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SEASON REVIEW: MAY

13 June 2015

More East Anglian derby glory, then a Wembley triumph

RESULTS RUN-DOWN
W - 4-2 v Fulham (H) 02/05/2015 - Championship
D - 1-1 v Ipswich Town (A) 09/05/2015 - Championship play-off semi-final
W - 3-1 v Ipswich Town (H) 16/05/2015 - Championship play-off semi-final
W - 0-2 v Middlesbrough (N) 25/05/2015 - Championship play-off final

ON THE PITCH
Norwich City ended their regular season with a 4-2 home victory over Fulham, with Bradley Johnson scoring twice.

Nathan Redmond and Graham Dorrans also found the net for the hosts, whose victory set up a Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final meeting with East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town.

Travelling to Portman Road for the first leg, Alex Tettey hit the post with an attempt from distance before Jonny Howson broke the deadlock on 41 minutes by calmly converting a Cameron Jerome cross from inside the box.
 
Town responded, and levelled deep into injury-time at the end of the first half when Paul Anderson tucked home from close-range.

A hard-fought second period saw chances at a premium for both sides, ensuring Alex Neil's side took a 1-1 draw back to Carrow Road.


With the prize of a place at Wembley and the eventual prospect of Barclays Premier League football on offer to the winners, the second leg marked arguably the biggest East Anglian derby in history.

Norwich had last played at England's showpiece stadium 30 years previously, having coincidentally beaten Ipswich in the semi-finals of the 1985 Milk Cup on their way to lifting the trophy.

Much like the second half in the previous game, a high-intensity opening period produced limited opportunities; Russell Martin going closest when his snap-shot was cleared off the line by Anderson.

That changed shortly after the restart however, as Redmond cut inside from the left before seeing his goalbound effort blocked by the hand of Christophe Berra, who was immediately shown a red card.

Wes Hoolahan stepped up to take the resultant spot-kick, sending goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski the wrong way to put his side in front.


Once again, Town brought themselves level when Tommy Smith forced the ball into the net from a free-kick on the hour-mark, but parity was to be short-lived for Mick McCarthy's men.

Just minutes later, Hoolahan deftly released the over-lapping Martin Olsson into the penalty-area, with the Swedish defender's shot being parried by Bialkowski before an unconvincing clearance.

Howson collected the loose ball behind the penalty-spot, displaying excellent awareness to pick out the unmarked Redmond in space to his right.

The winger took a touch to steady himself, then fired fiercely under the Ipswich goalkeeper to restore City's advantage much to the delight of most inside Carrow Road.


Redmond then turned provider with 14 minutes remaining as his measured pass picked out Jerome, who had broken beyond the visitors' last line of defence.

Town's Bialkowski charged out to meet him, but the City striker got there first to register his 20th goal of the season by prodding the ball under the Polish 'stopper and into the net.

That wrapped up an emphatic 3-1 victory for the Canaries, with a 4-2 aggregate score setting up a Sky Bet Championship play-off final meeting with Middlesbrough at Wembley Stadium.


In facing Middlesbrough, Norwich came up against a side who had beaten them twice during the regular campaign - including less than six weeks previously at Carrow Road.

Backed by almost 40,000 members of the Yellow Army, the game started at a frantic pace; Bradley Johnson and Jelle Vossen both striking the crossbar at either end within 30 seconds of each other during the early exchanges.

However, it would be City who landed the first blow, with Jerome robbing defender Daniel Ayala and advancing on goal before confidently beating Dimitrios Konstantopoulos at his near-post on 12 minutes.


Alex Neil's side were rampant, and Middlesbrough had no answer for the 33-second passing move which doubled the advantage barely moments later.

It began with Olsson nipping in to win the ball on the left, before quickly exchanging passes with Johnson and moving down the flank with purpose ahead of feeding the ball into Jerome.

The Canaries' first goalscorer laid off for Hoolahan to assume responsibility, with the Republic of Ireland international instigating a rapid interchange with Redmond, Steven Whittaker and Howson.

The latter sprayed left for Johnson, who carried through the middle and pushed the ball forward for Jerome; the striker then angling a pass towards Howson who took a touch before picking out Whittaker on the right.

