Ricky Van Wolfswinkel finally ended his long drought in front of goal as Norwich edged through to the Capital One Cup third round with a 2-1 win over Rotherham at New York Stadium.
The Dutch striker, who spent last season on loan at French side St Etienne, bagged his first Canaries goal since his debut over two years ago to make the game safe after Jonny Howson’s classy 23rd-minute opener.
The striker’s potential return to form could come at a handy time for boss Alex Neil after reports that Lewis Grabban, who has been linked with a return to Bournemouth, went AWOL from the team hotel after being told he would not feature in the starting XI in South Yorkshire.
That goal was also important in the context of the game as it came after a long spell of Rotherham pressure where the Premier League side were reliant on goalkeeper Declan Rudd to keep them in the lead as he pulled off a string of brilliant saves.
However, he could do nothing about Paul Green’s 80th-minute volley which was ultimately just a consolation for Steve Evans’ side.
The game burst into life midway through the first half as Norwich took the lead.
But it should have been the Millers who were celebrating as Jonson Clarke-Harris put his free header from eight yards straight at Norwich keeper Rudd when the goal was gaping and moments later the ball was in Rotherham’s net.
Norwich broke at speed down the right and the ball was fed to Howson, who swept delightfully into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Rotherham’s response was spirited and Rudd was forced into more action to deny Emmanuel Ledesma’s effort from distance before doing even better to deny Clarke-Harris’ low strike.
It was a familiar story in the early exchanges of the second period as it was Rudd who single-handedly kept Norwich in front.
In a long spell of Millers pressure the Canaries’ understudy did superbly claw away Greg Halford’s header before getting straight up and acrobatically tipping Joe Newell’s fizzed half-volley over.
Norwich reminded their hosts of their threat on the break and created two chances to kill the game.
First after an incisive pass by Graham Dorrans, Harry Toffolo’s low effort was saved by Adam Collins’ legs and then Bradley Johnson blazed over after another quick breakaway.
But Norwich got their second in the 68th minute when Van Wolfswinkel turned home Andre Wisdom’s cross from close range to end his long wait for a goal.
Again Rotherham’s response was impressive and after Derbsyhire had inexplicably driven over with the goal unguarded and Rudd produced another fine stop, they finally got the ball in the back of the net with 10 minutes to go when Green’s low volley went through a crowd of players and into the net.
That set up a grandstand finish but Norwich held on to book their place in the next round.
Rotherham boss Steve Evans was left impressed by Rudd’s heroics.
“It’s hard to accept, I think that was the best goalkeeping performance I have seen at the New York Stadium in its short time,” Evans said. “I thought we would take it to extra time but it was not to be.
“We got the goal and the only disappointing thing is that we have not got the equaliser, we have made enough chances to equalise.”
Rotherham: Collin, Buxton, Halford, Collins, Richardson, Newell, Ledesma, Grant Ward, Frecklington, Derbyshire, Clarke-Harris. Subs: Roos, Maguire, Danny Ward, Green, White, Rawson, Thorpe.
Norwich: Rudd, Wisdom, Ryan Bennett, Bassong, Toffolo, Odjidja-Ofoe, O’Neil, Dorrans, Johnson, Howson, van Wolfswinkel. Subs: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Elliott Bennett, Andreu, Redmond, Thompson.
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