Crouch stretches Norwich's unbeaten run to seven

West Ham 1 Norwich 1
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The Independent Football

Norwich's unbeaten run was stretched to seven matches when Peter Crouch shrugged off an ankle injury to head a second-half equaliser against West Ham at Upton Park, after his team-mate Marc Edworthy had conceded an early own goal.

The loan signing from Aston Villa took advantage of slack marking in the home defence to punish a Hammers side who looked toothless without their suspended strikers Jermain Defoe and David Connolly, in what was the caretaker-manager Trevor Brooking's penultimate game in charge.

Crouch was overshadowed by fellow loan signing Darren Huckerby last month, who hit three goals in successive games for Norwich. But the 6ft 7in striker was the key man here, and received a standing ovation from the visiting fans when he was hauled off in the dying moments.

The Hammers went ahead after just five minutes when Neil Mellor capitalised on a slip in the Norwich defence to fire in a dangerous low cross which the hapless Edworthy conspired to turn into his own net.

But Huckerby counter-attacked immediately for the visitors, surging into the penalty area, where Tomas Repka was on hand to clear the danger with a last-ditch tackle.

The Canaries seemed strangers in defence, with Mellor continuing to cause problems, but when Matthew Etherington was denied a penalty after a clash with Kevin Harper, he earned a booking for a rash reaction.

Crouch then turned well from Craig Fleming's cross to fire a shot from just outside the area past the far upright of the England No 1, David James, but a strong run from Etherington could have produced better results shortly afterwards. The former Tottenham winger stormed into a gap in the Norwich defence before unleashing a left-foot shot into the side-netting.

The Hammers defender Tomas Repka, treading a fine line all night, eventually received a booking for a late challenge on Huckerby, who needed extensive treatment and was replaced by Mark Rivers at half-time.

But Norwich took control after the break with West Ham looking reluctant to press home their advantage. The visiting pressure told in the 63rd minute when Crouch rose highest to head home a left-wing Harper cross with James rooted to his line. Brooking was given another headache when Etherington limped off injured.

West Ham: James; Repka, Dailly, Pearce, Quinn, Alexandersson, Horlock (Lee, h-t), Etherington (A Ferdinand, 84), Carrick, Garcia (Hutchison, 69), Mellor. Substitutes not used: Bywater, Kilgallon.

Norwich: Green; Drury, Mackay, Fleming, Edworthy, McVeigh, Holt, Francis, Harper (Mulryne, 76), Huckerby (Rivers, h-t) Crouch (Roberts, 90). Substitutes not used: Lewis, Easton.

Referee: S Tomlin (E Sussex).

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