Crooks bags late Middlesbrough winner at Norwich
Substitute Matt Crooks struck a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Middlesbrough came from behind to grab a superb 2-1 Championship success against Norwich at Carrow Road.
Crooks provided an emphatic finish to a swift counter-attack to give the visitors a third successive win under recently appointed manager Michael Carrick.
Boro were trailing to Josh Sargent’s well-taken seventh-minute opener until past the hour mark before the game was transformed by a spectacular volley from Riley McGree.
Both sides they went all out for the three points, with Boro having the final say as Norwich lost ground in their promotion challenge, with loud boos greeting the final whistle.
The game got off to a lively start, with Chuba Akpom heading over for the visitors and Teemu Pukki being denied by Zack Steffen’s outstretched left leg before Norwich took the lead.
Sargent fired low past Steffen after being put in by Kenny McLean’s instinctive flick to register his ninth goal of a highly prolific season.
The Canaries went close to stretching their lead when Aaron Ramsey’s effort from just outside the area was acrobatically clawed away by Steffen, with Boro fortunate no-one was around to knock in the loose ball.
It had been an impressive start from Dean Smith’s side but the visitors gradually got a foothold in the game and carved out plenty of promising positions in the final third, without unduly troubling keeper Angus Gunn.
Two minutes after the restart Steffen produced another fine stop to keep out a rising drive from Sargent which was heading for the top corner as the hosts looked to press home their advantage.
Boro were proving a tough nut to crack, however, and were seeing plenty of the ball themselves as the half progressed, with the finishing touch again proving elusive.
It needed a touch of magic to get them back in the game and McGree provided it on 64 minutes.
There looked to be little danger when Marcus Forss nodded the ball into the youngster’s path some 25 yards out, and with Grant Hanley in close attendance, but McGree produced a sublime volley to find the top corner, beating Gunn all ends up.
Carrick’s side would have taken the lead 10 minutes later had Akpom got more power on a close-range header from Ryan Giles’ cross.
But it was Norwich who were looking the more likely side to win it and Steffen needed to make a good reaction stop to foil Gabriel Sara before a Max Aarons snap-shot flew inches wide.
With an enthralling game entering the final 10 minutes, the busy Steffen was forced into action again to foil substitute Onel Hernandez from close quarters.
It looked as though it was going to be a point a piece but super sub Crooks had other ideas.
Having only just been introduced to replace McGree, the striker popped up at the near post to provide an emphatic finish into the roof of the net after a swift counter-attack down the left instigated by Akpom’s cheeky flick had ended with Isaiah Jones’ low cross.