Saints 1-1 Norwich: Report
Both goals arrived in the first half as the spoils were shared at St Mary’s.
Saints made it four matches unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League as they battled to a point against a stubborn Norwich side who remain without a win on the road this season.
Nigel Adkins’ men made a bright start and were rewarded for their dominance when Rickie Lambert prodded home inside the area from an Adam Lallana free-kick, but they were pegged back on the stroke of half time when Robert Snodgrass saw his direct free-kick squeeze in at the near post.
A lot of huffing and puffing in the second 45 failed to yield a further strike from either side despite their efforts, which probably left the visitors the happier of the teams at the final whistle.
Saints: Gazzaniga, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw (Reeves 85), Schneiderlin, Cork, Lallana, Puncheon (Rodriguez 88), Ramirez, Lambert. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Hooiveld, S. Davis, Guly, Mayuka.
Norwich: Bunn, Whittaker, Bassong, Garrido, R. Bennett, Tettey, Johnson, Pilkington, Hoolahan (Howson 90), Snodgrass (E. Bennett 88), Holt (Morison 81). Subs (not used): Rudd, Martin, Jackson, Barnett.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: 29, 325
Saints named an unchanged starting eleven for the fourth game in succession as they searched for a third win on the bounce.
Ben Reeves came into the matchday squad at the expense of James Ward-Prowse, whilst Danny Fox remained out injured.
Visitors Norwich got the match underway with Saints defending the Chapel stand on a bitterly cold and clear evening inside St Mary’s.
The hosts settled quickly into their stride with Adam Lallana showing some clever invention in Saints’ first attack of the night which unfortunately came to nothing as Shaw’s over hit cross was cleared by the Canaries.
At the other end, Jose Fonte had to be alert to deal with a swift break down the left side, and moments later, Paulo Gazzaniga had his hands warmed by Robert Snodgrass’s powerful rising strike inside the area.
Saints were stretching the play as they moved through the gears in the final third to test the Canaries’ resilient backline.
Lambert’s cushioned header down inside the area was blocked by the outstretched leg of Sebastien Bassong as the visitors had their backs to the wall in an early onslaught.
A further spell of prolonged possession from Adkins’ side saw them assert their authority on the contest, whilst Norwich seemed to favour set plays, using the ammunition of Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass around the 18 yard area, though they were unable to work Gazzaniga.
The visitors’ break of note on 23 minutes saw Alex Tettey burst forward down the right, only to be muscled out of it impressively by Shaw.
Saints immediately went up the other end and almost broke the deadlock in style when Lambert’s lofted pass onto the edge of the area was smashed towards goal by Lallana, with the midfielder’s effort inches away from beating Mark Bunn on the volley.
But on 32 the deadlock was finally broken as Saints made a set piece of their own pay dividends. Snodgrass had hauled Shaw to the floor on the left flank, and the resulting in-swinging delivery from Lallana bounced off Fonte and into the path of LAMBERT who tucked the ball home from close range for an easy finish to give the hosts a deserved lead.
Saints looked irrepressible each time they moved forward, and although frustrated by some of the decisions from the match officials, they were continuing to pose the bigger threat.
A fiercely struck free-kick from Gaston Ramirez almost doubled the hosts’ advantage, but his whipped effort across Bunn’s goal flew narrowly wide.
But out of the blue, the Canaries hit back through a set play of their own after Nathaniel Clyne had brought down Snodgrass on the edge of the area. SNODGRASS picked himself up to fire a low and direct strike in at the near post which squirmed under Gazzaniga to bring the score level at the half time break.
Half Time: Saints 1-1 Norwich
Saints were back out onto the pitch earlier than their opponents in the physical sense and by the look of it, mentally too as they attacked with renewed vigour in the opening exchanges particularly down the right flank with Puncheon and Clyne interchanging to good effect for a dangerous cross which was rushed clear by the Norwich defence.
Lallana was soon in the thick of it on the opposite side for the hosts as Saints won a couple of free-kicks in dangerous territory which the visitors battled hard to keep out.
Norwich awoke from their slumber with some threatening breaks of their own where Snodgrass and Tettey were heavily involved which acted as a reminder of the fine margins of the contest despite the hosts’ control on possession.
A succession of corners from Norwich offered more hope for the visitors who saw Holt denied by a strong save from Gazzaniga at his near post before Johnson wastefully headed wide from the following set piece.
As the game opened out further, Saints almost capitalised on some loose Norwich defending when Puncheon spun his man brilliantly before firing a low shot in at goal which Bunn parried, though sadly there was no chance for a follow up.
On 71 Lallana nearly profited from Lambert’s flick on inside the box, only for his rising shot to clear Bunn’s crossbar.
Saints made another attempt to catch the visitors cold on the break when Ramirez burst through the centre only to be hauled down by Ryan Bennett, who was correctly booked for the infringement.
The hosts followed up with further interrogation led by Puncheon, but continued to come up against a solid wall of yellow shirts that were fighting hard to keep Saints at bay.
Ramirez fired over as the clear chances remained few and far between, although the visitors attempted to redress that by replacing Holt with Steve Morison for the final ten minutes or so.
Having gone close to shooting themselves in the foot at one end, the hosts went back on the offensive with Puncheon once more showing the way before Lambert blazed over inside the area.
Saints were forced into their first change of the evening on 85 when Shaw was forced off with a knock, and Ben Reeves was his replacement at left back.
Lambert and Ramirez went close again as Saints continued to knock at the door. Both sides made their second changes when Puncheon was replaced by Jay Rodriguez, whilst Snodgrass made way for Elliott Bennett for the visitors.
As four minutes of stoppage time were added on, City withdrew Hoolahan for Jonny Howson, but there was no let up from either side to the final whistle as a pulsating end to the contest saw both teams battle in vain for a winner.
Full Time: Saints 1-1 Norwich