Photo Gallery: Seventh heaven for Morison and Norwich City
QPR 1, Norwich City 2: Striker Steve Morison kicked off Norwich City’s new year in style when he came off the bench to score the goal that clinched their first Premier League double of the season.
Morison’s seventh goal of the campaign came seven minutes from time in a game marred by controversy when Queens Park Rangers skipper Joey Barton, who had given his side an 11th-minute lead, was shown the red card by referee Neil Swarbrick nine minutes before half-time for an apparent head butt on City’s Bradley Johnson.
With Rangers reduced to 10 men, it tilted the balance in favour of Paul Lambert’s men, who hit back three minutes before the break when Anthony Pilkington struck a splendid equaliser.
Three changes with 25 minutes to go gave the Canaries fresh legs as they went for the three points by playing just three men at the back, and it paid off in the 83rd minute when two of the new faces were involved in the winning goal, Morison firing home after Elliott Bennett knocked back Pilkington’s cross.
It meant City had taken all six points from the team promoted with them as champions last May, with Rangers’ poor run extended to eight games without a win.
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There were a few surprises on the teamsheet as Lambert made five changes with Simon Lappin making his first Premier League appearance, Adam Drury recalled at left-back, and the three substitutes used in the 1-1 draw with Fulham, Grant Holt, Simeon Jackson and Bennett, all back in the starting line-up.
Kyle Naughton, David Fox, Andrew Surman, Wes Hoolahan and Morison were all left on the bench, with no place in the 18 for Leon Barnett or Andrew Crofts, who was suffering from a bug.
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City began much the brighter of the two sides with Pilkington prominent and one powerful run took him to the edge of the Rangers area before he was stopped in his tracks by Hill.
But it was the hosts who took the lead in the 11th minute with their first shot, an excellent finish by Barton. Clint Hill found space on the left and crossed into the box where Barton struck it first time past goalkeeper John Ruddy.
Midway through the half, Johnson headed over from Lappin’s free-kick but the Canaries’ bright start had lost its momentum.
Jackson had an awkward chance to level after 32 minutes when Bennett crossed from inside the area, but the striker caught the ball on the bounce and could only knock it wide.
A fairly uneventful contest suddenly boiled over nine minutes before the break when goalscorer Barton was sent off for what appeared to be a head butt as he and Johnson squared up.
The incident sparked angry scenes between groups of players on both sides and more heated debate on the touchline, but when the hubbub died down, referee Swarbrick walked over to Barton and produced the red card.
Three minutes before half-time, City were on terms with the 10 men of Rangers when Pilkington struck a superb equaliser, hitting a left-foot shot inside Paddy Kenny’s left-hand post from just outside the area for his fifth goal of the season.
In first half stoppage time, Heidar Helguson was booked for a foul on Drury as the home crowd became increasingly irate with the officials.
Rangers replaced Jamie Mackie with Shaun Wright-Phillips at the break and the winger tested Ruddy in the opening seconds of the half, before setting up Adel Taarabt for a decent chance that he stabbed wide.
Daniel Ayala was booked in the process of conceding a free-kick on the edge of the area, John Ruddy diving to his right to push away Taarabt’s effort.
As City hit back, Bennett forced Kenny to save, diving to his right.
Whitbread produced a diving header to divert Alejandro Faurlin’s shot wide.
There was a triple change for City after 66 minutes when Fox, Morison and Hoolahan replaced Drury, Holt and Lappin, the formation switching to three at the back in an attempt to force victory.
Faurlin sent another powerful effort just off target for Rangers, however, before City broke and Hoolahan headed straight at Kenny from Pilkington’s cross.
It was anyone’s game with 15 minutes to go and the excellent Ayala made one very timely interception to cut out Taarabt’s cross after he had jinked his way past Whitbread.
Ten minutes remained when eleventh hour loan signing Federico Macheda replaced Helguson for Rangers.
But with seven minutes left, it was City who sealed the points as Pilkington’s cross from the left was knocked back at the far post by Bennett for Morison to drill home from about eight yards.
The home side made their last change, in vain, as D J Campbell was sent on for Taarabt, but it was City’s 3,000-plus fans who were singing as they headed out into the Shepherds Bush streets.