NORWICH City’s under-21s survived a late scare to beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 at Ewood Park in the Barclays U21 Premier League on Friday night.
A goal from Reece Hall-Johnson (pictured) and a Jamar Loza double put the Canaries 3-0 up, until John O’Sullivan and Tim Payne pulled two back for the hosts with 15 minutes to play.
The impressive Canaries did enough to hold out for a well-deserved fifth win of the season though and moved within a point of second-placed Arsenal in the table.
In a mostly uneventful first half, it was the determination of Hall-Johnson that gave City the breakthrough. His driving run into the box from the right flank engineered the opening, and the youngster was able to expertly fire the ball into the bottom corner.
After the break young striker Loza doubled the lead, much to the dismay of the Blackburn bench. Goalkeeper Grzegorz Sandomierski bravely claimed the ball at the City striker’s feet as he looked to get on the end of a through-ball, but it fell to Loza again to tap into an empty net.
After a delay of ten minutes, the Polish ‘keeper was stretchered off. Rovers’ management later confirmed that the youngster was being treated for a concussion in hospital.
When the game got back underway the Canaries soon picked up where they had left off, with the excellent Hall-Johnson beating Hugo Fernandez and squaring the ball invitingly for Loza to finish for his second goal of the game, and put City 3-0 up.
With City seemingly well in control the hosts hit back almost immediately. City ‘keeper Declan Rudd managed to punch Payne’s cross away, but O’Sullivan executed a brilliant volley to reduce arrears.
Soon afterwards New Zealander Payne made it 3-2, heading Fernandez’ cross past Rudd at the front stick.
It set up a grandstand finish in which both sides had chances, but even with ten minutes of stoppage time to contend with, Scott Marshall’s resolute side dug deep to hold on for a deserved victory in front of 208 fans at Ewood Park.
FULL-TIME: Blackburn Rovers Under-21s 2, Norwich City Under-21s 3
ROVERS: Sandomierski (sub Dilo 63 mins), Daly, Beesley (sub Linganzi 67 mins), Paulo Jorge, O'Connell (c), Fernandez, O'Sullivan, R. Hanley, Haley, Cotton (sub Mason 75 mins), Payne
SUBS NOT USED: Laverty
NORWICH: Rudd, Norman, Barker, Clunan, McNeil, Gafaiti, Jacob Murphy, Hall-Johnson (sub McGeehan 80 mins), Loza, King, Josh Murphy
SUBS NOT USED: Steer, Morris, Hodd, Wyatt