Ashton's late swoop sets Canaries' hopes soaring

Norwich City 2 Newcastle United 1
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The Independent Football
Dean Ashton brought a tumultuous game to a dramatic finale at Carrow Road last night by heading an injury-time winner for Norwich that adds extra credibility to his club's faint hopes of staying in the Premiership.

Dean Ashton brought a tumultuous game to a dramatic finale at Carrow Road last night by heading an injury-time winner for Norwich that adds extra credibility to his club's faint hopes of staying in the Premiership.

A point would have been of little use to the Canaries but that looked like their lot when Patrick Kluivert came on for Newcastle to score a last-minute equaliser that cancelled out Youssef Safri's spectacular first League goal for Norwich.

The East Anglian side still prop up the table, but with seven points collected from their last three tough fixtures and all their rivals dropping points, they are anything but down and out. Where there is hope, there is belief.

After dominating the first half a makeshift Newcastle side hardly deserved to lose for the fifth time in six games but that will be of scant comfort to the Geordies who were so depleted by injuries and suspensions that they named only four substitutes. "It was hard on us," admitted their manager, Graeme Souness. "I thought we played some decent stuff but we lost a game we shouldn't have lost. All credit to Norwich, though."

But for an astonishingly uncharacteristic miss by Alan Shearer Newcastle would, indeed, have been ahead by the interval. That came in the 21st minute when Laurent Robert's free-kick reared off Robert Green's chest leaving Shearer with a gaping target to aim at.

Somehow the veteran striker managed to screw his effort past a different upright from the one he had earlier missed with a cross shot.

The visitors, smarting no doubt from a few choice words of admonishment from Souness following successive 4-1 defeats, displayed renewed urgency and commitment from the start ­ even from the much maligned Robert.

The Frenchman was unlucky with a stinging volley that was kept out by Green's legs as Newcastle took the game to their hosts, with Milner particularly prominent down the right.

But the contest was not totally one-sided. Norwich had their moments, too, most notably just before the interval when Damien Francis had a close-range header smothered by Shay Given.

With Francis putting two further attempts over the top on the resumption, Norwich had nothing to show for their improved efforts until the 68th minute when Safri let fly from 30 yards. His shot ricocheted down from the underside of the bar past a startled Given.

Kluivert's 88th-minute equaliser, tucked neatly into the corner of the net after Adam Drury had fallen on the ball trying to stop Shearer from shooting, could have been a shattering body blow for Norwich. But then along came Thomas Helveg's left-wing cross and Ashton's decisive header that left a startled Given completely wrong-footed.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Green; Helveg, Fleming, Shackell, Drury; Bentley (Holt, 88), Francis, Safri, Huckerby (Jonson 46); Ashton, McKenzie (Svensson, 82). Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Edworthy.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Boumsong, O'Brien, Elliott; Milner (Ambrose, 62), Butt, N'Zogbia, Robert; Ameobi (Kluivert, 75), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Ramage.

Referee: A Marriner (W Midlands).

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