Drury has final say in breathless finale

Norwich City 4 - Middlesbrough 4
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The Independent Online

With a stirring defiance, Norwich City reminded the rest of the Premiership that they have the fight to stay in the division as they exposed a hopelessly inept Middlesbrough defence to fight back from three goals down and earn a share of the spoils at Carrow Road.

With a stirring defiance, Norwich City reminded the rest of the Premiership that they have the fight to stay in the division as they exposed a hopelessly inept Middlesbrough defence to fight back from three goals down and earn a share of the spoils at Carrow Road.

Middlesbrough looked to be cruising to victory when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's 78th-minute free-kick handed the visitors a seemingly unassailable 4-1 lead. But Darren Huckerby, anonymous for much of the game, entered stage left and inspired a remarkable comeback.

Huckerby produced three late crosses to set up the goals that earned Norwich what could prove to be a vital point in their battle for survival. Nigel Worthington, the Norwich manager, should perhaps have been left speechless by what he saw, but he was instead full of praise for the appetite and self-belief shown by his players.

"I was involved in a game like that as a player but certainly never as a manager," said a beaming Worthington. "It was a few years ago at Sheffield Wednesday when we were 3-0 up against Chelsea in the FA Cup. Into extra-time, it was 4-4.

"I felt that performance by Norwich was very good but you are left scratching your head thinking, 'where do we go from here?' It was a great credit to the players that they got back into the game. Even though we got just a point out of the game, it felt like a moral victory. But what we have at this club is spirit, and they showed that out there."

From the early moments of the game, the omens did not look good for Worthington's men as the visitors looked hungry for victory. First Doriva and then Hasselbaink went close. Yet, somehow, the home side took the lead against the run of play. Huckerby struck a powerful effort at Mark Schwarzer, and the Middlesbrough goalkeeper could only divert the ball into the path of the awaiting Damien Francis. He tapped into an empty net.

Hopes that the home side, without a win in seven games, could find some solidity in a leaky defence vanished when a low shot from midfielder Stewart Downing, tamed for much of the first half as part of a pre-determined tactic to thwart his creative threat, was diverted past Robert Green, via a faint touch from Hasselbaink.

Four minutes into the second half, and with Norwich having lost their earlier composure, defender Franck Queudrue stole ahead of two defenders to head Downing's corner firmly home. Queudrue then grabbed an unlikely second with another header on 51 minutes, with Downing again the creator.

When Hasselbaink lifted a delicious free-kick over the wall and past Green's despairing dive, Middlesbrough thought they had quelled any hopes of a Norwich comeback and eased off, seemingly secure in the knowledge that the three points were theirs.

The visitors were neglecting their defensive responsibilities. Norwich's new signing Dean Ashton latched on to Huckerby's cross ahead of the awaiting Schwarzer, before bringing the ball under his control and tapping home what he thought would be nothing more than a consolation goal on his home debut.

A minute was left in the game and Huckerby crossed again, this time for substitute Leon McKenzie, who ghosted into the penalty area and headed past Schwarzer to set up a frantic finish. Deep into injury-time, and with Middlesbrough reeling, Huckerby delivered another splendid cross, this time for Adam Drury. The club captain scored to send Carrow Road into a yellow explosion.

"It was one of those strange things that happen in football and it is the first time I have been on the receiving end," said Middlesbrough's Steve McClaren. "We had difficulty dealing with high balls, but I could not fault the performance of the back four for the majority of the game."

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