Svensson restores belief at Norwich
Norwich City 1 - Charlton Athletic 0
Sunday 24 April 2005
Another footballing drama was played out at Carrow Road yesterday as the substitute Mathias Svensson struck an 88th-minute winner against his former club to lift Norwich off the bottom of the Premiership table. Two weeks ago they beat Manchester United, they had a dramatic three-all draw at Palace last week, scored an injury-time winner against Newcastle last Wednesday and with this victory Delia Smith's club appear to be reaching boiling point with perfect timing.
While Charlton have now won only once in 11, blowing a potential European spot for a third straight season, Norwich have three games to avoid relegation away to Southampton and Fulham with the visit of Birmingham in between. They remain in the relegation zone on goal difference and how they could do with their first away win of the season. This was by no means a classic, but Norwich fans looked as if they had won the Cup. "That's why there are 90 minutes in football matches," said the Norwich manager Nigel Worthington.
Debates about the relegation battle a fortnight ago safely started with "who's going down with Norwich?" That might yet be the case, but their run of a draw and three wins has given hope where there previously was none.
"We've opened the door and got one foot in it, but we've achieved nothing yet and can not get carried away with three big games still to go," Worthington added.
There were some edgy moments against a Charlton side with an eye on European qualification, but the loud, excited crowd let them know they had no option but to win.
Svensson had already missed a great chance to score moments after coming on as an 80th-minute substitute for David Bentley. Then Charlton so nearly nicked it as Danny Murphy clattered a free-kick against a post with six minutes to go and Franny Jeffers fluffed the follow-up. So, it looked all set for a draw before Adam Drury launched a long throw into the Charlton area, Dean Ashton flicked on, Leon McKenzie got a touch in the challenge that led to the ball dropping kindly for Svensson to finish from six yards. Swede dreams are made of this.
Svensson's introduction for Bentley had seemed a strange choice, but turned out to be ridiculously inspired, as have most of Worthington's decisions for the past fortnight.
Negative Charlton were more positive at the start of the second half, but they faded, leaving the manager Alan Curbishley puzzled. He said: "Perhaps we're not that good. Perhaps we're not a top-six side because whoever finishes in the top positions deserves to."
The same, of course, applies at the bottom of the table, but it is going to be tough on this season's fall guys. Few can recall a season where, with so few games to go, so many teams are still battling against possible relegation. Any three of the bottom six could go.
"Even Portsmouth and Fulham will be looking over their shoulders," Worthington pointed out. "It's game on."
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