Life gets better and better for Norwich City. Still no clean sheet since promotion but this third win out of three in 2012 puts such daylight between them and the bottom three that they should soon be able to dismiss notions of mere Premier League survival.
Almost four months from home, two more points will take them to 30 and they remain a picture of calm assurance. If not necessarily a case of onwards and upwards, they need not look over their shoulders.
This victory was a triumph for excellence at both ends. Accomplished as the goals by Andrew Surman and Steve Morison were, the inspiration was John Ruddy, who made a heroic return after missing FA Cup weekend because of the birth of his daughter. Three times the goalkeeper brilliantly denied West Bromwich Albion, aided by two goalline clearances, and was beaten only by Shane Long's penaltysoon after the striker's 63rd minute arrival from the bench.
The equaliser was overdue but Albion's results graph remains identical to the one at the same stage last season under Roberto Di Matteo. He was sacked in February. "Morale is nowhere near as high as last year when we were winning and I can't remember this many home defeats in my career," said the manager's successor Roy Hodgson. "It's very frustrating."
Long's niggling back problem persuaded Hodgson to retain Simon Cox following his hat-trick last weekend. Cox was bright enough but his side's home League form is lamentable; eight goals, seven defeats and two wins.
They promised much more. Peter Odemwingie, who hit an early winner at Carrow Road in September when a League meeting of these clubs went Albion's way for the fourth successive time, soon tested Norwich again. He connected sweetly from 30 yards and Ruddy saved by diving relatively low and somehow finger-tipping on to the top of his bar.
Ruddy also closed Cox down quickly to block with his body after James Morison's first-time pass and Morison hit a powerful 20-yard half-volley that Surman headed off the line. Having taken Albion's wait for a League goal past five hours, Norwich underlined in classic breakaway fashion two minutes before half-time what a straightforward business scoring can be. Anthony Pilkington's long ball was held up by Simeon Jackson, Wes Hoolahan crossed and the unmarked Surman volleyed home from 15 yards for his third goal in a month.
Long almost equalised as soon as he went on, bringing another fine stop by Ruddy, then succeeded three minutes later. Jerome Thomas was cleaned out by Daniel Ayala's wild tackle and Long dinked home the penalty after the defender was booked.
But Norwich pinched a winner, again on the break, 11 minutes from the end. Kyle Naughton found Holt galloping down the left and the substitute centred for Morison to head in powerfully off Ben Foster's hands.
"I thought we were excellent," said Norwich manager Paul Lambert. "We defended strongly and counter-attacked well. We never capitulated at 1-1, which could have happened."
West Bromwich (4-1-3-2): Foster; Jara, McAuley, Dawson, Shorey; Mulumbu; Morison, Scharner (Dorrans, 63), Thomas (Fortune, 76); Odemwingie (Long, 63), Cox.
Norwich (4-4-2): Ruddy; Martin, Ayala, Whitbread, Naughton; Pilkington (Crofts, 68), Johnson (Fox, 79), Surman, Hoolahan; Jackson (Holt, 68), Morison.
Referee Mike Dean.
Man of the match Ruddy (Norwich).
Match rating 6/10.Reuse content