Late spot of cheer for City

Norwich City were handed a Championship lifeline last night after relegation rivals Barnsley conceded a controversial stoppage time equaliser at Coventry.

Norwich City were handed a Championship lifeline last night after relegation rivals Barnsley conceded a controversial stoppage time equaliser at Coventry.

One-time Norwich target Elliott Ward smashed home a contentious penalty for the hosts to cancel out Barnsley striker Daniel Bogdanovic's early goal.

The 1-1 draw left Bryan Gunn's men two points adrift of the Tykes, who still occupy the final survival slot in the battle to beat the drop.

Furious Barnsley players had to be ushered away from referee Mark Haywood by security staff at the final whistle after Tykes' defender Bobby Hassall was adjudged to have handled Freddy Eastwood's rocket.

The match official initially signalled for a Coventry corner but changed his decision after lengthy discussions with an assistant.

“I thought we did enough in the game to win and take the three points,' said Davey. “It's cruel. I don't know if it was a penalty. All I've got is a referee six yards away giving a corner and a player in the dressing room with a red mark on his chest.”

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Ward stepped up to power his penalty into Luke Steele's top right hand corner to clinch the Sky Blues a hard earned point and breathe fresh hope into the Canaries' flagging survival bid.

Norwich will now move out of the relegation zone with victory over promotion-chasing Reading in Monday's televised home match if Barnsley fail to beat champions-elect Wolves at Oakwell on Saturday.

Mick McCarthy's men only need a point to lift the title after Sheffield United's defeat to Burnley in Monday's televised game.

Reading's 2-0 win at Derby last night also guaranteed the Royals a play-off berth ahead of their Carrow Road visit - while the Rams remain five points clear of City with two games to play, the first of which is at home to already relegated Charlton onSaturday.

If they win that one Nigel Clough's side will be safe, but any other result and they would remain in the Canaries' sights going into the meeting with Reading - who still have an outside chance to claim an automatic promotion place thanks to goals from Dave Kitson and Shane Long.

The Royals are six points behind second-placed Birmingham, who play Preston (fresh from a 6-0 win over Cardiff) on Saturday before facing Reading - who have a much superior gooal difference on the last day. Reading would also require Sheffield United to lose or draw one of their remaining two games, starting against outsiders for the play-off Swansea on Saturday.

If Birmingham win on Saturday, manager Steve Coppell may rest players at Carrow Road - though now the pressure has been lifted it's worth bearing in mind that sides with little to play for are often extremely dangerous, as Sheffield Wednesday proved at Norwich recently.

City could have been mathematically relegated in front of the Sky cameras if Barnsley had clung on at the Ricoh and results went against them this weekend.

Fifth-bottom Nottingham Forest - currently three points clear of the Canaries - face a tricky visit to Blackpool on Saturday. Even if Forest won that one they would still remain within catching distance going into the final game by virtue of Norwich's superior goal difference, providing, of course, Gunn's men take all three points against Reading.

Despite Coventry's comeback, the Canaries still have little or no margin for error in their attempts to avoid dropping into the third tier of English football for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Gunn's squad will bank on another Carrow Road full house helping the club repeat their Easter Monday home win over Watford to take the relegation fight to a last day decider. City then travel to already relegated Charlton on May 3 while Barnsley face a gruelling trip to Plymouth and Forest host Southampton at the City Ground.

Barnsley's point at Coventry last night also means Southampton will join Charlton in League One should they lose to Owen Coyle's play-off chasing Burnley at St Mary's this Saturday.

Even a draw in that one would leave the Saints needing a mathematical miracle.