Norwich City 1, Birmingham City 1

David Cuffley Stand-in striker Darel Russell earned Norwich City a point by grabbing the equaliser for the second home game in a row at Carrow Road. But a draw was the very least the Canaries deserved after producing an excellent display in a pulsating contest with Championship leaders Birmingham City.

David Cuffley

Stand-in striker Darel Russell earned Norwich City a point by grabbing the equaliser for the second home game in a row at Carrow Road.

But a draw was the very least the Canaries deserved after producing an excellent display in a pulsating contest with Championship leaders Birmingham City.

Norwich dominated the first half and were unfortunate to be a goal down at the interval, Sebastian Larsson heading Birmingham in front after 39 minutes from a free-kick by James McFadden.

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Russell levelled the scores less than a minute into the second half after an excellent run by Arturo Lupoli.

The Canaries pressed hard for a winner after getting on terms but in the end, Birmingham squandered two opportunities to win the game in the last two minutes when substitute Gary McSheffrey fired over the top and then goalkeeper David Marshall made an outstanding save from Kevin Phillips.

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Norwich will be disappointed to go into a fortnight's break without their first win under their belts, but this was comfortably their best display of the season so far, coming against the morning leaders.

City boss Glenn Roeder made two changes to the starting line-up from the team that drew 2-2 at Cardiff last week.

Striker Arturo Lupoli, who came off the bench to score twice at Ninian Park, was back in the 11 at the expense of Jamie Cureton, who missed a penalty last week.

There was another change at right back where the on loan Elliot Omozusi was ruled out with a thigh strain and Jon Otsemobor started his first league game of the season.

Winger Wes Hoolahan was included in the side, despite being heavily criticised by Roeder seven days ago, so Lee Croft, who replaced him at half-time against Cardiff, had to settle for a place on the bench.

There was one other change on the Norwich bench with defender Jason Shackell a surprise absentee, his place going to on-loan Tottenham defender Troy Archibald-Henville.

Birmingham showed five changes to the team beaten in the Carling Cup at Southampton, with first choice players including Scotland international James McFadden, striker Kevin Phillips and former Norwich loan defender Martin Taylor.

In the opening minute, Fotheringham sent Lupoli away on the left, bringing many of the crowd to their feet but the striker's path into the penalty area was blocked by Martin Taylor.

A foul by Parnaby on Bertrand then gave the Canaries a free-kick on the left hand side, but Fotheringham's dead ball kick was a poor one and Birmingham easily cleared.

The visitors pushed forward in the fourth minute and Phillips made enough room to shoot left footed from the edge of the area but his effort lacked power and was easily gathered by Marshall.

Stefanovic made a timely interception when Birmingham threatened again, cutting out a cross from Owusu-Abeyie.

The Blues won their first corner after eight minutes when a shot by Carsley took a big deflection off Kennedy, but the flag kick by McFadden presented Marshall with an easy catch.

Russell, once again playing up front, brought goalkeeper Taylor into action when he latched onto a miscue from Murphy and got the wrong side of Martin Taylor to send in a shot from a tight angle. Taylor's save gave the Canaries a corner, but nothing came of it, although they stayed on the attack and there were rather optimistic appeals for a penalty when Lupoli went down under challenge from Larsson.

Norwich then fashioned a neat four-man move on the left and as Bertrand's cross was only partially cleared, Fotheringham let fly but his shot struck Pattison on the back and Birmingham were able to clear.

It was a very warm afternoon but a bright start to the contest and an attempted through-ball from Clingan was only just too strong for Russell.

Lupoli made an impressive burst down the right in the next attack and his low cross was fumbled by keeper Taylor, but he managed to grab the ball at the second attempt, although possibly with an assist from Parnaby which could have been seen as a back pass.

There was an angry reaction from the home crowd when Lupoli was penalised for pulling back Parnaby as they chased a long ball down the Norwich left.

The Canaries were having much the better of things and a through-ball by Stefanovic brought keeper Taylor racing out to clear as Russell closed in.

Another good move ended with Bertrand bringing the keeper into action again with a low shot across the face of the goal, but the flag was up for offside.

A terrible pass out of defence by Martin Taylor went straight to Fotheringham, but his attempt to find Lupoli with a first time ball was cut out. Still Norwich pressed and a foul by Ridgewell on Lupoli gave them a free-kick midway into the Birmingham half. The ball was tapped to Pattison, but his left foot shot was a poor one and was easily blocked.

At the other end a collision between Stefanovic and Parnaby ended with the Birmingham man crashing into an advertising board, but he seemed none the worse for it.

An excellent pass from Stefanovic sent Bertrand racing away and his low cross was met with a first time shot by Lupoli which was only just wide of the keeper's right hand post.

Otsemobor and Pattison then combined in a promising raid on the right hand side, but Martin Taylor was in the right place to cut out the midfielder's cross.

The big defender then conceded a corner as he cut out a pass from Lupoli, but Fotheringham's flag kick was cleared as far as Stefanovic and his cross, following up, drifted out of play.

An excellent ball from Russell almost gave Lupoli another sight of goal, but the keeper was there first again to hack clear.

Otsemobor made another surge forward but his momentum was checked by Murphy and the ball ran away from him.

