Sheffield United 2, Norwich City 0
PUBLISHED: 14:43 15 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:27 10 September 2010
Norwich City completed a miserable eight days as two goals in the space of three second half minutes sent them crashing to defeat at Bramall Lane. Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp and defender Matthew Kilgallon scored the goals that condemned the Canaries to their fifth defeat in seven matches and their third in a week without scoring, and which leaves them still with plenty of work to do to safeguard their Championship future.
NORWICH City completed a miserable eight days as two goals in the space of three second half minutes sent them crashing to defeat at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp and defender Matthew Kilgallon scored the goals that condemned the Canaries to their fifth defeat in seven matches and their third in a week without scoring, and which leaves them still with plenty of work to do to safeguard their Championship future.
Sharp, who had talked with Norwich over a move last summer, struck first after 52 minutes when he was in the right place to knock home a rebound off defender Alex Pearce.
Kilgallon headed the second from a corner by David Carney, much to his delight after having a goal disallowed at Carrow Road earlier in the season.
But the result left the Canaries far from safe at the wrong end of the Championship and adds extra importance to the Easter Saturday home game against bottom club Colchester.
An added worry for Norwich was the sight of skipper Mark Fotheringham hobbling off in the closing minutes.
City boss Glenn Roeder made three changes to the team beaten 1-0 at home by Stoke on Tuesday night.
Winger Lee Croft, striker Dion Dublin and defender Mo Camara were all relegated to the substitutes' bench. There was a return to action for Darren Huckerby after missing three matches with a groin injury, while teenage midfielder Kieran Gibbs and striker Ched Evans were back in the starting line-up.
Defender Gary Doherty was available again after a one match suspension but had to be content with a place on the bench.
Sheffield United made one change to the team who beat Coventry 2-1 in midweek, with striker Rob Hulse recalled in place of injured top scorer James Beattie.
United kicked off on a damp afternoon and in the opening minute a mis-kick from Marshall from Shackell's back-pass almost fell nicely for Carney but in the end he was crowded out by three yellow shirts on the right side of the Norwich defence.
Moments later, Carney delivered an in-swinging cross to the near post but Marshall was able to gather it fairly comfortably.
United won the first corner after four minutes when a left-foot shot from Speed deflected out of play off Fotheringham. Morgan made a nuisance of himself by winning two headers from the flag-kick, setting up Kilgallon for a volley which was only just over the top.
As the home side pushed forward again, Tonge crossed from the right but it was over-hit and drifted behind for a goal-kick.
There was a lucky escape for the Canaries after just seven minutes when Hulse won a header as he jumped to meet a cross from the left and the ball dropped perfectly for Sharp, six-yards out, but he completely scuffed his shot and a relieved Marshall was able to make an easy save.
Huckerby, playing on the right, got into the action for the first time when he set up Evans in a good position to cross from the right corner flag but he sliced his centre behind the goal and the opportunity was lost.
Gibbs, operating in a wide-left role, then tried to find Cureton with a long through ball but the striker was flagged offside.
Gibbs then tried to pick out Evans in the inside-right position but his pass was over-hit and Naysmith ushered the ball out for a goal-kick.
Bertrand conceded another corner and although Marshall was able to punch clear from Carney's kick, the keeper was again forced into action when Cotterill returned the loose ball into the penalty area and Hulse's header forced Marshall to dive low to his right to keep it out.
City produced their best effort yet after 17 minutes when Gibbs picked up a flick from Pattison and advanced to the edge of the area before hitting a powerful right-foot shot which struck the stanchion at the back of the goal.
It certainly brought the visiting fans to life after their team's fairly quiet opening.
There were certainly plenty of free-kicks in the opening 20 minutes, mostly for United and Pearce did well to head clear as Kilgallon floated another one towards the penalty spot.
Pearce then got in another important header, clearing from a corner by Carney.
Midway through the half, Evans finally brought Kenny into action with a low drive which the keeper saved by his left-hand post.
Another Kilgallon free-kick found the head of Shackell, but the defender's clearance only travelled as far as Speed and when he lofted the ball back into the penalty area, Sharp brought it down neatly before Swivelling to hit a right-foot shot, but it was just off target.
A free-kick close to the left corner flag by Tonge was cut out by Pattison at the expense of a corner, but Tonge's flag-kick was punched well clear by Marshall.
A foul by Shackell on Hulse angered the striker and the home crowd but the defender was lectured rather than booked and when Tonge curled the free-kick into the six-yard box, the outstretched leg of Pearce made an important clearance.
Huckerby had a shot blocked after being set up by Pattison on the edge of the area and then the Canaries forced a corner, but Huckerby's in-swinging kick drifted out of play beyond the far post.
Yet another dead-ball kick by Kilgallon found the head of Hulse but this time his effort was two or three yards wide.
Sharp did well when he gathered a throw-in from Geary and swivelled to get in a cross to the near-post but Marshall was out quickly to collect it.
Shackell seemed to be public enemy number one for the home crowd and he was shown a yellow card in the 33rd minute for a push in the back on Sharp.
Tonge's free-kick struck the wall and Morgan, following up, could only hook his shot over the bar.
