By Tim Hodges
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 – Norwich City 2
For the second successive match Gus Poyet shuffled his pack. Kazenga LuaLua, on loan from Newcastle replaced Seb Carole who dropped to the bench. Up front Glenn Murray partnered Chris Holroyd with Liam Dickinson making way.
It was fast and furious from the start, with both teams seemingly determined to gain the upper hand. With barley five minutes gone Murray got the behind the Canaries defence, but shot tamely at goalkeeper Forster.
Elliot Bennett and LuaLua were not only both running at the Norwich full backs from both sides of the pitch, but, were also worrying the visitors defence with their continual swopping of positions.
Holroyd was also making a nuisance of himself for the Albion, Doherty and Martin at the heart of the Norwich defence, soon became aware of his lightening pace.
The Canaries had a half chance when Lappin got free, but this was well dealt with by Kuipers.
Poyet was visibly encouraging LuaLua to run at his man. Crofts and he were also linking up well.
The Albion won a free kick about 25 yards out and slightly to the left of the Norwich goal. Bennett shaped to take, then drove the ball through the crowded area and past a probably unsighted Forster, to give the Albion the lead.
Norwich seemed a little shocked. Within minutes, Murray and Holroyd combined in what was to prove one of the defining moments of the match. As the former Cambridge man received a return pass from Murray, he dragged the ball superbly round Forster and across the six yard box for Murray, who really had the simplest of tasks to ram the ball home. However a stunning goal line clearance from Michael Nelson kept the score at 1-0.
The Albion were just about on top in terms of possession , although Navarro gave the ball away in the centre circle and must been relived to see Holt’s resulting effort ruled out for offside.
The Albion lead the leaders 1-0 at the interval.
Immediately from the restart ,Norwich set their stall out. Goalkeeper Fraser Forster appeared lonely in his half of the pitch, as Norwich penned Albion in for a good ten minutes.
With the storm seemingly weathered, Carole and Dicker replaced LuaLua and Holroyd.
At this point with around 25 minutes left to play it appeared Norwich had run out of ideas.
Murray again had the chance to put the game to bed, but agonisingly his header was this time cleared of the line by Lappin.
Like the toothless Huddersfield on Tuesday evening Norwich upped their attacking prowess and after niggling away again at the Albion, Holahaan fired in a cross which Holt converted via a deflection, and the underside of the bar.
Albion were shell shocked and appeared quite devastated by the realisation of parity.
Norwich immedialty sensed the low morale, and continued to press. A free kick floated in to the six yard box from Darel Russell was headed home with some force by Gary Doherty.
Norwich had completed a smash and grab raid with some authority, as Albion used to a few years ago, when they were considered champions elect.
Gary Hart replaced Navarro immediately after the second Norwich. But Albion had little left to offer.
Albion: Kuipers; Calderon, Virgo, Elphick, Painter; Bennett; Crofts, Navarro, LuaLua; Murray, Holroyd.
Subs: Brezovan, El-Abd, Dickinson, Hart, Dicker, Carole, Hoyte
Norwich: F. Forster; R. Martin, Doherty, Nelson, Rose; Russell, Smith, Lappin; Hoolahan; Holt, C. Martin.
Subs: Rudd, Gill, Hughes, Spillane, McNamee, Johnson, Dawkin.
Referee – D Whitestone.