Doncaster Rovers 1, Norwich City 1
Michael Bailey Jonathan Grounds' first goal for Norwich City helped the them come from behind to bag a hard earned point against Doncaster Rovers on Friday night.
Jonathan Grounds' first goal for Norwich City helped the Canaries come from behind to bag a hard earned point against Doncaster Rovers on Friday night.
The on-loan Middlesbrough defender headed in from Lee Croft's cross in the second half to cancel out Paul Heffernan's opener on 23 minutes and earn the Canaries a deserved draw.
Norwich City manager Bryan Gunn named the same starting 11 that drew with Southampton on Tuesday, with Mark Fotheringham captaining the side before he serves a one-match suspension at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday, for picking up his fifth booking of the season against the Saints.
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However, the City boss was forced into one change on the substitute's bench with Adam Drury replacing the departed David Bell, who completed a shock move to Championship rivals Coventry City earlier in the day.
Doncaster manager Sean O'Driscoll made a host of changes from the team that won at Sheffield United on Tuesday, as Rovers looked for their fifth Championship win on the bounce.
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It was a bitterly cold night in South Yorkshire and with the pitch looking as tired as you would expect from playing host to football and rugby league week in, week out, the game certainly promised a tough test for Bryan Gunn's first match in charge away from Carrow Road.
Both sides were clearly looking to get the ball down and play - although the pitch was making it difficult - and after some even sparring, it was City who got the first look at goal.
Jon Otsemobor and Lee Croft linked well down the right on nine minutes and the winger had the beating of Chambers but could only drill his low drive wide, with the aid of a slight deflection; Sammy Clingan's subsequent corner being easily cleared.
Croft was getting plenty of joy against Chambers, as well as Otsemobor who was next to find some space but Darel Russell couldn't take down his swirling cross, while Rovers' captain Brian Stock found himself with some room in the City midfield moments later but dragged his effort well wide.
Norwich were clearly on a cross on sight policy but they were struggling to get men on the end of the centres, and at the same time Rovers were beginning to build up some pressure.
The 20 minute mark saw Richie Wellens' cross cause panic in the City penalty area, but Wes Hoolahan cleared the danger, and two minutes later, John Spicer's drilled cross look certain to end in the game's opening goal until Jonathan Grounds made a superb clearance.
However, from the resulting corner on the Rovers left, City failed to clear their lines and although David Marshall stopped Matt Mills initial effort, Stock knocked the ball back into the danger zone and Paul Heffernan was on hand to head home.
It was the first time Bryan Gunn's side had been behind in a match since he took over the managerial reins, but Norwich went looking for an immediate response, with Clingan's free-kick headed wide by Russell.
But in truth, Norwich were struggling to recover from going behind and frustrations were starting to show, with Fotheringham and Wellens squaring up after the City captain's strong but fair challenge.
The game was being fiercely contested but chances were at a premium, with Russell, Jamie Cureton and Croft working hard but getting little joy. In fact, Russell did not finish the half, being replaced by striker Carl Cort just before half-time after looking groggy following a hefty challenge.
t Half-time: Doncaster Rovers 1, Norwich City 0
The press room at the interval resembled a Football League managers' conference, with Mick McCarthy, Nigel Clough, Alan Irvine, Brian Laws, Lee Clark, Aidy Boothroyd and Alex McLeish all in attendance.
Norwich created their best chance of the game within 50 seconds of the restart, Hoolahan worked his way down the left and crossed for Cureton who took a touch before pulling the trigger. But Neil Sullivan was more than equal to the striker's effort, in making his first save of the evening.
Doncaster's early lapse of concentration was soon forgotten though, and the home support started to turn up the noise as they closed in on what they hoped would be a crucial three points in the race for Championship safety.
Marshall parried stocks' powerful centre superbly, but Norwich were still having their spells of possession and on 61 minutes they were back on level terms, thanks to the superb Jonathan Grounds.
Hoolahan's cross from the left was only flicked away by the Rovers defence and as Croft picked up the pieces deep on the right, his floating cross found the on-loan defender free 10 yards out, and he duly stuck his header to Sullivan's left and in the back on the net.
The game was fast opening up and substitute Matty Pattison, on for Hoolahan, worked well with Croft before Clingan's through-ball found Cort in an offside position, leaving Cureton's successful follow-up irrelevant.
Norwich were the better side now and Otsemobor drilled high and not too handsome when it looked easier to hit the target, although at the other end Marshall parried Stock's powerful cross excellently, before making a cracking save from Coppinger's fierce effort in the City box.
Referee Michael Oliver waved away claims from the home support for a handball as Doncaster turned the screw again while Wellens' free-kick and substitute striker Gareth Taylor's flick threatened to restore Doncaster's advantage. However, City were protecting their goal through some brave blocking and confident goalkeeping.
The game as an enthralling spectacle as both sides huffed and puffed in a game that had become wide open, but neither side had enough to create a clear cut chance and the game finished in what was probably a fair result.
t Result: Doncaster Rovers 1, Norwich City 1
t Doncaster Rovers: Sullivan, O'Connor, Chambers, Mills, Hird, Stock, Wilson, Wellens, Coppinger, Spicer (Taylor 58), Heffernan (Byfield 88). Subs not used: Roberts, Lockwood, Guy.
t Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Doherty, Grounds, Bertrand, Croft, Clingan, Fotheringham, Hoolahan (Pattison 63), Russell (Cort 45), Cureton (Lupoli 82). Subs not used: Nelson, Drury.
t Referee: M Oliver
t Attendance: 12,384 (visiting support: 1,782)