NORWICH CITY 4 MIDDLESBROUGH 4 Carrow Road
NORWICH staged a remarkable comeback to prove they have what it takes to survive in the Premiership. Middlesbrough appeared on course for an easy win as they led 41 with just 10 minutes remaining, but the Canaries staged a grandstand finish with goals from Dean Ashton, Leon McKenzie and an injury-time equaliser from Adam Drury.
Boro manager Steve McClaren is certain to hold an inquest into his side's capitulation - the result leaves the Teessiders without a win in 2005. Middlesbrough can forget playing in next season's Champions League if they continue to ship goals at such an alarming rate, while this might just be the result that could spark City's survival bid.
For the opening 15 minutes Norwich looked like a side that started the game one off the bottom following Southampton's surprising 20 win at home to Liverpool.
City created the opening opportunity after 50 seconds, with Gary Doherty looping a header over the bar after meeting a left-wing cross from Drury, but Boro peppered the Canaries goal.
Boro continued to press, with Joseph-Desire Job setting up Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who first turned inside Fleming before curling his left-foot shot inches wide from 15 yards. But Norwich weathered the storm and after Ashton, on his home debut following his A£3million move from Crewe, had hooked over another Drury cross, the Canaries took the lead.
Jim Brennan was the supplier on this occasion, with Mattias Jonson's flick falling to Darren Huckerby at the far post. The striker steadied himself for a drive Mark Schwarzer managed to get a hand to, but only into the path of Damien Francis for a tap-in for his sixth goal this season.
Hasselbaink drew his side level in the 34th minute, albeit more by luck than by design to score his 10th of the season and his first since December 18 after he, Parlour, Downing and Boudewijn Zenden had all combined to work the opening. The end result was a firm drive from Downing that Hasselbaink, with his back to goal, flicked past a wrong-footed Green from seven yards with an outstretched right boot.
After chances for Doriva and Job to close the half, Boro then started the second period with a Queudrue double.
His first for five months came after a 20-yard shot from Zenden had landed on the roof of Green's net courtesy of a slight deflection off Francis. Downing then whipped in the ensuing corner into the heart of the area where Queudrue soared to powerfully head home in the 50th minute. Five minutes later and left-back Queudrue was on target again, this time side-footing a flick from skipper Gareth Southgate past Green from four yards.
Hasselbaink rubbed salt into the wounds 13 minutes from time with a perfectlyplaced 25-yard free-kick beyond the full-stretch Green following a Fleming handball.
At that stage City were on course to match their worst result of the season, a 4-1 defeat by Arsenal at the end of August, only for Ashton to deservedly pull one back and raise hopes of a comeback.
The striker intuitively stole in front of Schwarzer to bring down a Huckerby cross-cumshot before then tapping home from a yard, but even then there were resigned looks on some of the faces of the Norwich players.
But when McKenzie, a 60th-minute substitute for Brennan, stooped to head home another Huckerby cross in the final minute of normal time, City scented salvation. It came in the second minute of injury time, with Drury given the freedom of the area by Boro's defence to head home a Huckerby corner from six yards.