Drury makes blockheads of Middlesbrough defence

Norwich City 4 Middlesbrough 4

At the final whistle, the Norwich players turned to their indefatigable supporters and acclaimed this result as if it were a victory. To Middlesbrough, who had been 4-1 up with just 12 minutes to go, it felt like defeat.

At the final whistle, the Norwich players turned to their indefatigable supporters and acclaimed this result as if it were a victory. To Middlesbrough, who had been 4-1 up with just 12 minutes to go, it felt like defeat.

But the fact was that the draw, for all its bewildering, haphazard glory, was insufficient for either side. Middlesbrough failed to overtake Liverpool, who had been beaten earlier on Saturday; Norwich dropped a place as all their companions in the relegation Gang-of-Four managed wins. Next up for the Canaries: Everton away.

Life is harsh at the wrong end of the Premiership. And it will have felt even harsher to the few home fans who made a disconsolate early exit as their side appeared to be plummeting to defeat by comfortably superior opponents. They certainly managed to miss the rush.

After Dean Ashton, the £3m arrival from Crewe, had marked his home debut with a goal which appeared to be no more than a defiant gesture, the afternoon was transformed by further goals in the 90th minute from hyperactive substitute Leon McKenzie and in stoppage time, to general disbelief, by the left-back Adam Drury.

"We are never going to give up," said Drury, who had not scored for two years. "This is the best league, and we want to stay in it."

If guts and determination had everything to do with it, Norwich would already be safe. But they remain an underpowered team whose naïvety was ruthlessly exposed by a visiting side that responded to Damien Francis' unexpected opening effort with four goals in the space of 44 minutes.

Boro's local lad Stewart Downing, offering further evidence of England credentials, created the first with a shot that deflected in off Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's deft prod in the 34th minute. Then Boro's French full-back Franck Queudrue twice evaded his marker to profit from two corner kicks before Hasselbaink's missile of a free-kick pushed Norwich towards humiliation.

And yet by the end, as Boro's shell-shocked captain Gareth Southgate admitted, the visitors were grateful for the sound of the final whistle.

When it was suggested to Boro's manager, Steve McClaren, that he must have been "pretty upset", his already glassy smile turned glacial. "Pretty upset?" he asked. "More than pretty... It was a shock. It was one of those strange things that happens in football. For 99 per cent of the game we were very, very good.

"I can't really repeat what I said in the dressing-room. There was total silence in there, and I just told them that we had missed a great opportunity.

"Today could have a devastating effect. We will be looking for a positive reaction when we play our next game at Old Trafford."

The Norwich manager, Nigel Worthington, acclaimed his side's "moral victory", still a little dazed by what he had witnessed. His description of the home fans as a "12th man" was more than rhetoric. It is hard to think of many other sets of supporters who would produce sustained encouragement for their players immediately after going 4-1 down.

Goals: Francis (18) 1-0; Hasselbaink (34) 1-1; Queudrue (49) 1-2; Queudrue (55) 1-3; Hasselbaink (78) 1-4; Ashton (80) 2-4; McKenzie (90) 3-4; Drury (90) 4-4.

Norwich City: (4-4-2): Green; Edworthy, Fleming, Doherty, Drury; Jonson (McVeigh, 58), Francis, Mulryne (Holt, 65), Brennan (McKenzie, 58); Huckerby, Ashton. Substitutes not used: Gallacher (gk), Jarvis.

Middlesbrough: (4-4-2): Schwarzer; McMahon, Reiziger, Southgate, Queudrue; Doriva (Morrison, h-t), Parlour, Zenden, Downing; Job (Graham, 73), Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Nemeth, Cooper.

Booked: Middlesbrough Queudrue, Parlour, McMahon.

Referee: M Messias (South Yorkshire).

Man of the match: Huckerby.

Attendance: 25,547.

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