Canaries get that Monday night feeling all over again

PUBLISHED: 11:00 15 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:30 10 September 2010

Norwich City goalkeeper Fraser Forster is unable to stop Jason Puncheon's left-foot free-kick from flying into the top corner to level the score for MK Dons. Picture: Daniel Hambury / Focus Images

Norwich City goalkeeper Fraser Forster is unable to stop Jason Puncheon's left-foot free-kick from flying into the top corner to level the score for MK Dons. Picture: Daniel Hambury / Focus Images

David Cuffley

MK Dons 2, Norwich City 1: Monday night appearances on satellite TV have not been all that kind to Norwich City and their managers over the years. One can instantly recall the home defeat by Reading that as good as relegated Bryan Gunn's Canaries five months back, the grim night at Queens Park Rangers that pushed Peter Grant over the edge less than two years ago, and Delia's famous half-time performance en route to defeat for Nigel Worthington's Premiership side at the hands of Manchester City - all have been captured by the cameras.

Monday night appearances on satellite TV have not been all that kind to Norwich City and their managers over the years.

One can instantly recall the home defeat by Reading that as good as relegated Bryan Gunn's Canaries five months back, the grim night at Queens Park Rangers that pushed Peter Grant over the edge less than two years ago, and Delia's famous half-time performance en route to defeat for Nigel Worthington's Premiership side at the hands of Manchester City - all have been captured by the cameras.

Those with longer memories will remember how City's Premier League title ambitions were shredded by Manchester United in another televised affair back in 1993.

New manager Paul Lambert is probably getting accustomed to that Monday night feeling after City's latest attempt to provide better entertainment than Coronation Street or EastEnders failed to lift them in the League One ratings.

After the televised Carling Cup home defeat by Sunderland three weeks ago, one might suggest avoiding Monday completely as match day - were it not for the fact that Lambert's team are already booked in for another live date at Leeds in October.

In some of those games, City have under-performed and deserved little, but not even a dream start to the evening could guarantee a happy ending at stadium:mk last night.

When Chris Martin celebrated his recall to the starting line-up by scoring after 17 seconds - one of the fastest goals in club history - the Canaries gave every indication that they were going to be more than a match for MK Dons, last season's League One play-off semi-finalists.

But they were undermined by injuries, lack of experienced cover, yet another goal conceded from a free-kick and a controversial penalty award that settled the game - with goalscorer Martin the man to be punished.

It all started so well when Martin grabbed his first league goal of the season - indeed, his first league goal for City for 2½ years - by cashing in on a mistake by Dean Lewington, cutting in from the left and beating goalkeeper Willy Gueret with a low right-foot shot. Indeed, he could have made it 2-0 in the 13th minute, but headed wide from a cross by Jon Otsemobor.

The home crowd, such as it was, held its collective breath when Grant Holt appeared to be shoved by Lewington in the penalty area, but referee East was unimpressed.

City lost the first of three injured men after 20 minutes when midfielder Stephen Hughes was stretchered off after a yellow card tackle by Luke Chadwick, once of this parish, and after Holt was thrown to the ground by Darren Powell as they tangled at a corner, there was another setback with Adam Drury hobbling off after 26 minutes.

Jason Puncheon gave City a warning of what was to come as the interval approached, first with a long-range effort that goalkeeper Fraser Forster spilled at first but grabbed at the second attempt, then when Forster had to dive to his left to keep out another effort from Puncheon one minute before the interval.

In the end, though, Puncheon was not to be denied and after 57 minutes, after City substitute Tom Adeyemi fouled Lewis Gobern on the edge of the penalty area, he curled in the equaliser from a free-kick with a perfect left-foot shot.

City lost a third key man when the hobbling Michael Nelson departed, but Holt was unlucky not to restore City's lead within two minutes when his powerful header from Paul McVeigh's cross was acrobatically tipped over by Gueret.

Korey Smith, 18, and the 17-year-old Adeyemi strove manfully to keep a grip on things in midfield but the number of senior players either sidelined by injury or currently out of the manager's plans eventually took its toll. City increasingly came under the cosh and one sensed they would struggle to hang on, even if the goal came in dubious fashion.

With 13 minutes to go, they fell behind to a disputed penalty when Martin was adjudged to have tripped Gobern on the corner of the penalty area. Although the referee initially indicated that Martin had won the ball, his assistant, Dave Naylor, signalled a foul. After an initial dummy, substitute Peter Leven rolled the resulting spot-kick past Forster.

Puncheon, the home side's most impressive performer, threatened to make it 3-1 after weaving his way through, only to shoot straight at Forster, while at the other end, Martin twice brought Gueret into action in the closing minutes but was unable to grab an equaliser. The last chance went begging in the final minute of stoppage time when Simon Lappin curled a free-kick past the angle of crossbar and post.

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