There was a real escape for Norwich after 35 minutes when Hulse cut in from the right touchline and unleashed a powerful left-foot shot which struck the foot of the post.
City went desperately close to taking the lead, however, one minute later when Fotheringham found Huckerby in space and his side-foot effort shaved the post with Kenny a little flat-footed.
As the Blades returned to the attack, Cotterill spoiled a promising break with a cross straight into Marshall's arms.
City were getting into the game a little more as the interval approached and a cross from Huckerby looked menacing before Kilgallon rose to head clear.
Huckerby then set up Pattison with a clear shooting chance from just outside the box but he blazed his left-foot shot over the top when he should have done better.
In the final minute of the half, Sharp won an important header to send Cotterill away and he crossed from the right perfectly for Hulse, but the big striker's header was again off target.
t Half-time: Sheffield United 0, Norwich City 0
In the first minute of the second half, Sharp hoisted a cross towards Hulse and the big striker again won the header but it lacked sufficient power to trouble Marshall.
As City pushed forward, Otsemobor rolled a square pass into the path of Fotheringham and he tried his luck from long-range but his left-foot shot was a touch over ambitious and flew wide of the target.
As play switched to the other goalmouth, Sharp fired over the top with a shot on the turn after a pass from Cotterill.
Evans won a corner when his attempted cross was cut out by Morgan, but Huckerby's kick was a poor one and was cut out at the near-post.
Seven minutes into the second half, United took the lead and it was Sharp who scored for the second game in a row.
Cotterill's low ball into the six-yard box was cut out by Pearce, but rebounded kindly for Sharp and it was almost a case of the ball striking him as it rebounded along the ground and inside Marshall's right-hand post.
Three minutes later, the Canaries were left with a real uphill battle as the Blades moved two goals ahead.
Cotterill swung in a corner from the right and the defender Kilgallon jumped unchallenged to power a header past Marshall.
It was Kilgallon who had an injury time goal disallowed at Norwich in December, but there was nothing wrong with this effort.
United were suddenly all over Norwich and Cotterill almost made it three when he curled a left-foot shot just past the post two minutes later.
Gibbs became the second Norwich player shown the yellow card when referee Oliver judged that he had dived in the United area.
Evans won a corner when his shot flew behind off Morgan, but Huckerby's kick went beyond everyone except Pearce and although the defender nodded it back across goal, United were able to clear.
With just over an hour gone, Roeder made his first change with Croft replacing Gibbs.
Huckerby had already switched to the left side for most of the half, so Croft slotted in on the right flank.
Evans came very close to reducing the arrears after 63 minutes when Kenny dived to his left to keep out his shot after neat work by Cureton and Croft.
Otsemobor was the third Norwich player to be booked, on the face of it for a foul on Cotterill, although the United man seemed to have cleared the fullback by a couple of yards before tumbling over.
Cureton made good ground in the United half before letting fly with a right-foot shot from about 25-yards, but Kenny was right behind it.
As the Blades attacked again, Marshall saved low to his right from Sharp and then Carney fired a left-foot shot into the crowd.
With a quarter of the match left, City made a second change with Doherty replacing Shackell.
Evans forced Kenny into action again with a thunderous free-kick from outside the box, which the keeper struggled to hold, but Cureton was crowded out as he tried to get in a cross after retrieving the loose ball.
A foul by Naysmith, who raised his boot high against Cureton, gave City a free-kick on the corner of the penalty area but they were over-elaborate and Evans mis-kicked as Fotheringham played it short to the striker.
Otsemobor headed clear from a Carney corner, setting up a swift counter-attack for Norwich, who won a corner of their own when Huckerby's cross was intercepted.
He played it short to Evans but as the striker curled his cross to the far post, Fotheringham completely mis-kicked.
Hulse went down needing treatment after a challenge by Doherty and, with 13 minutes to go he went off to be replaced by Stead. At the same time City made their final change with Dublin replacing Evans.
Dublin got into the action with nine minutes left, but his long-range volley was some way off target, earning the derision of the home crowd.
As United tried to wrap the game up, Stead earned a corner on the right-hand side with six minutes to go and he got his head to Carney's kick but his effort was deflected wide for another corner.
This time Tonge knocked it far too long and it went out for a goal-kick.
With just over two minutes left, a foul by Speed on Fotheringham gave City a free-kick 15-yards into the United half and the skipper had to hobble off, leaving City with 10 men.
Doherty got his head to Huckerby's free-kick but it was cleared for a corner, from which Pearce had a close-range shot blocked by team-mate Cureton.
In the final minute, Sharp made way for Ehiogu as United sent on another defender.
t Result: Sheffield United 2, Norwich City 0
t Sheff Utd: Kenny, Naysmith, Morgan (C), Kilgallon, Geary, Cotterill, Carney, Speed, Tonge, Hulse, Sharp.
Subs: Shelton, Stead, Gillespie, Halls, Ehiogu.
t Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Shackell, Pearce, Bertrand, Huckerby, Fotheringham (C), Gibbs, Pattison, Cureton, Evans.
Subs: Gilks, Croft, Dublin, Camara, Doherty.
t Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)