In August, Norwich were favourites to go down and Wolves were predicted safety. Yesterday's game, seven months on, showed why Norwich are safe and Wolves are not. Paul Lambert's side played as they have done all season: with ambition, hunger, flexibility and fierce commitment to each other. Grant Holt, who encapsulates the reasons for Norwich's success, scored both his team's goals before being sent off at the end.
Norwich are now 14 points ahead of the relegation zone and are, implausibly, just three points behind Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool. "I'm over the moon," Lambert said. "It's a massive win for us. I'm delighted with the team, as proud as anything. Two years ago we were in League One, now we're on 39 points in the Premier League."
Wolves, bottom and four points adrift, were not disastrous, and Terry Connor praised his side's "fighting spirit". But less than two minutes after Matt Jarvis had put Wolves ahead, poor defending gifted Holt the equaliser. Wolves, whose confidence was fragile, never recovered and Connor said it changed the "tone of the game".
In truth, it did not take long for Norwich to settle into dominance. Their 3-4-1-2 system, gave the hosts a numerical advantage in defence and in midfield. David Fox and Jonny Howson were a well-balanced midfield base, and combined with Wes Hoolahan to pass their way through Wolves' rigid lines. But Wolves did have an advantage in wide areas, and three times nearly took the lead from crosses. Kevin Doyle, Roger Johnson and Dave Edwards were all close to converting deliveries from Jarvis or Michael Kightly.
After 25 minutes, those two wingers combined to put Wolves ahead. Kightly tore down the right, facing little resistance, and crossed the ball. Doyle touched the ball back and Jarvis arrived with perfect timing and finished inside the far post. It was only the 14th goal Wolves had scored away this season. But relegation battles are so much about nerve, and within 90 seconds Wolves got careless. Simeon Jackson, who taunted and teased Wolves with his movement all afternoon, lifted a pass through to Holt who charged down the middle, lifted the ball over Wayne Hennessey, with delicacy, and nodded it in.
Norwich started to attack with more numbers and imagination. In the final minute of the half, they produced their best move to take the lead. A string of passes led to Holt's shot being blocked by Stephen Ward, and the ball moved back to Simon Lappin on the left. He set up Hoolahan, whose shot was intercepted by Eggert Jonsson's arm. Holt took the penalty with power and Norwich had a deserved half-time lead.
Lambert replaced Lappin with Kyle Naughton at the break, dispensing his 3-4-1-2 for a more regular 4-3-1-2. Their forward movement was just as good, and they continued to pass and create chances throughout the second half. With four minutes left Holt was sent off for a second yellow card. But Norwich finished comfortably while Wolves struggled.
Norwich (3-4-1-2): Ruddy; Martin, Ward, Whitbread; Bennett (Surman, 66), Fox, Howson, Lappin (Naughton, 45); Hoolahan; Holt, Jackson (Morison, 73).
Wolves (4-4-2): Hennessey; Stearman, Johnson, Bassong, Ward; Kightly (Gorman, 89), Jonsson (Milijas, 65), Edwards, Jarvis; Fletcher, Doyle (Ebanks-Blake, 65).
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: Jackson (Norwich)
Match rating: 8/10Reuse content