Norwich City 1, Coventry City 2
David Cuffley Norwich City's relegation plight looked increasingly desperate after they crashed to another home defeat at the hands of in-form Coventry City.Defeat for the Canaries left them second from bottom of the Championship table after Southampton's victory over Cardiff and Bryan Gunn's team have now gone seven matches without a win.
Norwich City's relegation plight looked increasingly desperate after they crashed to another home defeat at the hands of in-form Coventry City.
Defeat for the Canaries left them second from bottom of the Championship table after Southampton's victory over Cardiff and Bryan Gunn's team have now gone seven matches without a win.
Other results went very badly for Norwich, too, with surprise victories for fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest at Reading and for Plymouth at Wolves, while Barnsley and Watford won at home and even bottom club Charlton secured a point at Swansea.
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The Canaries fell behind after 19 minutes when Jordan Henderson fired home from a cross by former Norwich winger David Bell.
Jamie Cureton missed a golden chance to level the scores early in the second half before defender Jonathan Grounds scored the equaliser after 53 minutes, his third goal in six matches, when he fired in a low drive after Coventry goalkeeper Keiren Westwood had parried a header from Jason Shackell.
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The decisive goal, however, came after 73 minutes when Daniel Fox curled in a superb left-foot shot off the post.
The Canaries had a couple of good penalty claims denied in a frantic second half, most notably when Stephen Wright clearly handled a cross from Lee Croft.
But it was another grim afternoon for a big crowd at Carrow Road, with their team now facing successive away games at Queen's Park Rangers and Blackpool.
City boss Gunn relied on the same starting 11 as in last week's 1-1 draw against Burnley.
There was just one change to the Norwich 16 with on loan striker Alan Gow, who had recovered from a thigh injury, replacing Chris Killen on the bench.
Striker Jamie Cureton was making his 100th appearance for City, more than 14 years after his debut as a 19-year-old.
Coventry manager Chris Coleman made three changes to the 11 who began the FA Cup replay victory over Blackburn on Tuesday.
Skipper Scott Dann returned in the centre of defence in place of Ben Turner, suffering from a tight hamstring.
Winger David Bell, sold by the Canaries to Coventry in the January transfer window, was recalled after being cup-tied in midweek at the expense of Freddy Eastwood.
There was a third change in midfield with Guillaume Beuzelin replacing Michael Doyle. Both Eastwood and Doyle were among the substitutes, as was former Norwich goalkeeper Andy Marshall.
Ex-City striker Leon McKenzie was not able to face his old club after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in last week's win over Birmingham.
Coventry, wearing an unfamiliar all black strip, kicked off, defending the Barclay goal. They won an early free-kick when Fotheringham fouled Henderson and Fox floated the kick towards the six-yard box, where Doherty was able to clear.
Norwich broke quickly through Croft and when his cross was cleared to the far side of the area, Hoolahan returned it into the danger zone but Fotheringham was unable to make clean contact with a left foot shot and the visitors were able to get the ball away.
With four minutes gone, Croft did well to rob the hesitate Bell and let fly with a right foot shot from outside the area, but he was feet wide of the target.
In the seventh minute, Gunnarsson showed some neat footwork to get the better of Fotheringham just inside the Norwich half and advanced before striking a powerful right foot shot which had Marshall diving to his right but which flashed narrowly wide without the keeper getting a touch.
Norwich produced a neat passing movement in the Coventry half which ended with a one-two between Fotheringham and Hoolahan, with the skipper's shot being blocked. But as they continued to press, a determined run by Hoolahan set up Cort for a right foot shot which was deflected narrowly wide for the first corner of the match. Clingan took it but curled the ball straight into the hands of keeper Westwood.
At the other end, a foul by Croft gave the visitors a free-kick wide on the left and Bell was not too far away from opening the scoring with a header from Henderson's kick which drifted just across the face of the goal.
A clearance from Ward gave Norwich their second corner in the 14th minute, Clingan this time taking it short and when the ball reached Fotheringham inside the penalty area, he went down under challenge from Beuzelin but despite his protests, referee Taylor was unimpressed.
A free-kick from the halfway line by Otsemobor was headed back across goal by Doherty as the hosts threatened again, but this time Ward was able to hook the ball away.
