Norwich prove survival credentials in crucial win at West Brom
It has been a long time coming, but Norwich City proved in Saturday's 1-0 Premier League win at West Brom it would be foolish to write off the Canaries' survival chances.
Robbie Brady's 50th-minute close-range finish earned Alex Neil's side their first league win in 11. With both Newcastle and Sunderland set to visit Carrow Road in the run-in, this priceless win at the Hawthorns fuelled the belief Neil's side can stay up.
West Brom looked like a team already safe. There was a lack of urgency or cutting edge, and once Norwich made the breakthrough, it was the visitors who looked more likely to add to their lead with Brady miscuing a far post header and Jonny Howson unable to control Steven Naismith's cross to test Ben Foster.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK John Ruddy, 7 -- Second consecutive clean sheet and Norwich's first on the road in the Premier League all season. In truth, Ruddy was never really tested by a misfiring Albion backline although he did get away with a flap at Craig Gardner's cross, which was rifled over by Claudio Yacob.
DF Russell Martin, 7 -- Looks far more secure in the right-back slot than at centre-half. Disciplined defensively and an excellent counter-attacking outlet.
DF Sebastien Bassong, 7 -- Owed his return to the starting line up to Ryan Bennett's injury absence. Looked understandably hesitant early on after a month out but grew in stature and a fine sliding block in stoppage time denied Salomon Rondon.
DF Timm Klose, 7 -- Very much the leader of this defensive unit. Aerially dominant again when Albion tried to load the ball into the Norwich box. Dealt with the physical threat of Salomon Rondon and Rickie Lambert.
DF Martin Olsson, 7 -- Rolled too easily early on by Rondon but the striker thumped his shot well wide. Thereafter, far more aggressive in his closing down and offered an overlapping threat.
MF Jonny Howson, 7 -- Would have added a second with a more favourable bounce on Naismith's stoppage time cross. Took a booking for the team in the fraught final stages but again a driving force.
MF Gary O'Neil, 7 -- Set aside one wayward square pass to Rondon in the first half, which the striker lashed wide, and this was another canny shift from the vastly experienced midfielder. Fine double act growing with Howson.
MF Matt Jarvis, 6 -- Cut back inside for Norwich's winner but his miscontrol actually worked superbly as the ball squirmed to Brady, who rolled home from close range. Still getting his sharpness back following a lengthy injury lay-off but admirable work ethic.
MF Robbie Brady, 7 -- Pushed further forward into midfield and looks more natural in that position. Attacking instincts got him into the Albion penalty area to finish from six yards, but a shuddering fall, where he landed on his neck, cut short his afternoon.
FW Patrick Bamford, 6 -- Too lightweight in the first half against Albion's wily central defence. Knitted the play far better once Norwich went ahead. Adds a touch of class to the Canaries' attacking motions.
FW Dieumerci Mbokani, 7 -- Back in the side for his physical power to battle with Albion's defence but it was his touch and awareness on the floor that turned a Norwich counter into the winning goal. Good day at the office.
MF Steven Naismith, N/R -- Decent cameo to take the heat out of Albion's final push, capped by one tempting low cross which just reared up into Howson's chest after a clever near post run.
MF Vadis Odjidja, N/R -- Booked within four minutes of his arrival for kicking the ball away.
DF Ivo Pinto, N/R -- Thrown on deep in six additional minutes of stoppage time for the tiring Matt Jarvis.
Paddy is the chief Norwich City correspondent for media group Archant. He has covered the Canaries for more than 10 years. Twitter: @paddyjdavitt.