Norwich City 2, West Ham 2
It could have been worse. That’s the verdict after a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road where, according to the form books, West Ham were due to cement their sixth place with an easy win over struggling relegation candidates.
It didn’t turn out that way. Until the 75th minute, the Canaries – who had lost five on the trot – ground their way to a 2-0 lead and talk was of the tiredness in West Ham legs following the FA Cup marathon against Liverpool the previous Tuesday.
After a goalless first half Norwich’s Robbie Brady robbed Michail Antonio of the ball and curled in a shot on 54 minutes and then 10 minutes later Wes Hoolahan drove in a close range effort that looked like three points were heading to East Anglia.
But manager Slaven Bilic has built a side that doesn’t like losing and doesn’t give up. They turned, yet again, to golden boy – and man of the match – Dimitri Payet to unlock Norwich.
He slotted in the first following in from a parried Victor Moses shot. Then he turned provider for Mark Noble to steer in a shot and save a point.
Bilic said: “We are never happy with a point but when that point comes after being 2-0 down it gives us confidence and satisfaction.
“After Tuesday night when we played 120 minutes, to show that kind of strength, resilience, character and quality makes us happy.”
Charlton 0, Cardiff City 0
The woes are unrelenting for Charlton . The only (metaphorical) goal of the match was an own goal when they displayed the wrong picture in a tribute to former Addick Graham Moore who died this week. A picture of Alan Campbell appeared on the big screen instead.
At least the side showed some application against a top-half Cardiff and the draw did lift them off the bottom, where Bolton now reside. However, with Bristol and MK Dons winning there is now a clear gap between the bottom three sides and survival.
In Charlton’s case that amounts to six points and they are 1/10 with the bookies to go down. Protesting supporters donned Pinocchio masks in the latest round in their battle against owner Roland Duchatelet.
Cardiff had the pick of the early chances but it was the Welshmen who were hanging on after Charlton rallied to the cause late on. Charlton, with the second worst defensive record in the league, will take some comfort from the clean sheet. Manager Jose Riga called it “a step forward”.
“The most important was to see a reaction from my players. The way we played pleased me a lot. Now we must make sure we keep this up in the next game. With these efforts we will get what we deserve.
“I’m realistic. Results have not been the best, but what can we do?”
Rochdale 0, Millwall 1
Millwall have put themselves firmly in the play-off mix with a yet another way win forged by yet another goal from Lee Gregory. He converted from close range in the second half after the home defenders failed to clear the ball.
But it was the defence that caught manager Neil Harris’s eye in a scrappy, physical game with few clear-cut chances.
Harris said: “Lee Gregory will take the headlines again for yet another goal but I think he will be the first to pay tribute to the goalkeeper and the back four for a defensive display which deserved the clean sheet.
“We’re in a good position in the league and we’re on a good run, but we are still here for one reason - to get better as a club for the future. There are no promises or expectations this year, but what is expected is that we grow with this group of players for the future.”