Norwich 1, Preston 0
David Cuffley Midfielder Darel Russell produced a stunning stoppage time goal to give Norwich City victory over struggling Preston at Carrow Road this afternoon.
Midfielder Darel Russell produced a stunning stoppage time goal to give Norwich City victory over struggling Preston at Carrow Road this afternoon.
The game had just entered three minutes of time added on when Russell fired home a spectacular left foot volley from just outside the area after Dion Dublin had nodded on a David Marshall drop kick.
Minutes earlier, Marshall had produced an excellent save to deny Preston substitute Brett Ormerod, but after a dull first half, there was no doubt Norwich had the better opportunities after the break when Ryan Bertrand, substitute Jamie Cureton and defender Gary Doherty had all gone close to giving them the lead.
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The result stretched Norwich's unbeaten run to 11 Championship games and for the Carrow Road crowd, there was a first sight of two of manager Glenn Roeder's new loan signings when Matthew Bates and James Henry were given their City debuts as second half substitutes.
Roeder relied on an unchanged starting 11 from Tuesday's 1-0 win at Southampton, with skipper Mark Fotheringham recovering from a calf injury, but there were two changes on the bench.
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Two of Thursday's loan signings, 21-year-old Middlesbrough defender Matthew Bates and Reading's England U18 winger James Henry, were named among the substitutes. For the second home game in a row, there was no place in the 16 for Darren Huckerby, while Michael Spillane was the other player to miss out from the men on duty at Southampton.
Preston manager Alan Irvine was forced into three changes to the team who beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 on Tuesday, because of suspension.
Former Norwich striker Chris Brown and defender Youl Mawene were both sent off in midweek, while winger Chris Sedgwick was the third man banned after picking up five yellow cards.
Into the side came fullback Billy Jones, back after hernia surgery, midfielder Lewis Neal and striker Neil Mellor, the son of former Norwich winger Ian Mellor.
Among the Preston substitutes was new signing Neal Trotman, the defender having arrived this week from Oldham for £500,000.
City kicked off on a bright, chilly afternoon, attacking the Barclay goal but Preston pushed forward first of all, their attack coming to a halt when Neal was ruled offside.
Shackell was forced to concede the first corner of the match in the second minute, Marshall coming out to punch clear from the kick by Whaley.
Croft won a throw in close the right corner flag, from which Otsemobor crossed towards Evans, but the referee blew for an infringement.
As Preston went forward again, Mellor shot from outside the area but his effort deflected off Shackell and was easily collected by Marshall.
The visitors threatened again when Neal got away from Otsemobor but his cross was chested down by Camara and once more Marshall was able to collect with no problem.
Preston were seeing slightly more of the ball so far and in the seventh minute, Hawley played a one-two with Neal and let fly with a right foot shot from outside the area which only just cleared the bar.
Shackell was forced to concede another corner under pressure from Neal and was left hobbling as the visitors prepared to take the kick. This time, Whaley's corner was headed clear at the near post.
Another City attack broke down midway into the Preston half when skipper Fotheringham was penalised for a foul on opposing captain McKenna. Preston won another free-kick when Shackell fouled Hawley on the right hand corner of the penalty area, but Carter's dead ball effort was curled straight into Marshall's arms.
With 11 minutes gone, Evans, scorer of the winner at Southampton, produced Norwich's first shot at goal from just inside the penalty area but it flew into the side netting.
Croft and Otsemobor fashioned a neat move on the City right but the winger's cross was cut out thanks to a timely header from Chilvers.
Otsemobor sent Croft away again moments later and this time, his cross was aimed towards Dublin, but the veteran was just beaten to the ball and there was a hold up in play while Preston's Davidson replaced a contact lens.
A one-two between Croft and Fotheringham earned the Canaries their first corner after 14 minutes and Fotheringham's kick almost reached Doherty but the defender was crowded out and the visitors were able to clear.
Camara set off on a forward run in a bid to spark off City's next attack, but he was short of support and his cross towards Bertrand was cut out.
St Ledger did some important defensive work after 19 minutes when he got his head to a cross from Otsemobor before Evans could get there.
There was an angry reaction from the home crowd when Evans was penalised for a foul on St Ledger as he chased him to the left corner flag.
Preston made their first change midway through the first half when Davidson, who had been receiving treatment on the touchline after a knock, had to be replaced by Hill, who went straight into the same position at left back.
With more than 25 minutes gone, it had been rather a lifeless affair with quite a few misplaced passes and when McKenna played the ball straight into touch it rather summed up the afternoon so far.
Preston won their third corner when Otsemobor cut out a cross from Hill, but Whaley, attempting an in-swinging corner, merely curled it onto the roof of the net.
Chilvers aimed a long ball towards Mellor as Preston tried to get going again, but the striker was penalised for a clear shove on Doherty.
One sustained attack from Norwich ended with Russell doing extremely well to squeeze in a cross from the right and Bertrand turning the ball back from beyond the far post, but Evans was unable to get on the end of it and Bertrand seemed to suffer a knock in the process and was on the ground in the penalty area for a while before he was able to continue. Croft was Norwich's main attacking outlet and St Ledger did well to head clear from another cross by the winger as Dublin moved in. Another neat move involving Otsemobor and Croft ended with the award of a free-kick to Preston when Bertrand was adjudged to have fouled Jones as he jumped to head clear.