Whittaker split the Reds' defence with a precise pass for Redmond, the 21-year-old controlling to spin past his man into space and arrow a low shot into the bottom-corner to make it 2-0 in style.



City saw out the remaning 75 minutes with few major scares, restricting Middlesbrough to half-chances while continuing to threaten themselves.

The final whistle sparked jubilant celebrations both off and on the pitch, ahead of long-serving captain Russell Martin leading his team up the famous Wembley steps to confirm promotion by collecting the trophy.


OFF THE PITCH
Jacob Murphy helped Colchester United secure Sky Bet League One survival in dramatic circumstances, before returning to star in a thrilling match as City's U21s drew 4-4 with Liverpool at Anfield.

Ahead of the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final first leg at Portman Road, Nigel Worthington and Leon McKenzie discussed the end-of-season format and the feeling of scoring in a derby respectively.

There were further exclusive interviews with City icons Adam Drury, Grant Holt and Jamie Cureton in the build-up to the return leg at Carrow Road, as the historic match edged closer.

A range of special guests who had found the net for the Club in matches against Town were presented to the crowd shortly before kick-off, including the likes of Iwan Roberts, Robert Fleck and Simeon Jackson.

Dedicated former season ticket holder Sam Wood made a mammoth trip from Australia for the play-off campaign, with success over Ipswich ensuring his journey wasn't in vain.

Having made it to Wembley, Norwich City were then proud to be led out for the Sky Bet Championship play-off final against Middlesbrough by young mascot Kieran Smith in front of 40,000 Canary fans.

A win over Aitor Karanka's side secured promotion back to the Barclays Premier League, with the trophy subsequently going on view to supporters at City Hall.


PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Bradley Johnson was named 'Anglian Home Improvements Player of the Year' before the game against Fulham, seeing off competition from Wes Hoolahan and Cameron Jerome.

The midfielder added his 14th and 15th goals of a stellar campaign during a 4-2 victory over the Cottagers, while also inadvertently completing a 'perfect hat-trick' by heading into his own net late on.

Making 45 appearances across the course of the season, Johnson average a goal every three games, including a number of stunning strikes - often coming at crucial times.

He broke City's Sky Bet Championship duck against Watford on Saturday, August 16, opening the scoring in a 3-0 home victory at Carrow Road by lobbing goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

The next match saw Johnson get on the scoresheet again; curling home a measured finish in the closing stages as the Canaries made it back-to-back wins with a 3-1 triumph over Blackburn Rovers.


Despite not hitting the target in any of Norwich's next 14 matches, Johnson became a central figure as the groundwork for promotion to the Barclays Premier League was put in place.

A flurry of five goals during four games in December boosted his tally, before the 28-year-old's personal haul was added to during vital wins over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers - again - in February.

Johnson started March by firing home the first in City's 2-0 success against East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town, then began April in similar fashion by helping take his side to victories over Brighton & Hove Albion and Sheffield Wednesday.

He came close to finding the net on the biggest stage of all during the Sky Bet Championship play-off final against Middlesbrough, only for his rasping drive to bounce off the crossbar in the ninth minute.

Despite that, goals from Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond shortly after proved enough to secure a famous 2-0 victory at Wembley which took the Canaries back to the Barclays Premier League at the first attempt.


QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"Start well." - Alex Neil responds in his pre-match press conference when asked what Norwich City need to do at Wembley to overcome Middlesbrough in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final.



GOAL OF THE MONTH
Nathan Redmond's famous Wembley strike against Middlesbrough earned him 'Aviva Goal of the Month' for May, while simultaneously securing Norwich City's place in the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League.

With the Canaries already leading thanks to determined work from Cameron Jerome, a flowing team move of 17 passes saw Alex Neil's side zip the ball across the Wembley turf at pace.

At the end of a rapid passage of play was Redmond, who met an intelligent pass from Steven Whittaker before flicking the ball around his marker.

The winger spun into space, then lashed emphatically low into the net to put City 2-0 up and effectively seal promotion with just 15 minutes gone.


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