James Maddison’s stunning first-half strike – coupled with another outstanding defensive effort – saw Norwich City stretch their unbeaten run to six in all competitions with a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough.
Maddison found the net superbly from 25 yards in the first half and City defended heroically from that point on to hold their lead until the final whistle.
Daniel Farke was able to name Marco Stiepermann, Wes Hoolahan and Nelson Oliveira on the substitute’s bench after they all passed late fitness tests. In the starting eleven, James Husband came in at left-back, Alex Tettey returned in the centre of the park and there were starts for Yanic Wildschut and Maddison.
A laboured start to the match burst into life on 13 minutes. Marley Watkins did brilliantly to dispossess Dael Fry on the left hand side and he fed Maddison just on the edge of the box. The City playmaker picked his spot and found the top corner with an outstanding 25-yard strike.
However, Boro went close to an immediate equaliser. Adama Traore’s near-post corner found Cyrus Christie unmarked but his flick-on evaded all his teammates in the area.
Similar to the victory against Sheffield United ten days prior, the goal allowed City to stand firm and hit Boro on the counter. The hosts found it difficult to break Farke’s men down and were restricted to pumping balls into box.
Lewis Baker burst into the box on 34 minutes and his shot was charged down well but only as far as Adam Clayton whose tame shot was straight at Angus Gunn.
Boro’s best chance of the half fell to Britt Assombalonga. A deep cross found the former Nottingham Forest man at the back post and his header looped over Gunn but, luckily for City, Christoph Zimmermann was there to clear off the line.
City finished the half strongly though and Wildschut was unlucky not to double their lead, slicing a Ivo Pinto cross into the crowd.
Jerome went mightily close to adding a second for City just minutes into the second half. His hold-up play had been brilliant all night long and he did well to exchange passes with Maddison before forcing Darren Randolph into a terrific stop from close-range.
Traore was Boro’s main threat but even he was finding it difficult to break through City’s stubborn defence. He managed it once on 64 minutes but after beating Wildschut and Pinto, his powerful strike was straight at Gunn.
Assombalonga then went close ten minutes later. Christie’s hopeful cross found the Boro man unmarked but he headed straight into the arms of Gunn.
Those two chances were as good as it got for Boro in the second half, mainly because of another outstanding defensive display from City. In reality, they shut out their opponents with relative ease.
The victory extended City’s unbeaten run to six in all competitions, but more remarkably, it was their fifth consecutive Sky Bet Championhip clean sheet in a row.