Charity begins at home for Norwich City

NORWICH CITY 1, CRYSTAL PALACE 2: Norwich City’s charitable streak proved their downfall again as they contrived to give the needy a helping hand.

Just a few weeks after Hull City left Carrow Road celebrating their first win on their travels for 18 months, second-from-bottom Crystal Palace were presented with their first away victory – indeed their first away goals – of the Championship season in the space of seven second-half minutes.

The fact that both Palace goals were conceded from corners was a cause of great consternation for City manager Paul Lambert. The fact that a former Ipswich midfielder, Owen Garvan, supplied the crosses for both goals to put the smile back on the face of a former Ipswich manager, the perennially-abused George Burley, must have made it all the more difficult for the home crowd to stomach, especially those who had seen their team perform with such distinction in the previous two matches at Bristol City and Queens Park Rangers.

The Canaries have earned a bit of a reputation in recent seasons for their generosity to struggling teams, but that failing seemed to have been eradicated since Lambert’s arrival. Perhaps not entirely.

In truth, Palace had more energy and ambition about them than Hull and even in a first half that City just about won on points, they had their moments. With the hosts denied the services of two of their regular back four – the suspended Elliott Ward and the injured Adam Drury – there was just enough unfamiliarity in the home ranks to offer the Londoners a hint of a chance. But even they could not have expected two such gift-wrapped goals from simple set pieces, both scored by on-loan defenders.

While City slipped two places to fifth in the Championship table, Palace underlined their bogey team tag with their third win in the past five visits to Norwich and their sixth in nine meetings between the clubs since they together lost Premiership status in 2005.

In truth, City started brightly enough and they were desperately close to taking the lead in the seventh minute when Wes Hoolahan’s trickery put Simeon Jackson clear and his powerful left-foot shot struck the crossbar with goalkeeper Julian Speroni beaten.

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Speroni had to dash out moments later to hammer clear before Jackson could pounce on Antony Gardner’s poor backpass.

There were a few warning shots from Palace, however, first when Edgar Davids’ cross was cleared as far as Garvan, who whistled a long-range effort just past the post, then when 17-year-old Wilfried Zaha raced on to Andrew Dorman’s pass but fired across the face of the goal.

Davids, the 37-year-old former international star, was not destined to last too long nor make much impact but the Dutchman made one significant contribution six minutes before the break to deny Simon Lappin his first City goal for more than three years. Lappin’s corner found the head of Leon Barnett but the ball drifted back to Lappin, who struck a swerving left-foot shot that was cleared off the line by Davids.

The Canaries did not have much longer to wait for the breakthrough, however. Two minutes before the break, Steven Smith found Lappin on the left and his cross took a slight deflection en route to the near post, where skipper Grant Holt slid in to sidefoot his fifth goal of the season.

Left-back Smith made a timely challenge on Zaha one minute before the interval to preserve City’s advantage, but they were curiously unable to raise their game and build on it in the second period.

Instead, Palace grew in confidence and, after Dorman had blazed over the top from a useful opportunity and Davids had been replaced by Kieran Djilali, they drew level in the 56th minute.

Garvan played a one-two from a corner and crossed beyond the far post, where left-back Julian Bennett headed back across goal and beyond goalkeeper John Ruddy for the equaliser.

Two minutes later, it was almost 2-1 when a determined run by Nathaniel Clyne took him all too easily into the Norwich area, where Dorman struck a shot on the turn that Ruddy had to claw away.

But with 63 minutes gone, Palace did take the lead when Garvan’s inswinging corner to the near post reached centre-half Gardner, who managed to get between Jens Berthel Askou and Russell Martin to head past Ruddy.

With the impressive Paddy McCarthy snuffing out most of City’s raids, the visitors had taken the upper hand and Ruddy had to race out to clear from the feet of James Vaughan as they threatened a third goal.

With 20 minutes left, there was a flicker of a chance for City when Holt nodded back Korey Smith’s cross but Jackson, following up, headed wide.

The introduction of Chris Martin and Anthony McNamee was designed to give the Canaries late impetus and after Holt fired over the top, McNamee came closest to an equaliser when he curled a long-range effort just over.

But Palace very nearly stretched their lead and Ruddy had to make another fine save from Vaughan as the seconds ticked away to prevent further damage.

Victories for Watford and Burnley meant the Canaries slipped two places to fifth in the table, but these are still early days. Their most immediate concern will be to restore some stability to results at home, where they won 11 consecutive matches last season. Managerless Middlesbrough must not be given the same hospitality as fellow strugglers Palace.