Bristol City 1, Norwich City 0
David Cuffley Norwich City suffered their third Championship defeat in a row when Jamie McCombe struck 15 minutes from time to give Bristol City three points at Ashton Gate.
Norwich City suffered their third Championship defeat in a row when Jamie McCombe struck 15 minutes from time to give Bristol City three points at Ashton Gate.
McCombe, back in the side for the first time since suffering a fractured cheekbone, knocked home a free-kick from Jamie McAllister to complete an unhappy afternoon for the Canaries and nearly 1,000 travelling fans.
To make matters worse, City lost defender Adam Drury and striker Antoine Sibierski with injuries in the first half, giving them more problems ahead of Tuesday's visit of Wolves to Carrow Road.
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Goalkeeper David Marshall made four good saves during the afternoon but City had chances of their own, Leroy Lita missing probably the best of them against his old club in the second half.
The one positive note for Norwich was the return of Gary Doherty, making his first appearance of the season when he replaced Drury just before half-time.
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But for manager Glenn Roeder, it was not the best of starts to a period of five matches in 15 days.
Defender John Kennedy returned to the City side after missing four games with an ankle injury, while there was a recall in midfield for Matty Pattison, who had missed two matches with a hamstring problem.
Fullback Jon Otsemobor was sidelined by ankle ligament damage after being stretchered off against Derby, while striker Omar Koroma was the other man omitted after the 2-1 defeat a fortnight ago.
Defender Gary Doherty, yet to appear this season after three months on the sidelines with an ankle injury he suffered on tour in Sweden, was named among the substitutes.
There was no place in the 16 for Koroma, Jamie Cureton or Wes Hoolahan.
Bristol City showed three changes to the team which started the 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United two weeks ago.
Defender Jamie McCombe returned after a long layoff with a fractured cheek bone, while Gavin Williams and striker Lee Trundle were also back in the starting 11.
Out from the previous match went Louis Carey, John Akinde and Brian Wilson, although Wilson was given a place on the bench.
City kicked off in bright sunshine and as they pushed forward from the start, Russell found Lita in the penalty area but he ran the ball out of play.
The Canaries won a corner in the second minute when Clingan's cross was deflected behind.
Pattison aimed the kick towards Sibierski, but McCombe got his head to the ball and keeper Basso was able to punch clear.
It was a busy start by Norwich and Omozusi tried to find Lita at the near post, but the striker was crowded out.
At the home side threatened for the first time, McIndoe crossed from the left but Adebola could not get in a clean header and his effort drifted wide for a goal-kick.
City forced a second corner when Pattison's low centre was cut out by Elliott, but Pattison's flat-kick was a poor one and the Bristol defence cleared easily.
The Robins won their first corner after seven minutes when Elliott's shot was deflected behind.
Marshall was unable to claim Johnson's corner but fortunately a Bristol forward got the final touch and the ball dropped out for a goal-kick with Russell taking a knock in the goalmouth melee.
As City pushed forward again, Pattison took a free-kick on the right but Basso made a comfortable catch.
The home side won another corner after a timely challenge by Omozusi, but this time Marshall confidently claimed Johnson's kick and the referee had in any case spotted an infringement.
At the other end, a cross from the right from Clingan was headed away by Fontaine as far as Pattison, who let fly from long-range but cleared the crossbar.
There was a double worry for Norwich when Kennedy needed treatment after a foul by Adebola, while Drury also appeared to be hobbling.
Kennedy was able to return to the field, but was still limping.
A stray back pass handed City their third corner after 17 minutes. Pattison played it short to Croft and took a return pass before cutting into the area but his left-foot shot was blocked.
City appeared to be about to introduce Doherty as Kennedy was clearly struggling but while he waited on the touchline, Bristol were lining up a free-kick on the edge of the area.
McIndoe took it and his curling left-foot shot was kept out by an excellent save from Marshall, diving to his left.
Moments later, Marshall was forced into action again, this time diving low to his right to keep out a shot from Fontaine.
There was a further delay while Sibierski needed treatment, but City had still not made a change.
As Norwich broke forward, Lita forced his way into the penalty area and tried to beat Basso at his near post with a low shot from a tight angle, but the keeper was equal to it.
Drury appeared to be hobbling worse than Kennedy but for the moment, City were persevering with the same 11.
A free-kick from McIndoe almost posed problems for Marshall as Fontaine challenged the keeper, but the ball drifted past both of them and out of play.
There was a clear opening for City after 25 minutes when an error by Basso, outside his area, left Croft in possession and he rolled a short pass back to Pattison but with the goal unguarded, the midfielder side-footed a yard wide.
