping the initiative as Turner nearly met Garrido’s excellent delivery from the left, but they were forced into an unplanned change when Wes Hoolahan replaced the injured Anthony Pilkington.
It stemmed the momentum for a period but City pressed in the closing stages of the half, and after Holt had what looked like a good penalty shout turned down as he fell in the box, Howson had a drilled effort blocked from the edge of the area following Snodgrass’ short free-kick.
The Scottish international’s set-pieces caused more havoc in the Saints back-line just before the break, but Turner’s header back across the six-yard box just evaded Kamara and the whistle blew.
HALF TIME: Norwich City 0-0 Southampton
Lallana, a focal point of the majority of Southampton’s attacks, missed a very good chance five minutes into the second-half – Jay Rodriguez danced in the City area and sent a ball across Bunn’s six-yard box, and it fell to the midfielder who blazed his shot over the bar from the penalty spot.
There was concern when Snodgrass stayed down after a challenge on Shaw, but he resumed after some treatment and Norwich went close when Holt fizzed a cross across the danger area.
City were upping the ante and after Maya Yoshida did excellently to block Snodgrass’ cross, Holt’s surging run from Jonny Howson’s long ball ended in him playing a square pass that was just too hard for the onrushing Kamara.
After Lambert blazed over up the other end from Bunn’s parry, the game was becoming more stretched with both teams struggling to hold onto the ball as heavy sleet continued to fall.
With a quarter of an hour left to go, Snodgrass was laid on by Hoolahan in the penalty area, but he withheld his shot, tried to round Boruc and was eventually tackled with the goal at his mercy.
Southampton were determined to leave City ruing that key chance, and Lambert was once again in the mix, flicking Do Prado’s free-kick wide of the post on 79 minutes.
Hughton introduced Becchio for Kamara with ten left on the clock, and Norwich looked for that decisive goal, earning a couple of set pieces although Rodriguez hit a soft half-volley into Bunn’s hands up the other end.
In the final minute of the game, however, drama set in as Holt was fouled on the edge of the box, and after some hesitation and further consultation with his assistant, Mark Clattenburg awarded City the penalty.
Skipper Holt stepped up and fired his spot-kick to the right of Boruc, but the former Celtic ‘keeper extended himself far enough to beat the ball away.
It proved to be the last action of the game as City were forced to settle for a point.
FINAL SCORE: NORWICH CITY 0-0 SOUTHAMPTON
NORWICH CITY: Bunn; R Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Pilkington (Hoolahan 35); Kamara (Becchio 79), Holt (c). Subs not used: Camp, Whittaker, Fox, E Bennett, R Bennett.
SOUTHAMPTON: Boruc; Yoshida, Hooiveld, Fonte, Shaw; Cork, Lallana (c) (Ward-Prowse 79); Schneiderlin; Ramirez (Do Prado 70), Lambert, Rodriguez (Puncheon 90). Subs not used: Davis, Clyne, Forren, Chaplow.