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Saturday, February 9, 2013
Norwich City’s search for an elusive Premier League victory goes on after they were held to their third goalless draw in five league games by Fulham at Carrow Road.
It was another point in the Canaries’ quest for top-flight safety but there were few highlights and few clear-cut chances for a packed house to enjoy.
Chris Hughton’s men have now gone nine league games without a win and have scored just once in six matches in all competitions.
Two new strikers were on view with Luciano Becchio making his first start in place on the injured Grant Holt, but apart from forcing an early save from Mark Schwarzer he had a tough afternoon against two big central defenders. Fellow newcomer Kei Kamara made a late appearance as substitute and floated a header just over the top, but had little time to make an impact.
Fulham’s best effort came early in the second half when Mark Bunn saved from Steve Sidwell, but Bunn generally had a quiet afternoon.
City now face a fortnight’s break before facing Everton at Carrow Road, looking for their first league win since the 2-1 success over Wigan on December 15.
Becchio made his full debut for the Canaries with skipper Holt ruled out by a reported back injury, and there was one more change to the starting line-up from the goalless draw at Queens Park Rangers with Elliott Bennett replacing Anthony Pilkington, suffering from the hamstring injury that forced him off at Loftus Road.
Alex Tettey shrugged off a knee problem that ruled him out of Norway’s game in Spain, but Ryan Bennett was absent from the 18 after missing England Under-21 duty with a hamstring problem.
New signing Kei Kamara, on loan from Sporting Kansas City, was named among the substitutes for the first time, with Marc Tierney and Andrew Surman also recalled to the bench.
Star forward Dimitar Berbatov was back as one of four changes to the Fulham side beaten 1-0 at home by Manchester United.
Also into the starting line-up came Steve Sidwell, fit again after a knee injury, Emmanuel Frimpong and new signing Stanislav Manolev.
Ashkan Dejagah and Giorgos Karagounis were dropped to the bench, with Sascha Riether – ever-present until now - and Chris Baird missing from the 18 with illness.
Before kick-off, Robert Snodgrass received his award as City’s player of the month for January.
In the opening seconds, a cross from Snodgrass whistled across the Fulham area but no one was able to make contact.
Berbatov was in trouble right at the start with blood running from a facial wound that may have been inflicted by Johnson’s high boot, and he left the field for attention.
Becchio made his presence felt on six minutes when excellent work by Elliott Bennett enabled Garrido to cross from the left and the striker’s first-time effort was saved by Schwarzer.
Bennett then tried his luck from long range but was well off target.
Duff had a shot blocked by Turner as Fulham threatened for the first time.
Tettey and Hoolahan combined in a promising break for City on 13 minutes but ir eventually broke down when the Irishman looked for a pass instead of shooting and gave the ball away.
Another effort from Duff was deflected over the top for Fulham’s first corner, but Russell Martin headed clear from Duff’s kick.
With 25 minutes gone, Russell Martin found himself in space 10 yards out but his free header from Johnson’s cross was a couple of feet wide.
There was a drinks break while Frimpong needed attention for a bang on the head when he collided with Snodgrass.
Schwarzer easily claimed a free-kick from Snodgrass as City struggled to make any headway.
There were two yellow cards in quick succession from referee Webb, first for Frimpong when he fouled Snodgrass, then for Elliott Bennett with a careless challenge on Rodallega that left the Fulham man needing treatment.
A cross from Russell Martin gave Becchio a heading opportunity but Manolev did just enough to hinder his effort and it flew wide.
Russell Martin conceded a corner under pressure after a lack of communication at the back, but the kick from Ruiz was a poor one and rather summed up a poor half.
Becchio flashed another header well wide from Hoolahan’s cross during the four minutes of stoppage time before the break.
• Half-time: Norwich City 0, Fulham 0
Three minutes after the break, Bunn had to dive to his right to keep out a long-range drive from Sidwell that may have been heading just inside the post.
Bassong was in some pain after he blocked a powerful shot from Ruiz that appeared to hit him in the throat and he needed attention before continuing.
A foul by Frimpong on Elliott Bennett gave City a free-kick that Snodgrass struck into the wall, but the winger was booked moments later for a trip on Sidwell.
City forced a couple of corners on the hour, the second of which was cleared as far as Elliott Bennett, who had a powerful shot blocked.
Fulham made their first change with 25 minutes gone when Emanuelson replaced Frimpong.
Snodgrass brought applause when he robbed Berbatov and set off on a determined run, then again when he brought a save out of Schwarzer, but there was little to raise the temperature.
There was a double change with just under 15 minutes left when Fulham replaced Rodallega with Petric and Hughton brought Jackson on for Elliott Bennett.
Becchio and Hoolahan combined well to set up a chance for Jackson but his shot at Schwarzer was little more than a backpass.
Snodgrass got his head to a cross by Garrido as City stepped up their quest for a winner, and Johnson flashed a shot wide just before Kamara replaced Becchio for his debut, with four minutes left.
Manolev was booked for bringing down Hoolahan and from Garrido’s free-kick, Kamara made his first contribution when he looped a header just over the top.
A last-minute corner from Snodgrass caused some problems for Fulham and as they struggled to clear, Kamara challenged Schwarzer, who seemed to react rather theatrically when he went down in a heap.
Fulham replaced Ruiz with Dejagah as three minutes of stoppage time began, and a late free-kick on the right gave City some alarm before Turner hacked clear.
In the dying seconds, Fulham forced a corner, but Duff’s kick was met with a poor Berbatov header.
• Norwich City: Bunn; Russell Martin, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Elliott Bennett (Jackson, 76); Becchio (Kamara, 86). Subs (not used): Camp, Whittaker, Tierney, Howson, Surman.
• Fulham: Schwarzer; Manolev, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise; Sidwell, Frimpong (Emanuelson, 65); Ruiz (Dejagah, 90), Berbatov, Duff; Rodallega (Petric, 76). Subs (not used): Etheridge, Hughes, Karagounis, Kacaniklic.
• Referee: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire)
• Attendance: 26,816
• Bookings: City: Elliott Bennett (37), Snodgrass (58). Fulham: Frimpong (36), Manolev (87)