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24 July 2012

Grant Holt's late goal wins it for City

CAPTAIN Grant Holt's strike a minute from time sealed Norwich City's first pre-season win under Manager Chris Hughton as they beat Scottish champions Celtic 1-0 at Parkhead.

In a close encounter, Holt finished off a great City move by pouncing on a loose ball inside the area after Celtic 'keeper Fraser Forster could only parry Jonny Howson's powerful effort in the 89th minute.

Both sides had chances over the course of the 90 minutes, with James Vaughan and Anthony Pilkington going close for City, and Celtic's Kris Commons and Mikael Lustig striking the crossbar, but it was Holt who had the final say.

Hughton told Canaries Player afterwards: "Again we're up against a team that are ahead of us in their pre-season programme and I think they even play a Champions League game soon, so it's a really good run out for us.

"You always want to win football matches, but at this stage of the season it's not the be all and end all, it's about making sure you come through it and making sure you're getting some good work in for the next game."

City boss Hughton gave a run-out to a host of his available first team squad at Parkhead - fielding different teams in each half of what was an entertaining game aided by another wonderful atmosphere created by both sets of fans.

The Canaries made the trip to face Scottish Champions Celtic after the success of their visit to Carrow Road back in May which celebrated the eleven-year service of former Canary Adam Drury.

That match finished 2-0 to City - James Vaughan and former on-loan midfielder Henri Lansbury scoring the goals. That evening a very inexperienced Hoops team were fielded by Neil Lennon with several youngsters. This time out he named a more attacking first team line-up, including Paddy McCourt, Georgios Samaras and Kris Commons.

It was Norwich's second pre-season game after their first test at the weekend against Hertha Berlin, which ended their week-long Austrian training camp - a close-fought game which ended 3-2 to the Germans.

City lined up in the first half at Parkhead with a centre-back pairing of Ward and Ayala supported at left-back by Marc Tierney and summer signing Steven Whittaker at right-back - the former Rangers' defender would receive a chorus of boos every time he had the ball.

With Andrew Crofts and Bradley Johnson at the centre of midfield, Pilkington started on the left and Elliott Bennett on the right. Steve Morison and Vaughan partnered each other up front - the former Everton man having scored both of City's goals in Austria on Saturday.

After some even early exchanges the first attack came from the Canaries on five minutes after Morison and Vaughan linked up well midway in the Hoops' half - the Welsh striker looping the ball over for Vaughan to run on to, but a Celtic foot made a vital interception to concede the first corner of the game.

The visitors were holding possession nicely, and on 12 minutes it was Vaughan again on the end of a neat move, the striker glancing a header across goal from an Elliott Bennett right-wing cross.

On 19 minutes only a last ditch challenge from Dylan McGeouch denied Pilkington a tap in after Morison squared a pass across Celtic's penalty area on 19 minutes. But in the move Whittaker picked up a knock and had to be substituted just moments later, Scottish international Russell Martin replacing him at right-back.

Celtic's first shot on goal came from former Derby forward Commons, a great effort from over 20 yards, which was deflected onto the wordwork. This was swiftly followed by defender Lustig glancing a header onto the bar.

With 26 minutes on the clock Lucasz Zaluska in the Celtic goal was called into action to deny Pilkington - the former Huddersfield man skipping onto a pass from Morison to have a try from inside the area.

The hosts were getting hold of the ball more and just after the hour Tierney was required to make an interception to stop Daryl Murphy's run in on goal, swifty followed by John Ruddy making sure Filip Twardzik's low shot made it round the post to concede a corner.

Celtic made their first substitution with 10 minutes of the half left - Victor Wanyama replacing Kelvin Wilson.

Two minutes later Samaras went close with his effort just coming off Ayala to see it past the far post after he made a dangerous bursting run down the left.

The half ended with Zaluska receiving treatment after colliding with Vaughan who had risen to get on the end of a Pilkington cross. With a minute left of the half he was replaced between the sticks with former Canary Forster.

HALF-TIME: Celtic 0, Norwich City 0

City came out for the second half with only Ruddy and Russell Martin remaining from the first - Russ was joined in defence by Leon Barnett, Ryan Bennett and Simon Lappin. With Howson, Andrew Surman, Wes Hoolahan and Chris Martin lining up in midfield. City skipper Holt and Simeon Jackson led the line.

In the opening minute Holt made a run to the by-line to cut the ball back into the penalty area but Celtic recovered to clear the dangerous ball with Surman ready to pounce on it. Then at the other end a shout for a penalty as Twardzik went down under Russell Martin's challenge but referee Callum Murray awarded a goal kick to Celtic.

With 52 minutes gone Commons flashed another long-range effort this time it sailed just past Ruddy's right-hand post.

Four minutes later it was City on the attack, Russell Martin's run was found on the right and he put in a cross for his name-sake Chris to connect with, but his header was blocked. They then combined again a minute later this time the striker trying to back-heel home his right-back's cross, but the Celtic defence again denied the Canaries from taking the lead.

A double substitution for Celtic came on the hour mark - Gary Hooper and James Forest replacing Murphy and McGeouch respectively.

Three minutes later Samaras went close to breaking the deadlock when he burst through the middle, but when trying to lob the on-rushing Ruddy he placed his attempt onto the roof of the net.

Holt out-muscled Wanyama to take control of the ball and cut the ball across the area where Chris Martin was waiting, but he couldn't quite get a shot away and although he found Surman in the area, the hosts managed to take back control and clear their lines.

Celtic's final substitutions came on 68 minutes Samaras and Commons coming off for Matthews and Bangura - the substitutes for Celtic were trying to impress with Bangura looking lively.

With five minutes of the game left Forster seemed caught a little by surprise by Simeon Jackson's drive from outside the area, and he just managed to turn it away.

However, four minutes later City went and claimed the win when Holt scored his first goal of pre-season with a last minute strike. The ball initially fell to Howson in the area before he stung the palms of Forster yet again, but the Celtic stopper could only smother the effort and Holt was on hand to slot home the rebound for 1-0.

The City skipper ran over to the Yellow Army in the corner to celebrate - over 600 making the long trip to Glasgow leaving for home happy.

FULL-TIME: Celtic 0, Norwich City 1

CELTIC: Zaluska (Forster 45), Lustig, Rogne, K. Wilson (Wanyama 35), Izaguirre, McGeouch (Forrest 60), McCourt, Filp Twardzik, Samaras (Matthews 68), Commons (Bangura 68), Murphy (Hooper 60).

CITY FIRST HALF: Ruddy, Whittaker (R. Martin 23), Ayala, Ward, Tierney, E. Bennett, Crofts, Johnson, Pilkington, Morison, Vaughan.

CITY SECOND HALF: Ruddy, R. Martin, Barnett, R. Bennett, Lappin, Howson, Surman, Hoolahan, C. Martin, Holt, Jackson.CELTIC 

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