BURTON ALBION 2 - 1 NORWICH CITYMichael Kightly's third goal in as many games proved to be the matchwinner as Burton Albion completed another 2-1 Pirelli Stadium victory, this time over promotion chasing Norwich City.
Kightly showed all of his Premier League class to superbly control a pass from fellow scorer Cauley Woodrow before having the vision and skill to execute an exquisite lob over John Ruddy in the Norwich goal eleven minutes into the second half. It was a fantastic response from Albion who had seen Woodrow's 25th minute goal cancelled out by a contentious goal from Cameron Jerome just four minutes before Kightly's stunner.
Woodrow guided home a simple finish after fellow Fulham loanee Lasse Vigen Christensen had embarrassed Canaries defender Timm Klose who was trying to shield the ball out for a goal kick only to fail miserably and allow the Dane to provide the assist for his fellow loanee's second goal in as many games for the Brewers. Jerome's equaliser, seven minutes into the second half was somewhat fortuitous, Steven Whittaker's wayward shot hitting the striker and dropping into the net. Albion's defence, led by keeper Jon McLaughlin were adamant that the ball had struck an outstretched hand rather than the head of the Norwich man. Referee Lee Probert was unmoved and at that stage the momentum weas with the visitors. They reckoned without Kightly and his sublime finish though.
Despite losing at Brighton by four goals to one Brewers boss opted for just the one change to his starting line-up for the visit of the high flying Canaries. Woodrow, the late goal hero in the previous home outing against Wolves, was restored to the starting line-up after recovering from a calf problem that prevented him featuring against Brighton.
Albion began purposefully and had an excellent chance to take a seventh minute lead. Tom Naylor played Woodrow in on the right. The Fulham loanee took aim and forced John Ruddy into a smart save low to his right. With Jackson Irvine steaming in looking for the rebound it looked all set for one nil but right back Steven Whittaker got across superbly to provide the last ditch challenge at the expense of a corner.
Norwich almost sprung the Burton defence on 18 minutes with Cameron Jerome leading the charge. A long ball over the top caught Albion slightly flat footed at the back. Skipper John Mousinho got back to apply pressure to the experienced striker who was forced to link up with Alex Pritchard dashing forwards to support. Exchanging passes it was Jerome who opened up room for a curling shot that bounced just wide of the post.
Albion's defence was looking unsure of themselves at times with some misplaced passes but it was Norwich who gifted the Brewers the lead on 25 minutes. A long ball out of defence from Naylor looked hopeful at best, Canaries defender Timm Klose tried to shield it out for a goal kick. His decision was made to look foolish when Christensen not only kept the ball in but darted unchallenged into the box, laying the ball on a plate for his Fulham team mate to tap home.
Naylor was then helping Albion protect their lead with a superb challenge to deny Pritchard just after the hour mark. As the ball pinged about inside the Burton box after a low cross from the right the ex-Spurs youngster turned smartly to get a shot away only to find Naylor flying in to nick the ball off his toe and avert the danger.
Norwich began to dominate the possession but were largely held at bay by some disciplined defending from the men in yellow. Mousinho diverted a dangerous nea rpost cross out for a corner even though McLaughlin looked set to collect comfortably but the visitors were unable to punish the momentary breakdown in communication. Still searching for an equaliser Norwich got a header on target from left back Mitchell Dijks but it was a comfortable catch for the Albion stopper beneath his crossbar.
In a half of few clear cut chances Albion survived any major scares ahead of the half time break and felt much better than last time out at home boosted by Woodrow's second in as many games.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Norwich City
Norwich immediately came out for the second half and turned up the heat on the Burton defence. A quickly taken free kick released winger Yanic Wildschut into the box, his angled drive beaten away by McLaughlin before another set piece, this time from the right was met with a thumping header from Jerome that flew wide.
The Canaries had their equaliser on 51 minutes but there was more than an air on controversy about it. Norwich worked an overlap on their right but it looked to have gone to waste when Whittaker drove a wild shot across the box. The ball was heading out until it JEROME and diverted into the net. To a man Albion were convinced that the ball hit an outstretched to send it goalwards but the judgment was that it came off his head.
Albion's frustration did not last long as four minutes later they restored their lead with an outstanding finish from KIGHTLY. Woodrow's angled ball had Norwich back pedalling and the Burnley loanee showed instant control to take Russell Martin out of the equation before an impudent lob rendered Ruddy unable to intervene as the ball nestled in the net.
Things threatened to get out of hand as Jerome's frustrations spilled over into a late challenge on Tom Flanagan. As tempers flared it took an age for referee Lee Probert to produce the first yellow card of the game for the Norwich man. It was the right decision however.
Having seen off the threat of one of the Murphy twins, Jacob having been substituted at the start of the half in favour of Wes Hoolahan, Albion had to face up to the threat of Josh, sent on in place of Yanic Wildschut on the left. The youngster quickly made an impression with aq couple of darting, direct runs forcing the Brewers into some hurried defending. A low cross blocked by Mousinho at the expense of a corner and a driven effort across goal epitomising Norwich's threat going forward but ultimately a lack of quality when it really mattered.
Albion turned to their own bench as the game wore on, Lloyd Dyer replacing a tiring Kightly and Luke Varney coming on for a home debut in place of the hard working Woodrow who had already, more than left his impression on the game.
Dyer spurned an excellent opportunity to give the Brewers the breathing space of a two goal lead but failed to hit the target after good work from Varney on the right opened up space on the edge of the box at the back post to send a rising effort over the bar.
Jonny Howson, fresh from a piledriver of a goal in last week's victory over Nottingham Forest, tried to make it two in a week with a long range effort with three minutes remaining but failed to find the target and Varney was not far away from marking his first home appearance with a goal, a similar long range effort dipping over the bar.
Norwich appeared to have reasonable shouts for a penalty in stoppage time as Hoolahan seemed to be sent tumbling under a challenge from Luke Murphy but referee Probert, who denied Albion a stoppage time spot kick on his last visit to the Pirelli against Newcastle in December, was not impressed. A collective sigh of relief went up as play was waved on but that was nothing to the sheer relief and delight when the final whistle went shortly after to confirm yet another scalp for Albion in this amazing Championship season.