Andy Cole grabbed the only goal of the game to clinch a crucial win for Fulham at Carrow Road. The veteran striker eased the pressure on Chris Coleman by securing the Londoners’ first win in four matches when he latched onto a lovely flick from Brian McBride and fired under Rob Green after just seven minutes.
Coleman’s switch to 4-4-2 paid full dividends as his side assumed control of the contest from the outset. McBride, making his first league start in six weeks having scored against Chelsea in the League Cup, made an instant impact delivering a delicious backheel to put Cole in the clear after a one-two between Steed Malbranque and Mark Pembridge. The veteran striker kept his composure to slip the ball into the net as Green desperately dashed from his line. There was more than a hint of offside about the goal, but the flag stayed down – much to Fulham’s relief.
The away side should then have wrapped up the points before half time such was their dominance but Papa Bouba Diop had a venomous drive blocked by Curtis Fleming before Mark Pembridge was foiled by the fine reactions of Green and drove wide from outside the area on the stroke of half-time.
It took until then for Norwich to muster any short of attacking threat with Edwin van der Sar easily dealing with an effort from Mattias Svensson. Nigel Worthington’s side improved after the break, but even with Darren Huckerby and Leon McKenzie up front the Canaries looked toothless in attack. It took the introduction of Mathias Jonson to seriously place Fulham’s slender advantage in jeopardy – as the Swede’s arrival sparked a late barrage of pressure from the hosts.
van der Sar was still not seriously stretched despite Fulham being penned back deep in their own half for much of the final fifteen minutes as shots from Garry Doherty, McKenzie, David Bentley and then Jonson all failed to hit the target. The visitors actually came closest to scoring again with McBride spooning over from in front of the net and Green keeping out Pembridge’s fierce free-kick at the death.
NORWICH CITY (4-4-2): Green; Edworthy, Fleming, Doherty, Drury; Bentley, Helveg, Mulryne (Safri 62), Huckerby; McKenzie, Svensson (Jonson 68). Subs (not used): Ward, Schackell, McVeigh.
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Pearce, Rehman; Diop, Legwinski, Malbranque, Pembridge; McBride, Cole. Subs (not used): Flitney, Knight, Rosenior, Radzinski, Hammond.
BOOKED: Volz, Bocanegra, Cole.
GOAL: Cole (7).
REFEREE: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).