Coventry City 2, Norwich City 0
Norwich City endured a miserable start to their Championship campaign after two second half goals condemned them to defeat at Coventry. Elliot Ward’s penalty one minute after the interval gave the Sky Blues the lead. And to rub salt in City’s wounds Leon McKenzie prodded home Coventry’s second five minutes from time.
Norwich City endured a miserable start to their Coca Cola Championship campaign after two second half goals condemned them to defeat at Coventry.
Elliot Ward's penalty one minute after the interval gave the Sky Blues the lead following Sammy Clingan's push on Scott Dann. And to rub salt in City's wounds former favourite Leon McKenzie prodded home Coventry's second five minutes from time to leave Norwich goalless and pointless from their season opener at a noisy Ricoh Arena.
It had been looking good for the Canaries who shaded a competitive first half but City boss Glenn Roeder will be disappointed with the fact Norwich failed to get on the scoresheet despite making several chances.
Norwich boss Glenn Roeder gave six players their full league debuts for City with John Kennedy and Dejan Stefanovic in front of David Marshall at the heart of the Canaries' defence and Elliot Omozusi at right back.
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Ryan Bertrand failed to make City's opener with an ankle injury and with Adam Drury failing to play a part in City's pre-season programme Jason Shackell was given the job at left-back.
Sammy Clingan and captain Mark Fotheringham filled City's central midfield berth while Wes Hoolahan made his league debut with Lee Croft handed a start on the right and Italian striker Arturo Lupoli partnering last season's top scorer Jamie Cureton in attack.
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Coventry manager Chris Coleman had six debutants of his own. Kieran Westwood made his first championship start in goal after joining from Carlisle and the experience Stephen Wright started at right-back while Clinton Morrison and Freddie Eastwood provided Coventry's new-look strike force.
However former Norwich striker Leon McKenzie had to make do with a place on the bench.
On a dark and damp afternoon at the Ricoh arena that belied the time of year Norwich kicked off to a vociferous home reception.
Both sides were looking to get the ball on the floor as early as possible in the opening exchanges and after only two minutes Aron Gunnarsson showed his long throw ability from the Coventry right with Fredy Eastwood unable to make a telling contact. But straight after Croft broke down the City right and looked to put in a dangerous ball into the box but it was easily dealt with.
Coventry were trying to pass the ball between themselves and construct an opening but were also giving possession away, at one point giving Lupoli the chance to break. He put Cureton through but the city striker's shot was blocked by Ward.
On seven minutes Hoolahan swept a lovely ball out to Lupoli and the striker jinked his way past Wright but his cross-shot could not be forced home by the waiting Cureton or Croft and the ball went out harmlessly for a goal kick.
The game was beginning to settle down and Coventry were having the better territory but Norwich, especially with Lupoli's forward runs had a constant threat on the break.
On 15 minutes Fotheringham looked to have set Norwich on another one of those counter attacks but he was harshly deemed to have fouled Gunnarsson.
A minute later Coventry had their fist real sight of David Marshall's goal after Eastwood's header out to Gray saw the winger's cross intercepted by Kennedy with Morrison lacking. The resulting corner came to nothing.
The home crowd saw appeals for a penalty turned down as Omozusi and Gray clashed in the Coventry penalty box with both players receiving treatment and Tabb and Eastwood combined well but Gray's ball into the box eluded everyone.
Norwich were soon back on the attack again with Croft winning a corner from which Fotheringham picked out Kennedy whose spectacular overhead kick was well blocked by a combination of Ward and Dann.
Norwich were trying to create opportunities and a Hoolahan free-kick led to another Fotheringham corner. But at the tidy Clingan picked up the Coventry clearance his shot went high and wide.
On 28 minutes another Hoolahan free-kick, which he won after being fouled in midfield, saw Shackell direct a header goalwards but it was easily mopped up by Westwood, as was Lupoli's low left foot shot from 20 yards a minute later.
The home crowd were beginning to get restless as the Coventry midfield struggled to impose itself.
And Lupoli was continuing to look the most likely scorer on the pitch. This time his effort from an acute angle was blocked by Wright, but he was soon combining well with Shackell who released Hoolahan in central midfield as the Irishman's lovely ball sent Cureton racing into the Coventry box but Ward produced an excellent challenger to snuff out the danger.
The game could have changed on its head on 39 minutes as Tabb raced clean through on goal. Stefanovic brought the player down right on the edge of the penalty area as the Coventry winger bore down on goal and it seemed at though referee Colin Taylor would produce a red card. However the colour was yellow. Tabb was left receiving lengthy treatment after the challenge before Eastwood hit the resulting free-kick into the wall. Gray picked up the pieces but Morrison could only direct a header from his cross wide.
