Jackson's late leveller tough on Fulham
Norwich City 1 Fulham 1: Canaries end vintage year on upbeat note but saved point cannot mask worrying weaknesses
2011 was a good year for Norwich City, but now they have to ensure that their good work in winning promotion to the Premier League is not undermined in 2012. Yesterday they needed a goal in the fourth minute of added time to rescue a point against a superior Fulham team who should have recorded their second away win of the season.
Once the euphoria caused by Simeon Jackson's late header has dissipated, realists among City fans will be concerned the Canaries have won only one of their past six games, have not kept a clean sheet all season and looked second best for most of yesterday's match to a team not known for stirring performances away from Craven Cottage.
Paul Lambert, the Norwich manager, praised his team's comeback, but admitted reinforcements may be required in the transfer window. "I thought we were relentless in the second half, they kept going and have a great desire to win games," he said. "I'm pretty sure everyone would have thought we'd be in the bottom three now, so I'm delighted, but the lads need help, and that's easier said than done – we don't have millions [of pounds]. But we'll do everything we can to stay in this League."
Fulham's manager, Martin Jol, was disappointed his team had not taken full reward for an enterprising performance, especially in the first half, with Bryan Ruiz and the promising Kerim Frei, 19, prominent in the wide positions and Orlando Sa dangerous up front. Sa put them ahead with his first goal for the club on only his third Premier League start since arriving in August and, with better finishing, Fulham could be celebrating four points from two away games following a draw at Chelsea on Boxing Day.
"Two goals would probably have been the end of it, but I can't say it was undeserved," Jol said. "In the first half we played as we did at Chelsea. We created three or four chances but only scored one, and [Norwich] are a good energetic side."
Fulham were ahead in six minutes as Moussa Dembélé charged forward, leaving Bradley Johnson in his wake before finding Sa, who turned Zak Whitbread effortlessly and curled the ball low past John Ruddy's left hand from 22 yards. Norwich, though, are hard to keep off the scoresheet at Carrow Road and David Stockdale touched Whitbread's header on to the post and was relieved to see Frei and then John Arne Riise block goalbound efforts from Steve Morison.
Fulham settled down after that, and their controlled passing made them a danger every time they went forward. Clint Dempsey headed against the bar from only four yards and Frei ran from his own half before stinging Ruddy's hands from 20 yards.
They would regret not adding to their lead as Norwich upped their game in the second half. Kyle Naughton skimmed the bar, Jackson forced a diving, full-length save from Stockdale with a curling effort from the left, and Grant Holt headed over. But when it seemed Fulham would hold out, the pressure told. Elliott Bennett beat Dembélé to cross from the right and his fellow substitute Jackson headed in.
Norwich (4-4-1-1): Ruddy; Martin, Ayala, Whitbread, Naughton; Pilkington (Bennett, 80), Johnson, Fox (Holt, h-t), Surman; Hoolahan; Morison (Jackson 69).
Fulham (4-1-4-1): Stockdale; Kelly, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Murphy (Etuhu, 65); Ruiz, Dembele, Dempsey, Frei (Duff, 80); Sa (Sidwell, 80).
Referee Howard Webb.
Man of the match Frei (Fulham).
Match rating 7/10.
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