Every touch by Bell was being booed by sections of the home crowd but he was very busy in the early stages. Coventry won their first corner when Shackell got back to tackle Best, who was wearing a face mask to protect a fractured cheekbone.
The resulting corner was cleared by Clingan but Coventry continued to press and after 19 minutes they took the lead through Henderson.
Best found Bell on the left side of the Norwich area and he had enough space and time to supply the cross for Henderson to finish with a well placed side foot effort.
Within two minutes, Norwich had a half chance to get back on terms when Hoolahan played an excellent through ball towards Cureton, but Ward got back to rob him on the edge of the area with a timely challenge.
Encouraged by the goal, Coventry forced two corners in quick succession, both conceded by Shackell. The first came when he tackled Best and the second when he blocked a shot from Henderson. From the second kick, Marshall had to tip the ball away from under the bar, giving Coventry yet another flag kick.
It came to nothing, but the Canaries were pegged in their own half at this stage and Coventry had another dead ball opportunity when Clingan fouled Beuzelin. Cort got up to head clear from the free-kick by Fox and Norwich eventually broke through Croft, who in turn found Fotheringham, but when the skipper tried to pick out Cureton in the penalty area the pass was intercepted and the attack broke down.
There was a delay soon afterwards when Morrison came off worst in a clash with Doherty, with both sides taking the chance for a drinks break. Morrison limped to the touchline in his bright red boots, but was able to return to the action when play got underway again.
Shackell was the next man in the wars and was left hobbling by a late challenge by Best.
The home crowd's frustration was summed up when Cort was penalised by referee Taylor for backing into Coventry skipper Dann as he jumped for the free-kick from Marshall.
With half an hour gone, Norwich had not created any real clear cut opportunities and when Hoolahan dropped a cross onto the toe of Cureton inside the penalty area, the flag went up for offside.
Coventry still looked dangerous going forward and when Best played a one-two with Morrison, it took a timely interception by Doherty to deny him room for a shot. Norwich broke immediately through Croft and his centre found the head of Cort, but the big striker was unable to direct his effort on target.
Cureton needed attention after a bang on the head when he jumped for a ball alongside Wright but he too was able to resume after treatment.
With 10 minutes to go to the break, the Canaries were awarded a free-kick 10-yards outside the penalty area when Dann fouled Cort. Clingan tried to find Hoolahan with a short pass into the area but his path was blocked at the expense of a throw in and Coventry were soon back in possession.
Coventry won their sixth corner when Best's attempt to cross was diverted behind. Fox took the kick but Marshall jumped to make a confident catch. The Canaries quickly broke and won a corner at the other end when Fox cut out a centre from Croft. Hoolahan's kick was punched clear by Westwood as far as Clingan, who let fly from just outside the area, only for his shot to be blocked by goal scorer Henderson.
With three minutes remaining before the break, the visitors were awarded a free-kick on the corner of the penalty area, Fox curling it in for Shackell to head clear.
Hoolahan's persistence earned Norwich a corner when his cross was cut out by Gunnarsson, but it was not able to be taken quickly because the Icelandic midfielder went down injured in the penalty area, clutching his knee. There was very little sympathy from the home crowd and while Gunnarsson waited to return to the field after treatment, Shackell met Clingan's corner with a firm header, but straight at Westwood. It was as close as Norwich had come to a goal in the entire half.
With four minutes of time added on at the end of the half after several stoppages, there was still an opportunity for the Canaries to try to get on terms. They came very close when an excellent run by Hoolahan set up Croft, whose low cross was met by Fotheringham, at full stretch, but his shot was grabbed by the diving Westwood. The last action of the half saw Best head wide from another free-kick for the visitors.
Half-time: Norwich City 0, Coventry City 1
Neither side made any changes at the break and the Canaries put the first attacking move together when Cort found Croft on the right and his low centre reached Fotheringham, but the skipper's powerful shot was blocked at close range.
A foul by Croft gave Coventry a free-kick close to the left corner flag. Bell, barracked again by the crowd, took the kick and Best met it with a diving header which flashed wide.
Five minutes into the half, Cureton missed a glorious opportunity to mark his 100th game with a goal, to the despair of the home crowd. A superb ball by Croft sent Otsemobor away and the full back showed patience before rolling a centre into the six-yard box where Cureton completely miskicked and his harmless effort trickled wide of the target.
