NORWICH CITY secured their Premier League status in style with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday afternoon.
Robert Snodgrass set the tempo with the opener midway through the first-half, with a Grant Holt tap-in and a Gareth McAuley own goal putting the game beyond the Baggies.
Jonny Howson rounded off a brilliant performance with a sweet strike for City’s fourth in the final moments as a special atmosphere rocked Carrow Road.
Their position is safe due to the fact that Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic, both below City now in the table, face each-other on the last day of the season with one guaranteed to finish lower in the final standings.
The Canaries made one significant change from last weekend’s defeat to Aston Villa, with England international goalkeeper John Ruddy
starting for the first time since November, taking the place of Mark Bunn.
Steve Clarke switched his pack around from the midweek 1-0 reverse to Manchester City, with Ben Foster’s return between the sticks one of five alterations.
City played with a high tempo in the early stages, backed up by a raucous home crowd in the final match at Carrow Road of the season.
West Brom’s deployment of a three-man midfield meant Chris Hughton’s side did all they can to exploit the wide areas, and both Snodgrass and Antony Pilkington saw plenty of the ball in the opening period.
Despite City’s greater possession, the first quarter of an hour passed without either ‘keeper being tested, but Pilkington’s drive tested Foster on 24 minutes.
It was from the resultant corner that Norwich took the lead – the delivery was worked to Grant Holt on the right, and his deep cross was nodded down by Ryan Bennett.
Wes Hoolahan suddenly found himself in space by the box, and after his shot was smothered by Foster, Snodgrass was on hand to fire the ball high into the net from an acute angle.
It was the Scottish winger’s seventh goal of a hugely impressive campaign and set Norwich on the front foot in the match, even though Romelu Lukaku’s surging runs served as a reminder of the visitors’ threat.
Five minutes before half-time, Foster did well to tip over a Hoolahan drive from 30 yards following a mistake from Jonas Olsson, before the diminuitive Irishman sneaked in again but was deemed offside.
HALF-TIME: Norwich City 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
Clarke made two substitutions at half-time, bringing on club captain Chris Brunt and Billy Jones for Markus Rosenberg and Steven Reid in an attempt to wrestle momentum.
The Canaries soon had a great chance to double their lead though – Holt’s header down fell to Pilkington, but the former Huddersfield man couldn’t make contact and although Olsson appeared to handle, Albion successfully cleared.
Norwich remained on top in the early stages of the half, and Snodgrass was again their main threat, whipping in a cross for Holt to header over the bar when off balance.
Holt got his goal, though, on 63 minutes in bizarre circumstances – Albion ‘keeper Foster looked to have no trouble as he came to clear Hoolahan’s pass, but he somehow manage to miss the ball completely, allowing Holt to steal in and tap home.
The home crowd had barely stopped celebrating when City notched their third just two minutes later – Snodgrass’ free-kick hung at the back post and Ryan Bennett rose to challenge McAuley.
His presence certainly put the former Ipswich man off, and his header flicked off McAuley and into the corner of the net.
A carnival atmosphere descended on Carrow Road as the Canaries’ long-awaited Premier League survival was close to being secured, with standing ovations afforded to Hoolahan and Snodgrass when they were hauled off with a quarter of an hour left.
Pilkington forced a superb stop from Foster on 83 minutes as City pushed for a fourth, but City saved the best until last with their fourth goal in the game’s penultimate minute.
Former Leeds duo Howson and substitute Luciano Becchio played a superb one-two before the former curled a delightful strike into the far corner from outside the box, leaving Foster no chance.
It was a fitting way to end an unbelievable afternoon at Carrow Road.
: Norwich City – Robert Snodgrass (25), Grant Holt (63), Gareth McAuley o.g. (65), Jonny Howson (89).
: Ruddy; Martin, Bassong, R Bennett, Garrido; Howson, Johnson; Snodgrass (E Bennett 77), Hoolahan (Tettey 77), Pilkington; Holt (Becchio 87). Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Whittaker, Jackson, Barnett.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
: Foster; Reid (Jones 45), Olsson, McAuley, Popov; Morrison, Mulumbu, Yacob; Rosenberg (Brunt 45), Lukaku (Odemwingie 81), Long. Subs not used: Myhill (GK), Ridgewell, Dorrans, Tamas.