Canaries back on song as lightning Holt strikes twice

Coventry City 1 Norwich City 2
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The Independent Football

Grant Holt returned from suspension in style to score twice as Norwich made ground on most of their rivals for promotion. Holt, 29, missed last weekend's 2-0 home defeat by Portsmouth, the first time Norwich had failed to score in six games. But his 10th and 11th goals of the season allowed his team to leapfrog Coventry, who had not conceded a goal in their previous six matches.

Paul Lambert, the Norwich manager, was reluctant to talk about a second successive promotion, but was delighted to see his team bounce back. "We've never lost back-to-back games since I've been at Norwich, which is a heck of an achievement," he said.

The credit for the victory, according to home supporters, should go to Chris Sarginson, the referee, who dismissed Aron Gunnarsson, Coventry's Icelandic midfield player, for a high challenge on Henri Lansbury in the first half, but Aidy Boothroyd, the Coventry manager, did not agree.

"I think it was a sending-off, and it hasn't helped that he slipped beforehand," he said. "He has both feet off the floor and the letter of the law is that it's a sending off. The player [Lansbury] made a meal of it but he's going to because he wants us to have 10 men and I don't have a go at him for that either. It's part of professionalism."

Boothroyd was more concerned by a failure to spot a trip by Michael Nelson on Marlon King in the penalty area after five minutes. "It's an absolutely definite penalty, we saw it at half-time," he said. "But we can't be blaming referees and assistants, can we? If we start doing that we'll all go mad. It's about what we do, and we came back into it with 10 men." As he says, Coventry will take heart from their battling reaction, even if some of the battling nearly went too far.

King, lucky to stay on after a crude, late hack at Holt – for which Clive Platt was wrongly shown a yellow card – equalised with his second goal for the club and Freddy Eastwood nearly salvaged a point in injury time with a shot that hit the post.

It was Coventry's fourth defeat in as many games against teams in the current top six, and their next opponents are Cardiff and Queens Park Rangers. "I'm looking forward to it," Boothroyd said. "You've got to get back on the horse and you've got to test yourself against the best."

The teams were evenly matched in a poor first half, as well as united in willingness to dispute almost every decision as Sarginson attempted to allow for the conditions.

Perhaps he had allowed one or two challenges too many to pass unchecked before Gunnarson's two-footed tackle on Lansbury. But Coventry refused to wilt and could have taken the lead when Richard Wood headed wide from Gary McSheffrey's corner.

But Norwich began to make the extra man tell. Holt fired a a powerful half-volley that Keiren Westwood saved well, but he could not prevent Holt heading home Russell Martin's cross in the 64th minute.

Coventry fought back, and King held off the challenge of Elliott Ward to collect Michael Doyle's pass and drive the ball past John Ruddy from 15 yards. "There's a belief around us that we can win games," Boothroyd said. "Some teams would have caved in and lost by four or five."

Instead it was just the one. Lansbury and Anthony McNamee both brought excellent saves from Westwood as Norwich went for the winner, but when Coventry failed to clear David Fox's corner, Holt found himself unmarked to score. "That's what I pay him to do and he's been brilliant for me," Lambert said.