Norwich City 0, QPR 1
Chris Lakey The Canaries discovered just how the other half live tonight as the early-season promise dissipated at Carrow Road. City were shorn of ideas against a side reduced to 10 men for two thirds of the game - and lost central defender John Kennedy into the bargain.
The Canaries discovered just how the other half live tonight as the early-season promise dissipated at Carrow Road.
City were shorn of ideas against a side reduced to 10 men for two thirds of the game - and lost central defender John Kennedy into the bargain.
It was a gloomy night all round for City boss Glenn Roeder whose side have promised so much in the early stages of the season but, when it came to the crunch, failed to deliver against a side who are preparing a promotion challenge on the back of the richest board of directors in the Championship.
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Having managed to rub Plymouth's noses into the ground when their hosts were reduced to 10 men on Saturday, the assumption was that they could repeat the dose in front of their own fans. But Rangers are a different kettle of fish altogether, and when Matt Connolly went after his second yellow, they not only reshuffled but took the lead through Martin Rowlands - and then held on to that advantage with surprising ease.
Roeder's mood won't have been helped by the loss of Kennedy to a right ankle injury just after the hour mark - although the centre-back had been in impressive form in front of watching Scotland manager George Burley.
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Roeder had been able to name an unchanged side, with Darel Russell having recovered from his weekend exertions, despite them coming just 10 days after a double hernia operation.
Antoine Sibierski made his home debut, alongside Arturo Lupoli, with Roeder hoping for a repeat of their goal-scoring performances in the weekend win at Plymouth.
City were straight on the attack, although Lupoli's shot inside the first 20 seconds was high and wide.
But it was immediately clear that the visitors would be a different proposition to the Devon side, building carefully and patiently from the back.
City broke well after a fortunate interception which prevented a corner on five minutes, but Elliott Omozusi's long ball caught out Lupoli, hitting the Italian on the shoulder. Wes Hoolahan then cut inside and, off balance, sent a shot straight at keeper Radek Cerny.
Rangers centre half Matt Connolly went into the ref's notebook on nine minutes after upending Sibierksi on the halfway line - although City defender Dejan Stefanovic managed to avoid the same fate after fouling Emmanuel Ledesma moments later.
Most of the early play was in City's half, with Stefanovic and John Kennedy just about keeping tabs on Dexter Blackstock - and City hoping for something on the break.
Russell had Cerny at full stretch on 14 minutes with a shot from 25 yards as City tried to turn the match in their favour - although they were having problems getting Sibierski involved.
City keeper David Marshall had a fright when he dithered over a kick and allowed Ledesma to shut him down, although the ball spun safely away for a goal-kick.
Sibierski managed to win a rare header on 22 minutes, picking out Lupoli in the area, but the Italian couldn't bring the ball down and the chance was lost.
The Frenchman then got the merest of touches to a corner as City finally managed to put on some pressure - with Roeder already down on the touchline having watched the opening exchanges from the directors' box.
Sibierksi was suddenly involved in everything, connecting with Russell's low cross from the left but seeing a powerful shot hit Damion Stewart and go out for a corner. Rangers went straight to the other end where Omozusi did enough to put off Ledesma as he went for goal.
City's hopes were given a boost on 25 minutes when Connolly saw yellow for the second time, having left Matty Pattison in a heap just in front of the visiting dug-out - a no-brainer for referee Shoebridge.
Rangers' last visit - on the final home game of last season - had seen them reduced to 10 men after just five minutes, and the subsequent substitutions helped City to a victory which guaranteed them Championship survival. This time, manager Iain Dowie sacrificed winger Lee Cook, to bring on Kaspers Gorkss in the centre of defence.
But Rangers hardly had time to settle into a new rhythm before they were ahead.
City skipper Mark Fotheringham went into the notebook after coming out too quickly to block Ledesma's free-kick from the edge of the area on 32 minutes. Fotheringham kept out of the wall for the retake - and this time it was Martin Rowlands who stepped up and sent a thunderbolt through the wall and into the bottom left-hand corner to put the 10 men ahead.
City could have been in more trouble on 38 minutes when Kennedy allowed a ball to bounce in the area, although Ledesma couldn't bring the ball under control under pressure from Stefanovic.
Blackstock should have done better when he headed over from Ledesma's inswinging free-kick from the right as City struggled to make the extra man count.
Even when City managed to get anywhere near the visitors' penalty area, moves broke down and Cerny remained virtually untested.
Fotheringham managed a shot when the ball fell to him after a corner, but hit it straight at the keeper - and City headed to the dressing room prepared, no doubt, for some harsh words from their manager.
Roeder made a change at the start of the half, bringing on Lee Croft for Lupoli and pushing Russell up front, with Pattison joining Fotheringham in the centre - increasing the physical presence up front against a pair of sturdy centre-halves - and providing some much needed width.
Croft got a run early on and switched the ball inside to Hoolahan, who found Pattison - whose shot went out for a corner. But still City were struggling for cohesion against a side that were strong physically and technically.
Russell came within inches of connecting to a Croft cross, but Rangers were doing a good job of keeping City away from the danger areas.
The Canaries needed one cutting pass to get back into the game - but it just wasn't coming.
And their hopes of getting back into the match certainly weren't helped when Kennedy limped off just after the hour mark, to be replaced by Jonathan Grounds.
Rangers were by now not as adventurous, happy instead to pack their back line.
Roeder played his final card when Jamie Cureton came on for Hoolahan on 66 minutes - Pattison moving to his third position of the game, left flank, as City attempted to make camp around the Rangers area.
Within moments Cureton was down the tunnel, being treated for a bloody head wound which left both sides down to 10 men.
Sibierski was denied a shot in the area by a last-ditch touch by Gorkss - but at the other end a neat reverse chip by Rowlands was only a foot too high.
There were encouraging signs when Fotheringham sent in an excellent free-kick on 78 minutes, which Cerny sent round the post for a corner, while Cureton was denied by an unlucky bounce moments later as City turned up the pressure.
It was one-way traffic in the final moments, with Cureton getting Russell's cross caught under his feet and Grounds failing to make anything of the loose ball.
Sibierski was inches wide with a header from Ryan Bertrand's cross - and that was it for the Canaries.