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Bold tactics reap reward for Canaries

PUBLISHED: 12:07 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:09 02 July 2010

Neil Adams

With just over 10 minutes to go at the Withdean Stadium, it looked as though the Canaries could be heading for a second successive defeat. City hadn't really come close to hitting top gear in the game.

With just over 10 minutes to go at the Withdean Stadium, it looked as though the Canaries could be heading for a second successive defeat.

City hadn't really come close to hitting top gear in the game.

Despite having created three very good chances to open the scoring themselves before Brighton actually did, the Canaries were careless in possession at times in the first half and generally unconvincing.

And despite managing to increase the tempo as they set about the home side in the second half, as well as improving the attacking threat they posed in the final third of the pitch, you still had the feeling that, similar to the previous week at The New Den, it wasn't going to be City's day.

The fact that it ultimately turned out to be a very profitable afternoon for Norwich, though, can arguably be pinpointed to two main factors.

Firstly, Paul Lambert's tactical acumen proved pivotal - deciding to change things at a time when something was clearly needed if City were going to get anything from the game.

By sacrificing a defender for an attacking player with almost 30 minutes of the contest still remaining, effectively insisting that his side force the issue, it gave the Canaries licence to do just that.

It was a bold decision by the City boss considering that the game was far from nearing its end, and especially as a second Brighton goal might have sealed the result.

But it undoubtedly provided the players with the opportunity to change the game and reaped rich rewards.

As it was, Norwich were effectively using a 3-2-5 formation not long afterwards given the composition of the team, with Grant Holt, Chris Martin, Wes Hoolahan, Oli Johnson and Anthony McNamee all occupying advanced positions. But it certainly made a big difference.

And secondly, the fact that players themselves refused to accept that there wouldn't be something in the game proved equally significant.

Despite realising full well that they weren't producing the type of free-flowing, incisive football that has seen them brush aside so many of their opponents this season, and not quite being able to convert their second-half superiority into clear-cut scoring chances, City never gave up or showed any signs of resignation.

They simply dug deep and kept chipping away until something eventually happened for them.

Returning captain Grant Holt pulled City back on level terms with just 10 minutes left, then barely four minutes later Gary Doherty turned the game on its head with a fine header that proved to be the winner, to complete an excellent comeback.

While their main promotion rivals have all been guilty of dropping valuable points, with the exception of that one blip at Millwall, City haven't.

No matter whether they've played well, average or even below par, the one thing the Canaries have continued to do is grind out results.

And it is no secret that if you can combine the vital ingredients that were responsible for City's victory at the weekend - strong, perceptive and determined leadership from the sidelines, and players who are good enough to adapt and who also refuse to accept defeat - then you have the recipe with which champions are made.

t NEIL'S MAN OF THE MATCH - GARY DOHERTY: Until he was substituted for tactical reasons, Michael Nelson was in the frame to take the honours. He was strong and assured throughout and his magnificent goalline clearance certainly kept City in the game. But for another performance in which he generally won most of his tackles and challenges, both on the ground and in the air, and for also chipping in with his seventh goal of the season, it's Doc who gets my vote.

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