The cold statistic that, for the second consecutive match, Bolton squandered a 2-1 lead will meet with scant sympathy in East Anglia. All that matters to Norwich is that they also clocked up a second, but in their case it was the second victory of what was turning into a bleak return to the Premiership. They are now up to the head-turning heights of 15th place.
The winner, and the first time Norwich have managed three goals in one game this season, came from the head of Mat-hias Svensson as Bolton's earlier control and assurance ebbed. Norwich just about deserved the points which offered so much relief to their increasingly hazardous position, but they were assisted, as Bolton's manager, Sam Allardyce, pointed out, by some "pathetic defending".
A week ago at Everton another 2-1 lead was lost by Bolton. That, Allardyce claimed, was down to refereeing mistakes, but this time he confessed that what was going on in his team's defence was "extremely worrying", adding: "We are getting the hard part right by scoring goals. The easier part should be defending, but today we let in some silly goals against a team who are struggling to score."
Bolton also failed to ride their luck, having got away with an early, sustained appeal for hands against Fernando Hierro when his block of a David Bentley cross struck his knee and bounced on to a hand. To compound the home fans' anger, the referee, Barry Knight, awarded a penalty to Bolton for what seemed less of an offence. A long Gary Speed throw bounced on to Gary Doherty's outstretched arm and Jay-Jay Okocha sidefooted the kick calmly to Robert Green's left.
This sparked a spell of three goals in five minutes. Norwich hit back almost at once, Bentley again providing the centre from which Svensson escaped the offside trap to head back across Jussi Jaaskelainen's body. The lead lasted three minutes. Then Norwich conceded a corner with a sloppy back-pass. Stelios Giannakopoulos's corner was met at the near post by the villain of the moment in Norwich eyes, Hierro, and he directed an excellent header just inside the upright. Although he reacted late, Green was well beaten.
There could have been a third for dominant Bolton before the interval, Green's face providing a painful block of a header from Radhi Jaidi. Afterwards, with Bentley adding his pace and guile to the earlier unceasing hard work of Darren Huckerby, Norwich clawed their way back into the match, though not before surviving another scare as Stelios lifted a shot over Green, but also over the bar. Then, as the niggling started to get out of hand, Bruno N'Gotty and Ivan Campo were cautioned for relatively innocent offences.
However, the next Bolton error was costly. Speed's effort to halt Bentley on the very edge of the box was mistimed. Down went the Norwich man, and the referee pointed to the spot. The kick by Huckerby was a replica of Okocha's - a sidefoot perfectly placed to the keeper's left - for his sixth goal of the season.
Norwich looked even better when Paul McVeigh came on. As Bolton's defence caved in, he put one effort over the bar. Then, with six minutes left, Bentley sent over another inviting cross. Hierro just failed to make an interception and Svensson's bouncing header evaded Jaaskelainen's flailing dive.
The Norwich manager, Nigel Worthington, called it "a good result, a big start for us, a good performance all round, a great three points. Now we go to Chelsea next week. Let's hope we can pass the ball like we did today."Reuse content