The Sibierski almost caught out Basso with a powerful drive as he cut in from the left, but the keeper grabbed it at the second attempt above his head.
The hosts squandered a good chance of their own after 28 minutes when Adebola got away from Kennedy and his low cross found Elliott, who appeared to scuff his shot and it rolled harmlessly wide.
Orr was next to threaten but his powerful shot from the right-hand side of the area whizzed across the face of the goal and just past the post.
Sibierski and Russell combined neatly to set up Pattison on the edge of the Bristol area and his low cross reached a near post, but Lita could only knock it wide.
With nine minutes left before the break, City did make a change, but it was Sibierski who came off, with Fotheringham coming on and Russell moving into a more attacking role.
The hosts began to step up the pace and twice in a minute they could have broken the deadlock.
First Adebola sent Johnson clear and it took a timely interception by Clingan to halt his progress, before Kennedy knocked the loose ball away for a corner.
Marshall was then forced to make his third important save, keeping out a snapshot from Trundle.
Drury was in the wars and needed treatment after taking another knock, but was able to continue after a short delay.
Less than four minutes before the break, there was another opening when Russell's persistence presented Croft with a shooting chance, but the winger's left-foot effort was just over the bar when he might have done better.
Doherty entered the fray as the second substitute after 42 minutes, getting his first taste of action this season as Drury finally had to hobble off.
Orr made progress on the right before finding Johnson but the midfielder's effort lacked power and Marshall was right behind it.
As the half entered stoppage time, Kennedy made a timely interception to cut out a cross from McIndoe.
t Half-time: Bristol City 0, Norwich City 0
City pushed forward first from the restart and Lita ran at the home defence but his progress was halted on the edge of the area by a strong challenge by McCombe.
Fotheringham conceded a free-kick on the edge of the Norwich area for a foul and the ball was rolled to McIndoe, but his left-foot shot cleared the bar.
Trundle was becoming frustrated and conceded a couple of free-kicks with fouls on Doherty and Omozusi.
From the second dead-ball kick, the home defence cleared as far as Clingan, but his shot from outside the area was well off target.
Eight minutes into the half, Norwich conceded another free-kick just outside the area, this time after a foul by Kennedy.
The Robins tried an elaborate routine but it fell flat when Johnson floated the ball towards the penalty spot and Kennedy headed clear.
Russell was battling hard and was annoyed when he appeared to be caught by the arm of McAllister, but referee Hall gave the decision the other way.
With 57 minutes gone, Croft did superbly to rob McAllister and play the perfect through ball for Lita, but the striker's shot was a disappointing one and Basso collected it easily.
It was the best opportunity yet for the on-loan striker to get off the mark for City against his old club.
There were vain appeals for a penalty when Croft went down under challenge from McAllister as Bertrand's cross came in from the left, with the official unmoved.
The Robins made their first change with 63 minutes gone when Maynard replaced Williams.
Pattison, still yet to score after nearly a year with Norwich, had another ambitious attempt from outside the area but his shot was well wide.
Bertrand was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon when he attempted to stop the home side taking a quick free-kick.
He was followed into the book a minute later by Orr, for a trip on Pattison on halfway.
There was a delay while McAllister needed treatment after landing badly after a challenge by Croft which annoyed the home crowd.
Orr threatened to create an opening when he caught Clingan in possession and found Trundle inside the penalty area, but good work by Bertrand snuffed out the danger.
Pattison showed determination to get away from Adebola wide on the left but his final cross was too strong and it summed up a rather flat second half from both sides.
With 15 minutes to go, however, the home side took the lead with McCombe scoring in his comeback match.
A free-kick from McAllister from well inside his own half was allowed to drift through the City defence when McCombe flicked it past Marshall, right-footed, on the volley from close-range.
The hosts then made another change with Sproule replacing Adebola.
Russell had become very frustrated during the second half and was booked with 10 minutes to go for dissent when he protested to the referee's assistant about a decision.
Maynard followed Russell into the book for a two-footed challenge on Kennedy on the edge of the Norwich area.
With seven minutes to go, Marshall kept City in the game when substitute Sproule went clear but the keeper did splendidly to block his low shot.
The visitors made their final change with Bell replacing Croft.
Doherty had made a steady return to action and stopped Trundle's progress with an important challenge as the home side tried to increase their lead.
With two minutes left, manager's son Johnson made way for Wilson in the final change of the afternoon.
In the final minute, City won a free-kick by the right corner flag, but Pattison's dead-ball effort did not get beyond McAllister, who headed the ball out for a corner.
Pattison took the flag-kick but his in-swinger gave Basso an easy catch.
t Result: Bristol City 1, Norwich City 0