A free-kick from the halfway line by Ridgewell took Birmingham down to the right corner flag, where they won a throw-in but the move that followed ended with a very poor shot from Phillips, fired high into the crowd, and the leaders had still not really threatened the Canaries with 10 minutes left in the opening half.

Stefanovic had not put a foot wrong up to now and he was well placed once again to cut out a low centre from McFadden as the visitors tried to find a way through.

A foul by Larsson on Hoolahan gave the Canaries another free-kick about eight yards outside the penalty area. Fotheringham took it direct but his curling right foot shot was cleanly caught by keeper Taylor.

The Blues then won a free-kick of their own five-yards outside the Norwich area and, much against the run of play, they took the lead.

It was the simplest of goals as McFadden curled the free-kick into the Norwich area and Larsson arrowed a header past Marshall.

Lupoli shot narrowly wide as the Canaries looked for an immediate reply and they were certainly unfortunate to be behind on the run of play.

A foul by Ridgewell on Russell earned him a word from referee Moss and gave Norwich another free-kick but they wasted the opportunity when the ball was fed to Hoolahan and he picked out Bertrand, whose cross to the near post was an easy one for the keeper to deal with.

Goal scorer Larsson earned a ticking off in the final minute of the half for a foul on Bertrand but the official had yet to produce a yellow card.

t Half-time: Norwich City 0, Birmingham City 1

Birmingham made a change at the interval when striker Bent was sent on in place of Owusu-Abeyie but it was the Canaries who made the perfect start to the half when they equalised through Russell.

The goal came less than a minute after the restart as Lupoli made an excellent run down the left and into the Birmingham area and the ball ran into Russell's path, where he swept it home left footed.

The goal was well-deserved, for the Canaries were worth better than going in a goal down at half-time.

Norwich were knocking the ball around confidently and with the home crowd in good voice, the next attack was foiled only by the offside flag as Lupoli challenged for a cross from Pattison.

At the other end, Kennedy did superbly to cut out a cross from McFadden as Birmingham counterattacked.

Back came Norwich and Pattison teed up Otsemobor for a cross that was only just too high for Lupoli.

Hoolahan was having a much better afternoon than at Cardiff and, from just inside the Birmingham half, he floated a through-ball towards Russell, forcing keeper Taylor to race out and beat the goal scorer to the ball.

The referee finally produced the yellow card after 58 minutes for Kennedy's tackle on McFadden and while Birmingham were waiting to take the free-kick, 10-yards into the Norwich half, Roeder made his first change.

Lupoli was the man to make way for last season's top scorer, Cureton.

The Canaries earned a free-kick when Agustien fouled Hoolahan 10-yards inside the Birmingham half but they were over elaborate and the Blues counterattacked with Stefanovic conceding a corner by cutting out a cross from McFadden.

Larsson took the corner and Martin Taylor won the second header but Pattison was well placed to hammer the ball clear.

Fotheringham fouled fellow Scot McFadden to give the Blues a free-kick on halfway, Murphy taking it but over-hitting it, enabling Stefanovic to tidy up.

Bent's Ipswich connections earned him plenty of jeers from the home crowd and when he fired high over the top after a one-two with Phillips, they were not slow to tell him what they felt about his effort.

There was a double change midway through the half when Croft replaced Pattison and the visitors sent on McSheffrey for Agustien.

McSheffrey's first involvement earned Birmingham a corner when his shot from just outside the area was deflected behind, but Norwich were soon on the attack again and Larsson was shown the yellow card for stopping Croft in full flight.

With 18 minutes to go, Cureton did well to win a corner by knocking the ball out off Martin Taylor, but Fotheringham's flag kick was a poor one, Russell latching onto the clearance and floating in a cross that the keeper gathered under pressure.

A couple of promising openings for the Canaries were spoiled by poor crosses from Croft but they were certainly giving it everything to try to go ahead in a game for the first time this season.

An excellent run by Larsson looked to have put Bent in the clear after 77 minutes, but the offside flag came to Norwich's rescue.

There was a hold up after Russell suffered a bang on the back of the head and both sides took the opportunity to have a quick drink but the stand-in striker was able to resume after a swift inspection by the physio.

Russell was doing an excellent job in his unfamiliar role and a headed flick towards Cureton forced Martin Taylor to concede a throw, five-yards from the corner flag. From the throw, Otsemobor lobbed in a cross which Cureton met with a header that only just cleared the bar.

Though Norwich had enjoyed much more of the attacking play, it was still anybody's game going into the final 10 minutes.

A free-kick by Otsemobor almost provided the breakthrough with Kennedy glancing a header wide when Stefanovic, behind him, may just have been better placed.

A slip by Murphy enabled Croft to send Russell away but after cutting inside, he produced a rather tame shot straight at the keeper.

McSheffrey fired well over the top as the visitors broke forward.

With less that two minutes left, McSheffrey missed a golden chance to give Birmingham the lead when Bent knocked down a Larsson cross into his path but he somehow lifted his effort over the top.

Then, in a dramatic finish, Marshall produced an outstanding save to deny Phillips after McSheffrey had rolled the ball into his path.

The visitors had squandered two great opportunities to snatch victory and Marshall was brought into action again in stoppage time, grabbing a header from Bent.

Russell was booked in time added on for dissent.

t Result: Norwich City 1, Birmingham City 1

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