Norwich City 2, Preston North End 2
David Cuffley Two minutes of madness late in the second half cost Norwich City dearly as they were forced to settle for a point from a lively contest with Preston North End.
Two minutes of madness late in the second half cost Norwich City dearly as they were forced to settle for a point from a lively contest with Preston North End.
Skipper Darel Russell was sent off 11 minutes from time and two minutes later, substitute Neil Mellor struck the equaliser that earned the visitors a 2-2 draw.
In an eventful match, Preston took the lead in only the second minute through ex-City striker Chris Brown.
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The Canaries were level after 14 minutes when David Bell, starting a home game for the first time curled in a corner for Leroy Lita to head home for his fifth goal for the club.
The excellent Bell also turned provider for City's second goal after 62 minutes when he curled a free-kick towards the far post, where defender John Kennedy touched it home.
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Glenn Roeder's men looked on course for their third home win in a row until Russell was dismissed for appearing to push Ross Wallace in the face. Referee Paul Taylor had also sent off Russell for two yellow cards at Coventry last season.
Mellor, the son of former Norwich winger Ian Mellor, struck the equaliser two minutes later after a pass from fellow substitute Richard Chaplow.
There was more bad news for Norwich with central defender Dejan Stefanovic stretchered off after just nine minutes.
City boss Roeder made four changes to the 11 who started last week's 2-0 defeat at Burnley.
Full back Elliott Omozusi was ruled out by a hamstring injury and was replaced by Jon Otsemobor. Roeder also left out three more of the side beaten 2-0 at Turf Moor with Gary Doherty relegated to the bench and Adam Drury and Mark Fotheringham left out of the 16 completely.
Dejan Stefanovic returned in the centre of defence in place of Doherty, Ryan Bertrand was recalled at left back in place of Drury and Antoine Sibierski returned in attack after injury, with Darel Russell dropping to midfield at the expense of Fotheringham.
City did not have a goalkeeper on the bench, where Wes Hoolahan and Arturo Lupoli returned alongside Matty Pattison and Jamie Cureton.
Former City striker Chris Brown was back in the Preston side as one of two changes after last week's 3-2 home defeat by Southampton.
Brown, who had appeared just four times this season because of an ankle injury and a bout of sciatica, was preferred to Jon Parkin up front, while Callum Davidson returned at left back.
Before kick off, striker Leroy Lita received the player of the month award for October, and there was a bit of a buzz in the Jarrold Stand when former City star Darren Huckerby took his seat to watch the match, having returned from his spell in America.
City kicked off, defending the Barclay goal, but they made a disastrous start and were a goal down in less than two minutes. Ironically, it was Chris Brown, who never scored at Carrow Road during his time with Norwich, who gave the visitors the lead after a horrible mix up in the six-yard box.
McKenna floated a cross towards Nicholson and as he challenged goalkeeper Marshall, the ball ran loose for Otsemobor to clear off the line, but Brown, following up, rattled in the loose ball to give his side the lead.
As the Canaries tried to reply, Sibierski tried to find Croft on the right but the winger eventually ran the ball out of play.
Preston attacked again and a good pass from Chris Brown set up Elliott for a right foot shot from the edge of the area, but Marshall was right behind it.
There was bad news for City in only the ninth minute when Stefanovic went down in the centre circle after challenging Elliott. A stretcher was called for and Stefanovic was carried from the pitch after a short delay with his left leg in a brace. He was replaced at the back by Doherty.
It was a nervous start by City and there was another moment of alarm when Marshall raced out to beat Elliott to a long through ball but slammed his clearance straight into Kennedy and they were fortunate the rebound did not fall to a Preston player.
At the other end, a neat turn by Sibierski almost provided Lita with his first chance of the afternoon but Davidson was alert and came across to cover.
In the 14th minute, the Canaries won their first corner when Bell's cross was cleared by Wayne Brown and it produced a timely equaliser.
Bell took the flag kick from the left hand side and Lita rose unchallenged to head home for his fifth goal for the club.
Bell was in the action again one minute later when he flashed a right foot shot just past the post after a determined run.
A foul by Russell on McKenna gave Preston a free-kick halfway inside their own half and as Lonergan powered the ball into the City half, it was knocked on for Wallace to test Marshall with a well struck volley.
An excellent piece of defensive work by Doherty earned applause moments later when he guided the ball back to Marshall with a header, under pressure from Elliott.
A neat move involving Bell and Bertrand ended when Sibierski won City's second corner. Bell took it again, but this time Wayne Brown managed to head clear.
The Canaries missed a couple of opportunities to cash in when Clingan sliced a shot way off target from the edge of the area and then Croft did well to rob Davidson but then sent a miscued centre soaring into the heavens.
They then won a free-kick on the edge of the area when Lita was fouled by Wayne Brown, but Bell's dead ball effort was deflected out for a corner. That corner came to nothing but they had another soon afterwards when Croft's centre was cut out by McKenna, sparking appeals for hand ball. Instead, referee Taylor gave a flag kick, again taken by Bell, but Preston were able to clear once again.
Bell was involved in everything at this stage and after testing Lonergan with a teasing cross, he produced a well directed header into the path of Lita, whose powerful left foot shot was well blocked by Lonergan when he looked set to make it 2-1.
With half an hour gone, Norwich produced the best sequence of play of the match with Bertrand and Bell exchanging passes twice before Bertrand struck the cross bar with a curling right foot shot and Croft, following up, fired narrowly wide across the face of the goal.
