Simeon Jackson’s second late goal in eleven days denied Fulham a rare away win at Carrow Road. The Norwich striker, who scored his first Premier League strike in the draw at Wolves before Christmas, came off the bench to rescue a point for Paul Lambert’s side flicking home a cross from fellow substitute Elliott Bennett in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Jackson’s late leveller cancelled out a fine early effort from Orlando Sa that looked set to have handed Martin Jol the perfect end to the year as his team dominated the first half.
But Norwich switched to a 4-4-2, with Lambert throwing on the experienced Grant Holt at half-time, and the impact was immediate. The Canaries stifled Fulham’s flowing previously flowing football and spent most of the second period camped in the visitors’ half. It looked as though Fulham might still hold out for all three points as Kyle Walker’s drive was deflected onto the top of the crossbar and David Stockdale produced a superb save to deny Jackson as the nippy forward cut in from the left and curled a shot goalwards, but they reckoned without the substitute’s injury-time impact.
Jol had began the game with the same side that had battled to a deserved draw at Chelsea on Boxing Day and much the same intent. His adventurous 4-1-4-1 system gave the likes of Moussa Dembele and young Kerim Frei plenty of room to exploit the space between the Norwich defence and midfield and Jol will be ruing the fact that Fulham didn’t capitalise on their first half dominance. A surging Dembele run from just inside the Norwich half, which took him away from Bradley Johnson, made the opening goal, which was clinically finished by Sa, who turned away from Zak Whitbread and bent a magnificent finish beyond John Ruddy. It was a terrific first goal for the club from the Portuguese striker.
Sa might have followed that up with a second only minutes later. Played in by a cute pass from Frei, he steered the ball past Ruddy from close range only for the covering Kyle Naughton to get back and prod the ball off the line. Fulham’s expansive football was creating plenty of chances on the counter-attack. A delicious back heel from Bryan Ruiz released the marauding Stephen Kelly down the right and the Irish full-back’s cross was headed back by Sa, but Clint Dempsey could only head against the bar from close range. Frei’s ability to run at retreating defenders has been evident already this season and the Swiss teenager was unlucky not to extend Fulham’s lead when a superb solo run took him to the edge of the box only for Ruddy to claw away his shot.
The home side struggle to get their own possession football going in the first half and were mainly a threat from set-piece situations. Bradley Johnson’s low drive trickled narrowly wide of the far post via Brede Hangeland’s outstretched foot – forcing a succession of corners from which Fulham were fortunate to emerge unscathed. First, Whitbread’s header was scrambled clear at the near post by Frei, who also then blocked a header at the back post from Steve Morison. The former Millwall striker then saw his follow-up effort cleared by John Arne Riise.
The pattern of the contest was reversed by Lambert’s half-time tactical switch. Holt’s additional physicality posed problems for Brede Hangeland and Philippe Senderos from the restart, although they largely dealt with Norwich’s crosses adequately. Andrew Surnam fizzed a couple of drives narrowly wide from the edge of the box, while the increasingly influential Anthony Pilkington had a shot bravely blocked by the diving Riise. Just as time appeared to have ebbed away from Norwich, Jackson stole in to glance Bennett’s right-wing centre perfectly into the far corner and grab a point for the Canaries.
NORWICH CITY (4-5-1): Ruddy; R. Martin, Naughton, Ayala, Whitbread; Fox (Holt 45), Johnson, Hoolahan, Pilkington (Bennett 80), Surman; Morison (Jackson 69). Subs (not used): Rudd, Barnett, Crofts, Wilbraham.
GOAL: Jackson (90+4).
FULHAM (4-1-4-1): Stockdale; Kelly, J.A. Riise, Hangeland, Senderos; Murphy (Etuhu 65); Dembele, Dempsey, Ruiz, Frei (Duff 80); Sa (Sidwell 79). Subs (not used): Etheridge, Baird, Hughes, Kasami.
GOAL: Sa (7).
REFEREE: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).