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23:19 21st June 2012

Canaries edge win

Norwich City 2 (R Bennett 50, E Bennett 52)
Reading 1 (McCleary 72)

Two goals in two minutes, early in the second half, dealt a bitter blow to the Royals' bid for survival this afternoon.

After weathering an early storm at a raucous Carrow Road, Nigel Adkins' men bossed the first half, passing the ball well, building from the back and very much dominating the possession.

But after a promising first half display, the Royals were struck with two sucker punches in quick succession at the start of the second period.

Alex McCarthy had pulled off a superb save from Kei Kamara at the end of the first 45, and he acrobatically flew threw the air to tip another fierce Kamara drive wide at the start of the second - but from the resultant corner he could only parry Grant Holt's header and substitute Ryan Bennett was quickest to react and stabbed home from close range.

Then two minutes later, a rejuvenated City doubled their lead. McCarthy punched Snodgrass' cross clear but Elliott Bennett was in the right place to chest it down and smash home, via a deflection from an outstretched McCarthy leg.

Reading bit back through a stunning Garath McCleary drive that had Mark Bunn helplessly scrambling to his right but fizzed into the bottom left corner to make it 2-1.

And McCleary almost scored a late, late equaliser with an acrobatic overhead kick that whistled just inches over the crossbar, but Norwich desperately hung on for the points and Reading left Carrow Road with nothing to show for a performance that perhaps deserved more.

Canaries (4-4-2): Bunn, Martin, E Bennett (Tettey 80), Bassong, Turner (R Bennett 18), Howson, Garrido, Kamara, Johnson, Snodgrass (Pilkington 89), Holt.
Subs not used: Camp, Tierney, Hoolahan, Jackson.
Booked: Snodgrass

Royals (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Gunter, Morrison, Mariappa, Kelly; Karacan, Guthrie; McAnuff, Blackman, McCleary; Pogrebnyak.
Subs not used: Taylor, Cummings, Pearce, Carrico, Leigertwood, Hunt, Le Fondre.
Booked: Blackman

Att: 26,460

First Half

With the home fans raucously supporting Chris Hughton's men from the first kick, City began very brightly. Elliott Bennett twice came close in the opening five minutes, arrowing over the bar from the edge of the box before whistling a right-footed effort just wide of the left upright from a similar range moments later.

Snodgrass lashed harmlessly wide, while Kamara was just muscled out of a far post header by Morrison, then Garrido pounced on a loose ball from a right-sided cross and fizzed in a low strike that McCarthy gathered at the second attempt.

At the other end, McCleary's near post cross was hurriedly seen behind for a corner by Bassong and Blackman fired high over the bar from 25 yards out. And, as the Royals began to grow into the game, McAnuff almost threaded a ball through for Pogrebnyak only for the move to be intercepted by Bassong.

Nigel Adkins' men were passing the ball about very well, patient in picking the right route forward, and McCleary cut in from the wing to whip a right-footed effort just wide of the top right corner.

Just before the half hour mark, McAnuff slid a low ball into the feet of Pogrebnyak, who turned Bassong brilliantly but couldn't get the ball out from under his feet to stab an effort goalwards.

Reading were very much in the ascendancy and a Guthrie corner was met by the head of Morrison at the far post only for a Norwich body to deflect it wide and behind for another corner. Guthrie and McCleary took aim from distance but couldn't overly trouble Mark Bunn in the Canaries goal.

Blackman then threaded a lovely ball in for Kelly, bombing into the box, but his cross was blocked behind and another floated corner was calmly dealt with by a Norwich defence now under the kosh. And a good chest off from Pogrebnyak fed Blackman, who fed McAnuff, who laid it off to McCleary and the winger's shot was well charged down before Bunn had to make a save.

Just before the break, a deep corner fell to the feet of McCleary who drilled a low cross into the near post, where Bassong and Pogrebnyak stuck out legs to turn it agonisingly over the crossbar from close range.

In injury time at the end of the first half, however, it took some McCarthy magic to keep the game goalless. A deep free kick fell kindly for Kamara who smashed a right-footed effort at goal, but last weekend's man of the match parried the fierce strike very well.

Second half

And the second half started just as the first left off; Kamara on the break unleashed a powerful drive that the exceptional McCarthy tipped over his top right corner.

But he couldn't prevent the home side taking the lead from the resultant corner. Snodgrass' inswinger was headed goalwards, McCarthy did well to parry, but the ball fell to Ryan Bennett who hooked home high into the net from close range.

Then, it got worse. Moments after the restart, City attacked and McCarthy's punch clear only fell as far as Elliott Bennett, who chested it down and half-volleyed at goal. McCarthy got a right leg to it, but that only served to deflect the ball past the defenders on the line and looping high inside the right post for 2-0.

Holt headed over and McCarthy had to watch a swerving Snodgrass effort and push it wide as City, knowing a win would go a long way towards securing Premier League football at Carrow Road next season, pressed for a third. And McCarthy came to the rescue again, saving low to his right when Kamara directed a header towards the bottom corner.

Adkins' men battled to regain their first half dominance and the composure that had caused so much frustration amongst the home fans - and almost pulled one back with a McAnuff volley that was well charged down.

And with less than 20 minutes left, Garath McCleary restored Royals hope. He marauded forward and from 25 yards out he leathered a left-footed strike past Bunn, diving low to his right, and inside the left post. The visitors, from nowhere, were back in it!

McAnuff collected a cut back but his right-footed strike on the swivel was charged down, then Blackman whistled an effort wide from distance. McCleary led the charge for a leveller, but his pass to Gunter was just cut out by a backtracking Snodgrass as time began to run out for the Royals.

In the final minute of normal time, a long Karacan ball was nodded down and McCleary acrobatically whistled a superb overhead kick inches over the bar - agonisingly close to a worthy equaliser.

Five minutes of injury time were signalled, and Kelly nodded a Gunter cross just wide at the far post as the visitors pressed and pressed for a point.

But it wasn't to be, Norwich hung on, and the Royals came away with nothing to show for a good performance.