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14:00 2nd May 2015
By  James Baldwin


NORWICH City set up a Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final meeting with Ipswich Town after ending their regular season with a first triumph over Fulham since 1986 at Carrow Road.

Having not beaten their opponents in the previous 17 meetings between the sides, the Canaries ended their hoodoo in style with a convincing victory thanks in part to a brace from Player of the Season Bradley Johnson.

Further goals from Nathan Redmond and substitute Graham Dorrans completed the win, while Fulham's strikes came courtesy of Matt Smith and a late Johnson own-goal.

Canaries boss Alex Neil took the opportunity to rotate his squad somewhat ahead of the upcoming fixtures by making three changes, with his side having already secured a place in the top six.

In defence, Elliott Bennett came in for Ryan Bennett, with Russell Martin reverting to centre-back while Gary O'Neil replaced Dorrans in midfield.

The final alteration to the starting XI saw Gary Hooper come in for the suspended Lewis Grabban, ensuring a 250th City appearance in all competitions for Wes Hoolahan.

Meanwhile, Kit Symons was forced into a solitary change from the 4-3 victory over Middlesbrough last weekend, with Dan Burn taking the place of Michael Turner - who was ineligible to feature against his parent club.

The away side began the brightest, as Ross McCormack tested John Ruddy with a low effort having cut inside from the right flank after just two minutes.

City grew into the contest, and threatened twice in the matter of minutes when Johnson fizzed an effort narrowly wide before Jonny Howson curled at Marcus Bettinelli from distance.

Having gradually asserted their authority, the hosts took the lead shortly after the half-hour mark, with Johnson once again providing the definitive moment in what has been a stellar individual season.

Good work from Elliott Bennett in his own half allowed the Canaries to counter on 36 minutes; Hoolahan's through-ball releasing Hooper into the box ahead of the striker squaring for Johnson to fire home.

They wasted little time in doubling their advantage, with Redmond linking up well with Martin Olsson down the left before cutting inside and whipping a measured finish beyond Bettinelli.

Things could have been even better for City at the break, only for Johnson's right-footed strike from outside the box to curl narrowly wide in the final few seconds of the half.

HALF-TIME: Norwich City 2-0 Fulham

Fulham started the second period in the ascendancy, calling Ruddy into work on 47 minutes as the City goalkeeper palmed behind a fierce Rodallega drive from close-range.

The home side responded, and soon after threatened to extend their lead when a flowing team move culminated in Redmond shooting at Bettinelli, who gathered at the second attempt.

Neil chose to make his first substitutions of the game with just over an hour played, introducing Dorrans and Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe in place of Howson and Hoolahan as he cast one eye towards the play-offs.

City continued to largely control proceedings as they calmly worked their way through the game while still looking likely to punish the Cottagers further with a succession of rapid breaks.

At the heart of some of those counters was the energetic Odjijda-Ofoe, who tried his luck from the edge of the box on 71 minutes following a corner but could only loop over.

The Belgian was involved nine minutes later, helping the impressive Elliott Bennett to combine with Redmond before Hooper's effort was turned wide via the post by Bettinelli.

However, that proved just a stay of execution for Fulham, who found themselves 3-0 down on 81 minutes when Dorrans found space in the area to stroke home Redmond's pull-back.

The visitors responded immediately, with a fine volleyed finish from substitute Matt Smith reducing the deficit barely 60 seconds later after City were unable to clear their lines sufficiently.

It then seemed Johnson would be set for the last say in the final minute of normal time when he thrashed home a rasping drive from 30 yards to register his 15th of the season following a quickly-taken free-kick.

While he would find the net one more time in the closing seconds, it was to the aid of Fulham as he inadvertently headed a Cottagers free-kick into his own net to complete the scoring.

That changed little however, with the fans packed into Carrow Road forced to endure a slight delay after the final whistle before Town were confirmed as their play-off semi-final opponents.

The two meetings will mark the first outside of a regular league campaign or the Full Members Cup since 1985, when the Canaries famously emerged victorious over two legs in the Milk Cup.

FULL-TIME: Norwich City 4-2 Fulham

: Canaries: Bradley Johnson (36, 90), Nathan Redmond (39), Graham Dorrans (81) - Cottagers: Matt Smith (83), Bradley Johnson OG (90)

NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; E Bennett, Martin (c), Bassong (R Bennett, 86), Olsson; Redmond, Howson (Dorrans, 61), O'Neil, Johnson; Hoolahan (Odjidja-Ofoe, 61); Hooper. Subs not used: Rudd (GK), Cuellar, Andreu, Loza.

FULHAM: Bettinelli; Hoogland (Bodurov, 12), Hutchinson, Burn, Richards, Tunnicliffe, Guthrie, Kavanagh (Roberts, 62), Ruiz, Rodallega (Smith, 61), McCormack (c),  Subs not used: Kiraly (GK), Fofana, Woodrow, Dembele.



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