Plymouth 3, Norwich 0

DAVID CUFFLEY Norwich City's plight at the bottom of the Championship became more desperate when they slumped to their biggest defeat of the season at the hands of Plymouth Argyle.A 3-0 reverse at Home Park left the Canaries with just nine points from their first 16 league matches and gives new manager Glenn Roeder a huge task in reviving their fortunes as they go into a fortnight's break.

DAVID CUFFLEY

Norwich City's plight at the bottom of the Championship became more desperate when they slumped to their biggest defeat of the season at the hands of Plymouth Argyle.

A 3-0 reverse at Home Park left the Canaries with just nine points from their first 16 league matches and gives new manager Glenn Roeder a huge task in reviving their fortunes as they go into a fortnight's break.

Lee Martin gave Plymouth the lead after 15 minutes with an overhead kick following a long throw by Paul Connolly.


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Two goals in two minutes early in the second half finished off the game as a contest, Connolly heading home from a cross by Martin and then David Norris thumping home the third.

Both Darel Russell and Jamie Cureton struck the woodwork for the Canaries after the break but it was far too little, too late and another depressing afternoon for more than 500 travelling fans.

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City's cause was not helped by the loss of on loan defender Martin Taylor with injury in the first half.

It was Norwich's seventh successive away defeat in the league and they have not taken a point on their travels since the goalless draw at Preston on the opening day of the season.

City boss Roeder made four changes to the starting line-up for the game at Home Park.

Out from the 11 who started Tuesday's 3-1 home defeat by Watford were striker John Hartson, who has returned to West Bromwich Albion, and injured winger Luke Chadwick, while midfield pair Jimmy Smith and Julien Brellier were relegated to the bench.

Into the side came winger Lee Croft, striker Chris Martin, midfielder Michael Spillane and utility man Ian Murray.

Dion Dublin was still missing with a hamstring problem.

Plymouth, who drew 1-1 at Colchester on Tuesday night, showed one change to their 11. Hungarian midfielder Peter Halmosi returned in place of Nadjim Abdou, who was named among the substitutes.

Manager Ian Holloway decided not to include a goalkeeper on the bench.

City kicked off with Lappin at left-back and Murray given the wide left role and the unenviable job of replacing the suspended Huckerby.

There was an early touch for Marshall as he sliced his first clearance into touch.

The Canaries mounted their first attack down the right but Croft was penalised for a foul on Hodges and as Plymouth pushed forward they won their first corner, conceded by Shackell.

Taylor headed clear from the inswinging corner to concede another and the hosts in fact forced a third flag-kick, which reached Norris, whose powerful shot was blocked by Shackell.

With five minutes gone, referee Drysdale produced the first yellow card of the afternoon when Timar fouled Cureton. The resulting free-kick was tapped sideways to Otsemobor, whose powerful right-foot drive was not too far over the top.

As Plymouth attacked again, Nalis crossed from the right and Ebanks-Blake tried an ambitious back-heel volley which Marshall was well placed to collect.

Croft earned City's first corner after seven minutes, but Lappin's kick was easily cleared.

With just 10 minutes gone Plymouth forced two more corners, Halmosi taking the first and Martin the second, but neither caused any problems and Halmosi spoiled a promising move moments later when his attempted cross went out of play behind Marshall's goal.

Argyle won a free-kick midway into the Norwich half when Spillane fouled Hayles, but the dead-ball effort by Connolly was headed clear by Taylor.

As Norwich broke, Plymouth keeper Larrieu was a shade fortunate when his attempted clearance was charged down by Cureton but the ball went out for a goal-kick rather than into the danger area.

Plymouth produce their best effort after 15 minutes when Martin shot through a group of players from the edge of the area and Marshall parried his effort with Hayles, following up, putting the rebound wide.

Another in-swinging corner from Halmosi was headed clear by Taylor but Plymouth were still on the offensive and a fine cross by Martin was headed over the top by Ebanks-Blake after 18 minutes when he might have done better.

There was a narrow escape for City when a cross by Halmosi reached Ebanks-Blake at the near post and his back-heel struck Marshall on the line before Lappin was able to usher the ball to safety.

Marshall was almost in trouble again when he tried to deal with a back pass from Taylor and only just managed to clear under pressure from Hayles.

With 25 minutes gone, Plymouth moved into the lead with a well-taken goal by Martin. A long throw from the right touchline by Connelly posed problems for the City defence as Shackell jumped to try to head clear but the ball dropped for Martin, who produced a neat overhead kick from about eight-yards out to beat Marshall.

With nearly half an hour gone, Russell was shown the yellow card for a tackle from behind on Nalis midway into the Plymouth half.

There was more trouble for City when Norris hooked a cross into the six-yard box and Shackell had to be alert to get ahead of Hayles and knock the ball clear.

It had been a fairly uninspiring performance from City so far and apart from Otsemobor's free-kick effort, they had not produced a single attempt on goal.

Marshall jumped well to gather a cross from Connolly as Plymouth threatened again but there was immediately a break in play because Taylor was clearly in trouble. Moments later, the on loan defender hobbled off, accompanied by physio Reynolds and Brellier came on as substitute, with Spillane switching to the centre of defence.

