McVeigh settles nerves to keep Norwich on top

Norwich City 3 Gillingham 0
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Everything - eventually - came up Canary-coloured roses for Norwich City last night as they hung on to their First Division leadership thanks to three second-half goals in the space of four minutes.

Everything - eventually - came up Canary-coloured roses for Norwich City last night as they hung on to their First Division leadership thanks to three second-half goals in the space of four minutes.

But it took over an hour of uncertain, error-strewn play by the home team before they asserted themselves against a struggling side who were reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Barry Ashby in the 25th minute.

The Norwich manager, Nigel Worthington, betrayed tension of his own afterwards as, somewhat bewilderingly, he criticised home supporters for the way they had voiced their growing dismay. "The crowd didn't help in the first half," Worthington said. "They were edgy, and it made the players edgy. What happened was not acceptable from the players' point of view. We are top of the League, not bottom. The team deserves the crowd's support from the first minute - they are going to be vital in willing us over the finishing line."

Worthington had called for an improved performance from his team last night following Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Cardiff - only their second defeat in 17 League games. But until Ashby got his marching orders, for climbing all over Darren Huckerby as the Norwich forward homed in on goal, the visitors looked by far the more dangerous side, with Patrick Agyemang, the recent £150,000 signing from Wimbledon, creating a clear 11th-minute chance for Danny Spiller, who headed over from close range, and then saw a goalbound shot deflected by Jason Shackell.

The home fans made an effort to rouse their players in the second half, and were rewarded in the 63rd minute as Norwich made their breakthough following another free-kick earned by Huckerby. Mathias Svensson shaped to shoot, then switched the ball out to the right, from where Ian Henderson drove in a cross that Alan Pouton turned over his own line.

Within sixty seconds the lead doubled as Paul McVeigh's left-wing cross was headed smartly home by Phil Mulryne, and two minutes later all traces of doubt were erased as an unmarked McVeigh made it 3-0 from the edge of the box.

Norwich City: (4-4-2): Green; Edworthy, Fleming, Mackay, Shackell; Henderson (Jarvis, 83), Francis (Mulryne, h-t), Holt, McVeigh: Svensson, Huckerby (Roberts, 87). Substitutes not used: Crichton (gk), Brennan.

Gillingham: (4-4-2): Banks; Southall, Ashby, Johnson, Rose; James, Smith, Pouton, Spiller; Agyemang (Crofts, 70), Sidibe. Substitutes not used: Wallace, Jarvis, Awuah, Beckwith.

Referee: A Bates (Staffordshire).

Comments