Trying to make amends, Cureton set up a shooting chance for Croft but his close range effort was blocked.
The Canaries produced a huge roar eight minutes into the half, however, when Grounds equalised with his third goal for the club. Clingan's corner from the left was met by a firm header from Shackell which Westwood acrobatically palmed away but the ball fell to Grounds, who drilled home a low left foot shot through a crowded goalmouth before setting off in celebration.
Carrow Road was suddenly a caldron of noise at last but as Coventry broke, Clingan was booked for bringing down Fox wide on the left. Bell took the free-kick but it was over hit and Norwich breathed again.
A determined run by Gunnarsson took him past Otsemobor moments later and he found Morrison, who turned and fired narrowly wide.
With an hour gone it was now an end to end contest and when Croft aimed a cross towards Cort at the far post, there were appeals for a penalty for handball against Wright, jumping alongside the big striker, but the referee was unimpressed.
Gunnarsson had angered the crowd more than once and he was lucky to escape a yellow card after a blatant dive midway into the Norwich half.
Gunnarsson was guilty again when he bundled over Hoolahan to concede a free-kick wide on the left. Clingan took it and Westwood jumped high to make the catch but the proceeded to drop the ball when he collided with Fox and Coventry were lucky to clear their lines.
Bell conceded another free-kick close to the right corner flag, Hoolahan playing a one-two with Clingan and squaring the ball to Cureton, who fired over the top with a first time shot.
Midway through the half, a superb run by Fox set up Morrison with a golden chance to restore Coventry's lead but his first time shot was brilliantly blocked Shackell. As play switched quickly to the other end, Croft won a corner and Clingan's kick was met by a volley by Hoolahan which was deflected wide for another flag kick this time Clingan's kick found Cort and the combination of Westwood and Bell managed to keep out the striker's header and give City yet another corner. This time Clingan's kick was cleared but Norwich were soon back on the attack with Cureton just unable to get on the end of a flick from Doherty.
Coventry still looked very dangerous on the break and Best squandered two good opportunities when the home defence was carved open, firing across the face of the goal on both occasions.
It was all action stuff and Doherty had to get back to deny Best another shooting chance with a last minute challenge, taking a bang on the head in the process.
Fox had been a constant menace to Norwich going forward and after 73 minutes, he restored his side's lead with a splendid goal. Taking possession on the right hand side of the Norwich area, he first twisted onto his left foot, then onto his right, then back onto his left again, shrugging off the attentions of Cort and curling in a left foot shot off the post.
Two minutes later, the Canaries had another penalty claim rejected when it appeared that Ward may have blocked Fotheringham's effort with his arm after good work by Cort and Hoolahan had set up the chance.
With 15 minutes to go City boss Gunn made his first change when teenager Daley was sent on in place of Cureton.
There was more anger from the crowd when Croft tried to find Daley with a fine through ball and the youngster appeared clearly to be held by Dann.
With 11 minutes to go there was another change when Russell replaced skipper Fotheringham, who handed the armband to Doherty before departing.
Dann was eventually shown the yellow card for bringing down Daley as he went in pursuit of a through ball from Hoolahan.
Doherty challenged for the resulting free-kick from Clingan, earning a corner in the process and when Clingan took the flag kick, Shackell powered a header just over the bar.
Substitute Russell was next to be shown the yellow card after 83 minutes for a late challenge on Beuzelin. Referee Taylor had sent Russell off twice in the last year and it had not taken him long to produce another card.
With six minutes to go, Bell was substituted and his replacement, Eastwood, was quick to test Marshall with a curling effort from outside the penalty area.
Coventry manager Coleman made another change with four minutes remaining when Simpson replaced Best.
Norwich won their ninth corner with three minutes to go but Clingan curled an in-swinging kick too close to Westwood and the keeper made a comfortable catch.
Goal scorer Grounds tried his luck from all of 40-yards as the seconds ticked away but this time he was well off target and the home fans had started to drift towards the exits by this stage. As the clock ticked past 90 minutes, the fourth official signalled an additional four minutes to be played for Norwich to try to salvage at least a point.
Eastwood had another crack at goal in the dying seconds but his effort was blocked by Otsemobor.
With virtually the last kick of the match, Morrison struck the crossbar for Coventry.
Result: Norwich City 1, Coventry City 2