There was another delay when Sibierski went down in the centre circle clutching his right knee after a challenge by Chris Brown and the Frenchman needed attention before the game could resume.
Sibierski was able to resume soon afterwards, although he was still hobbling a little.
There was a narrow escape for Preston after 36 minutes when Sibierski's header sent Lita away and when the striker crossed from the right, Davidson, attempting to clear, sliced the ball dangerously across his own goal and out for Norwich's fifth corner. Bell took it, but the referee spotted an infringement as the ball came over.
A foul by McKenna on Croft gave City a free-kick wide on the right and the Preston skipper earned a ticking off from the referee, but Bell's dead ball kick was just too strong for Kennedy, coming in at the far post.
City were certainly on top and Lonergan had to go at full stretch to gather a cross from Otsemobor after Croft had picked out the overlapping full back.
City were getting plenty of free-kicks and Jones conceded another 10-yards into the Preston half, but Otsemobor floated his dead ball effort harmlessly into the hands of Lonergan.
In the final minute of the half, Kennedy cut out a cross from Nicholson and as City swiftly counterattacked, they won a throw in by the left corner flag, which then became a corner when Bertrand's attempted cross was cut out. Bell's corner was a poor one this time and Davidson was able to head clear.
In first half stoppage time, Lita was off target with an overhead kick from a cross by Clingan.
Another dangerous cross by Bell was headed over by Wayne Brown for Norwich's seventh corner, which Bell took, and which was acrobatically caught by Lonergan.
Before the interval, City made another change with Cureton replacing the hobbling Sibierski.
t Half-time: Norwich City 1, Preston North End 1
In the first minute of the second half, Cureton almost played Lita through in the Preston area but St Ledger came across to cover and Lita was penalised for a foul close to the corner flag.
Some excellent work by Russell, as he moved onto a pass from Bell, enabled him to send Croft away on the right but the winger was unable to cash in when his attempted cross struck the back of Davidson.
A foul by Russell on Chris Brown gave Preston a free-kick on the halfway line and St Ledger aimed it towards the big striker but his flick drifted out for a goal kick.
As City attacked again, Cureton got his head to a cross from Lita, but his glancing effort was drifting wide before Preston were able to knock it clear.
The visitors won their first corner 11 minutes into the half, but Wallace produced an in-swinger which was an easy catch for Marshall.
The home crowd were angry when Bell showed brilliant control to bring down a clearance from Bertrand and appeared to keep the ball in play, only for the referee to signal a throw in to Preston.
Bell was having an outstanding match and he tested Lonergan with a powerful shot after turning Nicholson inside out.
The visitors made their first change after 59 minutes when Mellor, the son of a former Norwich winger, was sent on in place of Elliott. Mellor quickly won a corner and was the worse for wear after colliding with an advertising board, but Nicholson's kick was a poor one and City easily cleared.
The Canaries made a hash of a short corner routine as they attacked again, but the home crowd were cheering again after 62 minutes when centre half Kennedy gave them the lead with his second goal in three games. Bell curled a free-kick towards the far post and Kennedy raced in behind everyone to meet the ball with a right foot volley which Lonergan could only help into the net.
A free-kick by Wallace produced a scramble in the City goalmouth as Preston looked for a quick equaliser, but City were able to clear their lines.
The visitors then made a double change with Chaplow sent on in place of Nicholson and at the same time Sedgwick was sent on for St Ledger .
Midway through the half, a flowing move almost paid dividends for City when Croft sped away and fed Otsemobor but when the full back looked well placed to shoot, he instead opted for a cross, which fell behind Cureton and the chance was gone.
There was another opening when Cureton did well to turn inside Mawene on the edge of the area but delayed his shot and instead tried to find Croft with a cross which was just out of the winger's reach.
Bell's excellent afternoon was slightly spoiled when he was shown the yellow card for a foul on Jones.
The visitors were still battling and they forced a couple of corners in quick succession, while Wayne Brown was over the top with a header from a cross by Wallace as the big defender got the better of Marshall.
Kennedy conceded another corner with a timely tackle, but Sedgwick's kick did not get beyond the near post.
With a quarter of an hour left Roeder made his final change when Pattison replaced Croft and took up a wide right position.
Lita was next to earn a booking when he blazed a shot into the crowd at the Barclay End after the official had clearly blown up.
There was a dramatic turn of events with 11 minutes left when the City skipper was shown the red card for an incident involving Wallace. Wallace appeared to be trying to get the ball from Russell after a stoppage in play and as the City man brushed him aside, referee Taylor produced the red card for what may have been a push in the face, but no more. Taylor had sent off Russell for two yellow cards when the Canaries played at Coventry last March.
Things became worse for City in the 81st minute when substitute Mellor levelled the score. Fellow substitute Chaplow delivered a telling pass and Mellor beat Marshall with a well struck right foot shot.
From appearing to be in control of the game, City, reduced to 10 men, faced a difficult last few minutes.
They almost fell behind with six minutes to go when Chaplow robbed Clingan and slid a low cross along the six-yard line which just eluded Mellor.
The home crowd, already furious with referee Taylor, were angry again when Mawene appeared to impede Lita as he chased a long through ball but the official waved play on.
With three minutes to go, Marshall conceded a corner with an important save from Sedgwick as the visitors threatened to take all three points. From the resulting corner, Marshall was grateful to hang on to a header from Jones just under the crossbar.
t Result: Norwich City 2, Preston North End 2
t Attendance: 23,225