Norwich seal Premier League place
Simeon Jackson scored as Norwich defeated Portsmouth to seal back-to-back promotions and return to the Premier League after an absence of six years.
The goal capped a remarkable rise for the Canaries, who started the 2009-10 campaign in League One on the wrong end of an opening-day 7-1 thrashing by Colchester more than 18 months ago.
But under manager Paul Lambert, who left the U's for Carrow Road shortly after that match, the Norfolk side have now become the first club since Manchester City in 2000 to secure back-to-back promotions into the top flight.
Cardiff, their main rivals for the second automatic promotion spot, were thrashed at home by Middlesbrough earlier on Monday, leaving the Canaries knowing that three points at Fratton Park would guarantee promotion.
And Jackson struck with a close-range header shortly after the start of the second half to clinch a 1-0 win and the three points his team undoubtedly deserved - and in the process gave Norwich a four-point advantage over the Bluebirds with one game of the season left.
PAUL FLETCHER BLOG
“The yellow and green Canaries will certainly add a splash of colour to the top flight as they return to it after a six-year absence.”
Norwich won the League One title by nine points last May but few predicted they would win another promotion so quickly.
However, Lambert's side have not lost back-to-back fixtures all season and have been defeated in just one of their last 15 matches, showing a level of consistency that has seen them deservedly claim a place in the Premier League.
In truth, Norwich ought to have simplified Monday's task within minutes of the match starting but Zak Whitbread missed a great chance, heading wide after a free-kick skimmed off the wall and fell invitingly for him inside the six-yard box.
Jackson had a shot blocked shortly afterwards but any thoughts that Pompey would prove to be accommodating hosts were quickly dispelled.
Hermann Hreidarsson lunged into Grant Holt with a heavy challenge and Aaron Mokoena was booked for a late tackle on Jackson as Pompey tried to rattle their opponents.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the match became increasingly scrappy but Norwich did fashion two further openings before the break.
A David Fox free-kick fell to Elliott Ward but the unmarked defender saw his header drift wide, while Holt went close after one of the few moments of real quality in the match.
He flicked the ball beyond Mokoena with a brilliant first touch but, under pressure from advancing keeper Jamie Ashdown, his shot lacked power and the defender was able to scramble back and clear the danger as the ball rolled towards the line.
Jackson wasted a decent chance shortly after the restart, dragging a shot across goal and wide under pressure from Mokoena.
But his header in front of more than 3,000 away fans from Fox's teasing cross saw the Canadian score his ninth in seven games to put the Canaries in front in the 50th minute.
Right-back Russell Martin almost doubled their advantage with a crisp strike from 16 yards that Ashdown did well to save but Jackson's goal had undoubtedly stung Pompey into life and they started to threaten the Norwich goal.
Kanu almost diverted a low strike from David Nugent beyond John Ruddy, while the home side won a series of corners and pressurised the away defence with long throws into the penalty box.
However, Pompey's challenge petered out and there were relatively few alarms for Norwich as they protected their lead and sealed promotion, with their players charging towards their supporters at the final whistle to celebrate their remarkable triumph.
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