Revenge is sweet with late winner
Neil AdamsWhen Jermaine Beckford ran through on goal and snatched that late, late winner at Elland Road back in October, it wasn't exactly the most pleasant of experiences for the City players, management and travelling supporters.Neil Adams
When Jermaine Beckford ran through on goal and snatched that late, late winner at Elland Road back in October, it wasn't exactly the most pleasant of experiences for the City players, management and travelling supporters.
The Leeds players celebrated a very important victory, while City were left to rue what might have been.
Fast forward five months to Saturday afternoon and Stephen Hughes' beautifully flighted cross was clinically headed home by Chris Martin with just a minute of normal time remaining, to give the visitors a taste of their own medicine.
Carrow Road erupted, City extended their lead at the top of the table to an astonishing 11 points and in doing so took another massive step closer to the league title and automatic promotion. What goes around comes around, eh?
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It wasn't a classic encounter by any stretch of the imagination.
Two good sides, both keen not to allow their opponents too much of a sight at goal, basically cancelled each other out. Leeds had even changed from their preferred set-up to match City's diamond formation in midfield.
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And it all contributed to the game being low on moments of genuine quality and essentially falling flat for long spells.
Ironically enough, City started very brightly. They pressed the ball extremely well in the opening 10 minutes or so and pinned Leeds deep into their own half.
The Canaries were building up a nice head of steam and evidently intent on asserting their dominance right from the off.
But when Luciano Becchio felt the full force of Michael Nelson's boot and worryingly collapsed to the ground like a boxer on the receiving end of a Mike Tyson right hook, the ensuing five-minute delay that it took to bring him back to semi-consciousness killed Norwich's early momentum stone dead
And from then onwards, the game followed a familiar pattern, with both sides being sloppy in possession and never really managing to string their passes together to create decent goalscoring opportunities.
For their part, Leeds didn't show any true signs of urgency to try to force the issue despite needing a victory to stave off the threat of the chasing play-off pack, and even when they did venture into the Canaries' half of the pitch with any serious intent, they were met by a solid and effective Norwich rearguard.
Indeed, both sets of defenders were calling the shots and it meant that any promising moves invariably frittered out to nothing in the final third of the pitch. A winning goal seemed unlikely, which of course would have suited City just fine, as we'd probably all have settled for a goalless draw before kick-off.
But then City boss Paul Lambert sprinkled his magic dust on the game again by making what was to ultimately prove another game-changing substitution.
Football can indeed be a funny old game in which strange things can and often do happen, so of course now is not the time to start the celebrations - not until promotion is a mathematical certainty. But it's safe to say it doesn't look a million miles away.
t NEIL'S MAN OF THE MATCH - GARY DOHERTY: Easy to see why match the sponsors opted for Adam Drury as their choice of man of the match, as the City full-back was a willing raider down the left flank when the team were attacking and he was as good as always whenever he was called into defensive duty. But it's the Doc who just nicks it for me. Leeds' three main strikers, Becchio, Beckford and Grella, all came off second best whenever they came near Doherty on Saturday - he had the much-coveted Beckford in his pocket. He tackled well, he covered his team-mates well and he cleared up effectively. As solid as a rock at the back all afternoon.