With 36 minutes gone, the visitors won another corner as Doherty knocked the ball out under pressure from Mellor. Whaley played a one-two before crossing towards the near post, where Marshall punched clear, only as far as McKenna, who sliced a right foot shot horribly wide.
Hill and Chilvers almost got in a muddle on the edge of the area when they both went for the same ball and Russell was able to play it wide to Croft, but Hill recovered well to cut out Croft's low centre.
A splendid burst of speed from Croft took him clear on the right and he pulled the ball back for Evans, only for the youngster to miscue with an attempted cross which ended up going out for a throw-in.
Three minutes before the break, Evans, who had produced Norwich's only attempt on goal earlier in the half, managed to get another on target when he got in a header from a Croft centre, but keeper Lonergan was in the right place to make a straightforward save.
In the extra minute added on by the official at the end of the half, Carter attempted a low drive from outside the area but it was poorly struck and Marshall gathered it easily.
Half-time: Norwich City 0, Preston North End 0
Preston were on the attack first after the restart with Doherty heading clear from a cross by McKenna. Still City did not completely clear their lines and a centre from Whaley eluded Marshall, but Otsemobor was able to guide the ball out for a goal kick.
Two minutes into the half, Dublin chested down a throw in into the path of Evans, whose powerful left foot shot took a deflection and earned Norwich their second corner of the match. Shackell tried to get in a shot from Fotheringham's flag kick, but his effort was blocked and as City kept up the pressure, a touch from Doherty teed up Dublin for a left foot shot which was only just wide.
The home side already looked more lively than in the first period and Dublin teed up Russell for a first time effort which Lonergan saved low to his right.
A free-kick from Fotheringham led to a game of head tennis in the Preston area and the pressure was still not relieved when some trickery from Croft earned another corner. This time, Fotheringham's kick was aimed towards Russell on the six-yard line, but he was unable to make clean contact with an attempted header.
A lapse by Otsemobor almost cost the Canaries when he allowed Neal to gain possession and thread a pass into the Norwich area, where Marshall had to race from his line to smother the ball.
City made their first change nine minutes into the second half with a straight swap at right back with Bates replacing Otsemobor and the new signing was soon into the action with a cross from the right which St Ledger headed out for a corner, under pressure from Dublin.
City were looking much livelier and Lonergan had to get down low by his right hand post to cut out a centre from Camara after another swift passing move. As Norwich threatened again, St Ledger took a high boot in the face from Dublin at the expense of a free-kick.
Another cross from Bates almost paid dividends when Russell just failed to control it from about eight-yards out.
At the other end, Marshall came out well to gather a cross from Whaley, under pressure from Jones.
With an hour gone, City produced possibly their best opening when Fotheringham did superbly to get on the end of a through ball from Bates and cross into the six-yard box where Bertrand slid in but his shot, at full stretch, flew high over the bar.
Preston suddenly threatened with a swift counterattack when a cross from the left by Neal threaded its way through to McKenna, whose powerful shot was blocked by Shackell, much to City's relief.
There was another nervous moment for Norwich when Doherty failed to make clean contact with a header back to Marshall and as the keeper came out, his attempted clearance struck Doherty and they were fortunate the ball did not rebound into the path of a Preston forward.
With just over 20 minutes to go, Preston made a second change with Ormerod replacing Mellor in attack.
City had gone into their shell after a bright start to the half and Preston threatened when Neal got away from Bates and Camara had to head clear for a corner. The flag kick was cleared as far as McKenna, following up with a right foot shot, but he was well off target.
There was a second change for the Canaries with 18 minutes to go when Evans made way for Cureton.
Fotheringham sent a long range effort over the top in an attempt to break the deadlock and then substitute Cureton almost did the trick with a smart turn from a cross by Croft and a powerful right foot shot that Lonergan did well to beat away.
City won a free-kick halfway into the Preston half for handball and Fotheringham aimed it towards Shackell on the far side of the area but the visitors had enough bodies in the box to get the ball clear.
There was a double change as the game entered the final 10 minutes with 18-year-old Henry given his debut in place of Croft and Preston introducing Chaplow instead of Neal.
Russell did well to get the better of Jones in one challenge, but spoiled his good work when he put his cross behind the goal.
Cureton almost made the most of a pass from Bates when he brought it under control on the right but his attempt to find Dublin with a low cross was thwarted by an interception by Chilvers.
With five minutes left Doherty came close to opening the scoring when his header from a Fotheringham corner struck the crossbar.
There was just three minutes left when Marshall came to Norwich's rescue with a fine one handed save from Ormerod when the substitute was put through on the left hand side and tried to tuck a right foot shot past the keeper.
In the final minute, an excellent ball from Fotheringham found Cureton and he brought another important save out of Lonergan with a low shot from a tight angle.
As the game entered stoppage time, Russell finally gave the Canaries the lead with a stunning goal. Marshall's drop kick was nodded on by Dublin to Russell, just outside the Preston area and he chested the ball down before swivelling to hit a stunning left foot volley past Lonergan.
Result: Norwich City 1, Preston North End 0
Norwich: Marshall, Otsemobor, Shackell, Doherty, Camara, Croft, Fotheringham, Russell, Bertrand, Dublin, Evans. Subs: Gilks, Cureton, Bates, Pattison, Henry.
Preston: Lonergan, Jones, St. Ledger, Chilvers, Davidson, Whaley, Carter, McKenna, Lewis Neal, Hawley, Mellor. Subs: Chris Neal, Chaplow, Ormerod, Hill, Trotman.
Referee: Jarnail Singh (Middlesex)