Their former manager Paul Lambert may believe they could “do without” the FA Cup, but Norwich City face at least one more game in the competition – a replay at Fulham, who they failed to put away yesterday despite dominating.
There were a total of 13 changes in the starting line-ups from the clubs’ Boxing Day encounter, when Fulham left Norfolk with three welcome League points.
The most notable additions were one new man and an old one returned – the 18-year-old Josh Murphy making his first start for Norwich, and American Clint Dempsey making the first appearance of his second Fulham spell, on loan from Seattle Sounders. Fulham also gave debuts to Dan Burn in defence and Chris David in midfield, but it was the livewire Murphy who really caught the eye.
He forced the first save of the game, bringing David Stockdale to his knees with a well-struck effort. In the 38th minute Stockdale again denied Murphy – and within a minute Fulham were ahead.
The former England forward Darren Bent, told by Rene Meulensteen to shape up and indeed looking a few puddings above his former lean fighting weight, outjumped both Norwich central defenders and goalkeeper Mark Bunn to head in David’s cross.
As it was for Bent, a rare start should also have been a big occasion for Norwich’s record signing, the £8.5 million striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Halfway through what has been a very disappointing first season in English football he continued for most of the first half to look like a little boy lost.
It seemed a telling moment when Norwich took an attacking free-kick with their lone striker still doing up his shoelaces in the centre circle. Moments after Bent’s opener, however, the Dutchman suddenly came to life, turning sharply in the box to hit a shot that Stockdale did well to turn away.
In the final minute of the first half, Norwich deservedly drew level. Murphy sped past Elsad Zverotic on the left to hit a teasing ball across the six-yard line and Robert Snodgrass placed a diving header past Stockdale.
The second half was all Norwich, who were denied victory by what Meulensteen described as “a Gordon Banks save” by Stockdale, plunging to palm away Van Wolfswinkel’s downward header.
The next meeting will be, said the Norwich manager Chris Hughton, “a replay we’d rather not have”. But he added: “We’d rather be in the FA Cup than out of it, and we definitely did enough to win.”
Which, but for Stockdale, they would have done.
Norwich (4-2-3-1): Bunn; Whittaker, Martin, R Bennett, Olsson; Fox, Garrido; Elmander (Redmond, 68), Snodgrass, Josh Murphy (Jacob Murphy, 80); Van Wolfswinkel.
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Stockdale; Zverotic, Hughes, Burn, Amorebieta (Riise, 70); Boateng (Christensen, 70), David; Kasami, Dempsey, Kacaniklic (Plumain, 45, ); Bent.
Referee: Roger East.
Man of the match: Josh Murphy (Norwich).
Match rating: 7/10