NORWICH, England (Reuters) -Norwich manager Dean Smith got his reign off to a perfect start as his new side beat Southampton 2-1 thanks to a glancing Grant Hanley header in their Premier League clash on Saturday to climb off the bottom of the table.
Sacked by Aston Villa after they lost 1-0 to Saints on Nov. 5 with Che Adams getting the goal, Smith only took over at Norwich on Monday and must have feared the worst when Adams scored against his new charges after four minutes.
The lead did not last though as striker Teemu Pukki headed home from a tight angle to pull Norwich level three minutes later, although it was to prove the home side’s only effort on goal in a first half that saw them under tremendous pressure.
Southampton created chance after chance, with Adams coming closest to regaining the lead for the visitors as the Canaries went into the break in disarray.
Smith sent on Joshua Sargent for Todd Cantwell after halftime and the switch had an immediate effect as Norwich were better able to hold onto the ball and get it into promising crossing positions.
Their reward came in the 79th minute when Hanley rose highest to head the winner and, though Theo Walcott had a great chance with a late header, Norwich were able to end a run of three straight league defeats.
Southampton sit in 13th place on 14 points while the win lifts the Canaries off the bottom into 19th spot on eight points, two above Newcastle United, and Smith was delighted with the welcome he got from the fans at Carrow Road.
“I felt for them first half because we were second best, and I was hoping that we got that new manager bounce but that soon wore off after four minutes,” he told the club website http://www.canaries.co.uk.
“The response after halftime has certainly given the fans something to cheer about and it was nice to see them all smiling at the end.”
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuettl was left to rue his side’s failure to convert possession into goals in the first half.
“Dominance without scoring is not really helpful, it only costs energy,” the coach on the club’s Twitter account.
“We can never concede a goal like we did with the second, where we have a clear one-against-one in the air and we don’t man-mark in that situation.”
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris)