Robbie Brady boosted Norwich City’s bid for Premier League survival, scoring the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory over West Brom at The Hawthorns.
After missing last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Manchester City due to a calf injury, Brady marked his return to the team with the only strike to lift Norwich out of the relegation zone and end their 10-game winless streak in the top flight.
With fellow relegation contenders Newcastle United and Sunderland going head-to-head on Sunday, Alex Neil’s side knew they had an opportunity to put pressure on their rivals for the drop with a positive result.
But there was little sense of urgency from the visitors as West Brom, confident following a 1-0 win over Manchester United last time out, had the better of the first-half chances – Stephane Sessegnon failing to punish Gary O’Neil for a wayward pass when he skewed wide.
It proved a costly miss as Brady slid the first shot on target of the match underneath West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster to break the deadlock in the 50th minute.
Tony Pulis’ team failed to test John Ruddy before the final whistle, meaning Norwich climb up to 17th and sit three points clear of Sunderland after their first clean sheet away from home this season.
In one of three changes made by Neil, Brady came in on the right-hand side of the Norwich midfield with Nathan Redmond out due to an ankle injury, and he started brightly.
After curling a free-kick over from 20 yards early on, Brady beat Jonny Evans – who replaced James Chester at left-back – to the byline before picking out Russell Martin, whose volley was blocked by Claudio Yacob in the 10th minute.
West Brom responded strongly, and, after Craig Gardner and Saido Berahino sent efforts wide, Yacob struck a powerful drive from outside the area narrowly off target with 19 minutes played.
O’Neil’s 43rd-minute error was pounced upon by Sessegnon, who surged into the box and sliced wide under pressure from Sebastian Bassong.
But five minutes after the restart West Brom would not be so lucky.
Dieumerci Mbokani picked out Matt Jarvis in the box, and his miskick fell kindly for Brady, who slotted a cool finish through Foster.
West Brom were sluggish in their search for an equaliser – Gardner’s free-kick delivery in the 61st minute too powerful for any of his team-mates to connect with before it dropped agonisingly wide.
Brady sustained an injury after falling awkwardly in a collision with Craig Dawson, and, despite trying to carry on, he was replaced by Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe.
West Brom were unable to find inspiration before the final whistle as their six-match unbeaten run at home came to an end, while, although Jonny Howson could only steer substitute Steven Naismith’s stoppage-time cross straight at Foster, Norwich will head into a crunch fixture at home to Newcastle after the international break on the back of a valuable victory.
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