City extend unbeaten run at St Mary's
ROBERT Snodgrass’ first half free kick gave City another priceless Barclays Premier League point in a 1-1 draw away at Southampton on Wednesday night.
The result means Chris Hughton’s Canaries extend their remarkable unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions as they once again impressed with a typical hard-working display at St Mary’s.
Rickie Lambert has edged the hosts ahead following a scramble in the box just after the half hour mark, before the Canaries hit back through a free kick won and taken by Snodgrass.
City certainly had the better of things in the second half, with Mark Bunn relatively untroubled in goal, but in the end took a well-deserved point from an entertaining tie with Nigel Adkins’ newly-promoted Saints.
Before kick off it was confirmed that goalkeeper John Ruddy could be missing for approximately three months with the thigh injury he suffered against Everton in the previous game.
Therefore Bunn started for the Canaries for the third time since his summer move from Blackburn - the first time in the league, his two other appearances coming in the Capital One Cup wins over Doncaster and Spurs - the latter seeing him make a last-gasp penalty save against Clint Dempsey to help City's passage into the quarter-finals of the competition and the forhcoming tie against Aston Villa at Carrow Road on December 11.
Russell Martin made a return to the bench after recovering from his back injury, Ryan Bennett partnering Sebastein Bassong in defence as he did at Goodison Park.
The Canaries had a bright start winning the first corner of the game after only three minutes, Bradley Johnson with a great searching ball which found Pilkington and had to be dealt with by the Saints' defence. The winger then laid the ball off for Robert Snodgrass who stung the hands of Paulo Gazzaniga with a shot, the Argentinian collecting on the second attempt.
Bunn had some early handling of the ball as the hosts put in some deliveries to test the Canary 'keeper, which he dealt with comfortably.
On nine minutes Bennett had an important clearance to make as Lambert was found at the back post and he headed the ball back across the penalty area - the young City defender then made a good block to deny Jason Puncheon a shot on target.
The Canaries weathered the Saints pressure and built on a good period of possession, winning two set-pieces, the latter seeing a deep Pilkington delivery almost find Bennett at the far post but it proved just a little too long for the Canary defender to reach on 18 minutes.
Alex Tettey went on a jinking run beating two players, but just as he got into the area and to the by-line Luke Shaw did well to get in front of the City man to see it out for a goal kick.
Saints' captain Adam Lallana hit a stinging volley just over the bar after connecting well with Lambert's crossfield pass on 24 minutes.
However, Southampton did take the lead on 33 minutes - Shaw won a free-kick far left and Lallana's delivery went through a crowd of bodies and dropped to Lambert who poked the ball into the far corner for 1-0 - City appealed for the ball hitting a hand on the way through to the Saints striker and hitting the former Rochdale man's arm before he hit home - but to no avail as referee Mark Clattenburg gave the goal.
With five minutes of the half left Puncheon was fouled by Garrido and it gave Gaston Ramirez an attempt on goal - the South American just curling his free-kick past the far post.
City kept persisting but that final delivery into the box was just missing with Southampton defending well.
However, another set-piece was awarded to the Canaries, which saw Nathaniel Clyne booked for a foul on Snodgrass right on the edge of the penalty area.
The Scot stood up and took the free-kick, possibly taking a slight deflection off Puncheon, and his low shot beat Gazzaniga at his near post for 1-1 on the stroke of half-time.
HALF-TIME: Southampton 1, Norwich City 1
Shortly after the break Ryan Bennett made a good interception after Puncheon had released Clyne into the area and delivered a dangerous low cross into the penalty area.
Hoolahan and Holt combined well six minutes in but unfortunately the Irishman's return ball found the City number 9 in an offside position as he was bursting through on goal.
On 57 minutes a great break by the Canaries saw Alex Tettey push forward and find Snodgrass on the right and he put a searching cross into the area but unfortunately it was just behind Hoolahan and Saints cleared. Two minutes City were again putting good pressure on the home defence but that little bit of luck was just missing as the ball just wouldn't drop for a man in a yellow shirt.
It was a great spell for the visitors this time Pikington and Snodgrass combining to get in a good position, but a red shirt again just managing to steer it away from the Scottish international and out for a corner.
Bunn made an important stop on 67 minutes after Puncheon managed to wriggle past Garrido and turn inside and shoot, Bennett then heading clear Canary lines.
Lallana shot high over moments later after the ball dropped to him invitingly.
Ryan Bennett picked up City's first booking for a foul on Ramirez as he clipped him as he was bursting through from midfield.
As the final 10 minutes approached the game had become a little scrappy - both sides still pressing forward but with no meaningful chance created.
The first substitution of the game came on 80 minutes Grant Holt replaced with Steve Morison.
The match was opening up City firstly breaking through Snodgrass who tried to burst his way through the Saints line but Shaw did enough again to deny the City man a clear shot on goal, injuring himself in the process and having to be substituted a minute later - Ben Reeves coming on in his place.
Then Lambert had an opening but finished high over the bar.
Two late changes in the game saw Puncheon coming off for Jay Rodriguez and Elliott Bennett replacing Snodgrass for the Canaries.
And City's final change saw Jonny Howson replace Hoolahan at the start of four minutes of time.
It was getting a little nervy as the final moments ticked by, both teams still committing players forward. Bunn was alert to come and claim a loose ball and Morison won City a corner right at the death the referee blowing his whistle before the flag kick could be taken.
With Southampton winning two on the bounce it was another useful point for City who extended their unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions.
FULL-TIME: Southampton 1, Norwich City 1
SOUTHAMPTON: Gazzaniga, Clyne, Yoshida, Schneiderlin, Fonte, Lambert, Ramirez, Cork, Lallana (c), Shaw (Reeves 84), Puncheon (Rodriguez 88). Subs not used: K. Davis, Hooiveld, S. Davis, Prado, Mayuka
CITY: Bunn, Whittaker, Johnson, Bassong, Snodgrass (E. Bennett 88), Holt (c) (Morison 80), Pilkington, Hoolahan (Howson 90), Garrido, R.Bennett, Tettey. Subs not used: Rudd, R. Martin, Jackson, Barnett.