A foul by Murray gave Plymouth a free-kick on the right, Martin taking it and Seip getting ahead of the defenders but heading just wide.

There was a moment of near disaster for City after 36 minutes when an attempted back pass by Lappin fell terribly short of Marshall and Hayles went round the keeper but could only hit the side netting with his shot from a narrow angle.

There were appeals for hand-ball from the visitors when a centre from Croft was cut out by Hodges but they were awarded only a corner and Lappin's kick was easily gathered by Larrieu at the near-post.

City were having trouble dealing with Connolly's long throws and another one bounced awkwardly in the six-yard box, Russell getting his head to it before Marshall was able to grab it.

A cross field ball by Russell found Croft in space on the right and he managed to tuck inside but his left-foot shot was a weak one and Larrieu collected it comfortably by his left-hand post.

At the other end, Spillane made a timely interception from a cross by Hayles as the hosts created another opening.

A foul by Brellier gave Plymouth a free-kick in stoppage time at the end of the half, but Martin wasted the dead-ball opportunity by curling it straight out of play.

Half-time: Plymouth 1, Norwich 0.

City made their second change at the interval with Brown coming on in place of Martin, who had had a fairly quiet first half.

The first shot of the second period came from Plymouth but Halmosi was well off target.

Things went from bad to worse when the Canaries went two goals down less than two minutes into the second half.

It was the same combination that produced the opening goal, only this time it was Martin who crossed from the right for the unmarked Connolly to head home, the fullback's first goal for the club.

Two minutes later, the game was as good as over when Plymouth added a third through Norris. Hodges set the move in motion with a long ball down the left, which evaded Spillane and Ebanks-Blake pulled the ball back for Norris to fire home with a powerful rising drive.

Six minutes into the half, Norwich at last produced a worthwhile effort when Russell let fly from 25-yards and his venomous shot crashed against the crossbar.

Croft wasted a dead-ball opportunity moments later when his free-kick drifted straight out of play.

The home side wasted a glorious chance to make it 4-0 in their next attack when a mix-up between Spillane and Otsemobor left Hayles in the clear and he crossed to Ebanks-Blake but his striking partner fired high over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Plymouth really had their tails up now and after Shackell was booked for a clumsy challenge on Ebanks-Blake, Norris brought Marshall into action with a low left-foot shot from the edge of the area.

Brown was suddenly getting into the action and after going close with a header from a Lappin corner, he headed wide again from an Otsemobor cross.

Norwich had forced three corners since going 3-0 down in a desperate attempt to claw their way back into the game but it was all rather too late and the home side still threatened to stretch their lead, Marshall saving again from Halmosi.

With less than half an hour to go, the Canaries forced their sixth corner of the match but Lappin's kick fell beyond the far post and despite some neat juggling by Brellier, he was unable to get the ball back into the danger area.

As the attendance was announced, it was confirmed that some 566 city fans had made the 700 mile plus return journey to Home Park but in a repeat of last season's awful display, they had been given very little reward for all their trouble.

With just over a quarter of the match remaining, the home side made their first change with Easter replacing skipper Hayles and Nalis taking the captain's armband.

A foul by Spillane on Ebanks-Blake gave Plymouth a free-kick in a dangerous position on the left but Halmosi's cross was cut out by Shackell and City were able to prevent any further damage to the scoreline.

There were half-hearted appeals for a penalty after 73 minutes when Martin went down under challenge from Shackell, but the referee was unimpressed.

Russell tried another long-range effort as City counterattacked but this time it finished up among the visiting fans behind Larrieu's goal.

Brellier earned a ticking off from the official for a foul on Martin, and the resulting free-kick almost brought the fourth goal.

City were rescued by the offside flag as Timar headed home from the dead-ball kick from Martin.

With 12 minutes to go, Roeder made his final change when Strihavka came on in place of Croft.

As the game entered the final 10 minutes, there was precious little time of any sort of fight back from Norwich and Easter was only inches away from getting on the end of a Halmosi cross.

Plymouth made another change with seven minute left when Abdou replaced Nalis.

Brellier was next to be shown the yellow card for a foul on Easter and there was a bit of a shoving match between the two players before the referee stepped in.

The resulting free-kick was taken by Martin but was easy for Marshall to collect.

There were just five minutes to go when the home side made their final change with Gosling replacing Hodges.

With little more than a minute to go Cureton almost pulled a goal back when he struck a post with Russell, following up, firing the rebound well wide.

Lappin curled a free-kick over the top as the seconds ticked away.

Result: Plymouth Argyle 3, Norwich City 0

Plymouth: Larrieu, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Hodges, Martin, Norris, Nalis, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Hayles. Subs: Doumbe, Fallon, Gosling, Abdou, Easter.

Norwich: Marshall, Otsemobor, Taylor, Shackell, Lappin, Croft, Russell, Spillane, Murray, Martin, Cureton. Subs: Gilks, Brellier, Brown, Smith, Strihavka.

Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire)

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