Canaries lose penalty shoot-out
CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City's hopes of hitting the Carling Cup glory trail were shattered in the Potteries. Having failed to get past a valiant Vale side during 120 minutes of a ding-dong third round tie, City faced the lottery of a penalty shoot-out - and came out second best.
Norwich City's hopes of hitting the Carling Cup glory trail were shattered in the Potteries.
Having failed to get past a valiant Vale side during 120 minutes of a ding-dong third round tie, City faced the lottery of a penalty shoot-out - and came out second best.
The penalty takers had carried on where they'd left off during the match, with Carl Robinson hitting the opener against the crossbar and Paul Gallacher saving from Richard Walker.
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Peter Thorne scored and Gallacher gave City the advantage when denied Leon Constantine.
But Vale levelled when Jason Shackell's spot-kick was saved by Mark Goodlad and Paul Harsley levelled matters.
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Robert Eagle then hit the bar and suddenly the wind was blowing in Vale's favour. Danny Whitaker duly put them ahead and although Dion Dublin put his effort init was up to Jeff Smith to win it for Vale - which he duly did.
City only have themselves to blame: they never really got into top gear and only when Vale tired towards the end did they look like a side on the crest of a temporary wave.
Vale's intentions were clear from the start - to send the ball up to six-footers Leon Constantine and Akpo Sodje, who sheer physical presence made them formidable on the floor as well as in the air.
But it was the rather less statuesque Danny Whitaker who was the first to set his sights, although City's Paul Gallacher - back in for the ineligible Jamie Ashdown - had few problems beating away his shot from the edge of the area following a free-kick on six minutes.
Minutes later another City foul on the edge of the box - Ryan Jarvis on Danny Sonner - found the visiting defence under unnecessary pressure, only relieved when Walker headed wide.
At the other end a loose defensive clearance was seized upon by Carl Robinson, but his cross from the right edge of the area was just too high for Jarvis.
An off-balance Jarvis shot wide on 17 minutes, but it was City who were still trying to find their feet against a decent Vale side who were clearly not just long-ball merchants. Sodje and Constantine were excellent conduits, but behind them Sonner and Whitaker were playing important supporting roles and Jeff Smith was throwing in a series of quality crosses from the left.
City's real opportunity came on 20 minutes, set up by Robert Earnshaw but executed by Dickson Etuhu, who found himself space in the area before turning and firing a strong left-foot shot which keeper Mark Goodlad did well to beat away.
It was a rare excursion into enemy territory, and Vale didn't take kindly to it, Sodje testing Gallacher's nerve with a long-range effort which bent away from his target. Constantine then turned Doherty in the area, only for the City defender to take the sting off his shot, and then got on the end of Smith's left-wing cross only to head it straight at the keeper.
City weren't being allowed to boss the game by their League One opponents and on 34 minutes Grant decided to make a chance, replacing midfielder Youssef Safri, possibly still feeling the effects of a weekend knock, with young Robert Eagle, switching to 4-4-2 with Jarvis moving in the hole just behind Earnshaw.
Vale's response was a Sodje glancing header from Smith's cross which whistled past the post and, while City weren't by any means on the rack, it was turning into a frustrating evening. Their cause wasn't helped when Gary Doherty went off with a facial injury, Etuhu taking over defensive duties but leaving City's midfield with a very different look about it.
The Canaries defender reappeared minutes later, complete with blood shirt - luckily there wasn't egg on his face too as Vale went in at half-time much the happier of the two teams.
Grant will doubtless have had some strong words for his team who, for the first time in two and a half games, had looked second best.
That continued early in the second half when sub Michael Husbands was given far too much space to run in and popped in a shot from the edge of the area which went just inches wide of Gallacher's left-hand post.
Constantine headed over moments later as Vale continued to attack and City continued to labour.
Etuhu popped in a long-range effort on the break as City tried to ease the pressure, but it was hard going against a Vale side who were getting better as the game went on. Their problem was, clearly, that they had yet to breach the City defence, and until they managed that, their good play would count for nothing.
Doherty went in the book for bringing down Husbands and the Vale fans were shouting for a second yellow minutes later when he and Sodje tangled in the area - only for referee Halsey to wave play on.
It overshadowed the fact that Earnshaw had been replaced by Dion Dublin as Grant sought to engineer a breakthrough - which at that stage looked unlikely as Vale threw everything at the City defence. But it almost came on
76 minutes when Lee Croft shot straight at Goodlad and then Dublin headed the same way after a break down the left by Jarvis.
Suddenly it was more like a basketball game, as play went from end to end, which was a relief for City fans but probably more of a worry for the hosts.
But with both keepers looking safe, and the strikers looking off-colour, the dreaded extra-time was beginning to look more than a possibility.
The excellent George Abbey tried to avoid that with a shot from the edge of the box which Gallacher got down well to, but that pretty much summed up the previous 80 minutes of play - it looked good, but meant little in the long run.
Extra time duly arrived, and within two minutes City could have gone ahead, Eagle's persistence down the right keeping the ball in play and Dublin's deft back-heel setting up Etuhu, who, again, saw his shot saved by the keeper's feet. A minute Dublin should have done better when he got his head on to an Eagle cross but missed the target.
For the first time, Vale began to look tired, and as the match entered its final 15 minutes, it was anyone's game - although Vale boss Martin Foyle did have a trump card in the shape of four unused, and fresh, subs to choose from.
City's legs weren't that much stronger and it really was survival of the fittest.
It would clearly need a bolt from the blue, and halfway through the second half of extra time Whitaker almost provided it, striking a shot from 25 yards which crashed against Gallacher's crossbar.
Sub Peter Thorne was almost as close at the far end, heading Eagle's cross into the side-netting, but with minutes remaining, the penalty shoot-out was inevitable.
Port Vale: Goodlad, Abbey, Pilkington, Walker, Talbot, Whitaker, Harsley, Sonner (Husbands 24, Moore 115), Smith, Constantine, Sodje. Subs: Anyon, Cardle, Moore, Miles.
Norwich: Gallacher 7, Colin 6, Doherty 6, Shackell 7, Drury 7, Robinson 6, Safri 5 (Eagle 35, 6), Etuhu 8, Croft 7, Earnshaw 5 (Dublin 71, 6), Ryan Jarvis 5 (Thorne 98, 6). Subs: Fleming, Lewis.
EDP Man of the Match: Dickson Etuhu - penetrating runs from midfield, good efforts on goal and a non-stop performance.
Referee: Mark Halsey
Time added on: 1 min/ 2min
Time added on, extra time: 1 min/
Attendance: 4518 (795)
Attempts on: Port Vale 6, Norwich 7
Attempts off: Port Vale 10, Norwich 4
Fouls committed: Port Vale 11, Norwich 17
Corners: Port Vale 5, Norwich 6
Offsides: Port Vale 1, Norwich 3
Bookings: Norwich - Colin, 32, foul on Talbot; Doherty, 69, foul on Husbands; Robinson, 86, foul on Sodje.