With 43 minutes gone Stefanovic's casual back pass almost caught Marshall out and the city keeper had to be quick to clear with Morrison bearing down.
With three minutes of added time in the first half Norwich continue to look for the opening gaol and Lupoli shooting from inside the area despite Hoolahan screaming for the ball.
The Italian's effort was blocked and Fotheringham's resulting corner came to nothing but as City kept pressing Hoolahan weaved his way through the box and gave Lupoli a clear shot at goal but he took a touch instead of pulling the trigger and the chance was gone.
On the stroke of half-time Shackell needlessly handed Coventry a corner after a shaky back pass to Marshall but Fox's set piece sailed harmlessly over everyone's head.
t Half-time: Coventry City 0, Norwich City 0
With Coventry kicking off the second half in the continuing summer gloom Tabb failed to recover from his first half injury. He was replaced by Robbie Simpson on the right a player Peter Grant tried to sign for Norwich last summer.
After only a minute of the second period Coventry were awarded a penalty. Sammy Clingan needlessly pushed Scott Dann as the defender broke into the area and referee Taylor pointed to the spot.
It was left to Ward to step and he smashed the spot kick high and down the middle to give David Marshall no chance and Coventry the lead from their first shot on target.
Fotheringham blasted high and wide from 25-yards as Norwich tried to get back on terms straight away and Hoolahan's through ball to Cureton brought an excellent block from Dann.
On 50 minutes Croft had a great sight of the Coventry goal thanks to another Hoolahan pass but he miscontrolled and two minutes later the winger had a chance to make amends but his dinked ball, after good work by Cureton, couldn't be turned home by Lupoli who missed with his head from close in and City's missed chances were beginning to rack up.
On 58 minutes Stefanovic was caught out by Simpson and the Serbian defender was left needing treatment but was able to continue.
Fotheringham's midfield battle with Gunnarsson was leaving the pair treading a fine line while Stimpson was causing problems for Norwich down the right and the winger's curling ball on the hours just failed to reach Gray at the far post.
Roeder made his first change on 63 minutes taking off the tiring Lupoli to give Omar Koroma his City debut. Cureton was immediately in behind the Coventry defence and Koroma's header back to Clingan brought a well hit drive from the Northern Irishman but Ward was in the way yet again to block the danger.
Kennedy, who was having an excellent game cleared from in front of Gray moments later and then City broke on 68 minutes.
Marshall long punt caught out the Coventry defence and Koroma had a perfect chance to draw City level but Westwood produced a stunning one-handed stop.
The keeper also smothered Shackell's long-range follow-up.
Coleman made his second change on 70 minutes replacing Gray for Leon McKenzie on the Coventry left and he almost scored with his first touch, however, he could not make a full contact with Simpson's pacey cross.
Two minutes later McKenzie's ball in could only be headed tamely over by Stimpson from six-yards.
On 73 minutes McKenzie had a header of his own from Gunnarsson's long throw but he failed to make it count. Meanwhile Norwich had a penalty shout of their own as Hoolahan went down under a challenge in the box before releasing his shot, however the referee waved away City's appeals before Croft saw his right-foot effort from close-range tipped over.
Darel Russell replaced Clingan on 79 minutes and with the game proving an open affair all the 2,000 travelling City fans now wanted was a goal to celebrate.
Coventry's third change came on 83 minutes with Eastwood replaced by Kevin Thornton.
But City's hopes of picking up anything from their opening fixture were over five minutes from time when Morrison found himself free in the box and his chip from the left by-line came back off the bar McKenzie was on hand to prod the ball home from a yard at the far post against his former club.
The striker also ripped off his shirt to celebrate, earning himself Coventry's first booking of the afternoon.
Coventry were now well on top and Simpson's drive from 25-yards was well blocked by Shackell.
With six minutes of injury time for the Norwich fans to endure it was over as contest. Omozusi conceded a late corner after McKenzie twisted and turned on the left by-line but Coventry were content to play out time and leave the Canaries with nothing to show from their Championship opener.
t Result: Coventry City 2, Norwich City 0
t NORWICH CITY: Marshall, Omozusi, Kennedy, Shackell, Stefanovic, Croft, Clingan, Fotheringham (c), Hoolahan, Cureton, Lupoli.
Subs: Nelson, Drury, Russell, Pattison, Koroma.
t COVENTRY CITY: Westwood, Wright, Ward, Dann (c), Fox, Tabb, Beuzelin, Gunnarsson, Gray, Eastwood, Morrison.
Subs: Ireland, McKenzie, Turner, Simpson, Thornton.