Preston 1, Norwich City 0
David Cuffley A goal by Preston striker Jon Parkin sent Norwich City deeper into relegation trouble when he struck four minutes before half-time at Deepdale. Parkin grabbed his fifth goal of the season when he fired a low shot in off the post after City struggled to deal with a free-kick by Barry Nicholson.
A goal by Preston striker Jon Parkin sent Norwich City deeper into relegation trouble when he struck four minutes before half-time at Deepdale.
Parkin grabbed his fifth goal of the season when he fired a low shot in off the post after City struggled to deal with a free-kick by Barry Nicholson.
The Canaries worked hard against the promotion hopefuls but seldom threatened to get back on terms after the break with substitutes David Carney and Chris Killen both having close-range efforts blocked in the closing stages.
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The result leaves Bryan Gunn's team desperately needing to gather some points from successive home games against Burnley and Coventry to try to dig their way out of an increasingly difficult position in the Championship table.
Defender Jason Shackell was back in the Norwich side after returning from Wolves on loan and was one of the better performers, although he narrowly escaped a red card for a foul on Parkin in the dying minutes.
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City showed three changes to the starting 11 from last week's 2-1 home defeat by Bristol City.
Jason Shackell, who rejoined the club this week on loan from Wolves for the rest of the season, went straight into the defence while Mark Fotheringham was back in midfield as skipper after playing the whole of the second half last week.
Alan Gow was given his first start since his arrival from Rangers on loan.
Missing from the 16 were midfielder Sammy Clingan, ruled out by a thigh injury, and full-back Adam Drury, who missed two days of training during the week. They did not travel, while striker Jamie Cureton was relegated to the substitutes' bench.
Preston also made three changes after their 0-0 draw at Reading.
Defender Andrew Davies, who signed on loan from Stoke yesterday, made his debut in defence in place of Youl Mawene.
Former Norwich striker Chris Brown was in attack in place of Stephen Elliott, while Richard Chaplow was recalled for the suspended Ross Wallace.
The City players went into a huddle before they kicked off and within the first 10 seconds, Lee Croft let fly with a low right-foot shot from long-range, but it was a yard or two wide of the target.
Davies was soon into the action on his debut with some neat tidying up in his own penalty area and as Preston pushed forward, they won a free-kick wide on the left.
Paul McKenna swung the dead ball kick into the six-yard box where Marshall punched clear, but the home side regained possession and a cross by Chaplow found Sean St Ledger, who managed to get in a header but it was comfortably gathered by David Marshall.
Jon Otsemobor then headed clear from a dangerous cross by Barry Nicholson as Preston threatened again.
With seven minutes gone, Grounds, who was playing at left-back, was caught by a late challenge by Chaplow on the halfway line. He got up to take the resulting free-kick and aimed it towards Carl Cort, but St Ledger was well placed to head clear.
Brown was penalised for a foul on Shackell at the other end when he appeared to catch him in the face with his arm.
The first 10 minutes had been fairly subdued and the home crowd were very quiet with the shouts of the players clearly audible and little so far to get either set of fans warmed up on a dry but chilly afternoon.
Gow won a free-kick when he was tripped by Eddie Nolan about five yards outside the Preston area. Gow took it, left-footed, but over-hit it and the ball went behind for a goal-kick.
In the 14th minute, City produced the best move of the match so far when Gow played a one-two with Wes Hoolahan and set up Croft, who struck a powerful right-foot shot which Andy Lonergan touched past the post for a corner.
Gow's corner was met by Shackell but his glancing header was a couple of yards wide.
Grounds did well twice in a matter of seconds when his challenge stopped Parkin just inside the Norwich area and then he got back to head clear under pressure from a cross by Chris Sedgwick.
Norwich were trying to build some neat moves and Fotheringham combined with Cort to set Darel Russell up for a shot which was charged down.
As Preston broke forward, Brown found space on the left side of the penalty area but fired well over the top from a tight angle.
With huge gaps in the seating in the stadium and the match littered with free-kicks and errors, it was desperately quiet inside Deepdale.
Croft was left a little groggy after colliding with the perimeter fence when he was challenged by Nolan, but was eventually able to carry on without treatment.
The poor first 25 minutes were summed up by groans from the home crowd as misplaced passes by Sedgwick and Chaplow as the home side struggled to make an impact on the game.
With 27 minutes gone, there was at last a near miss for Preston when Sedgwick swung in a cross from the left and it was knocked into the path of Nicholson who stabbed a right-foot shot across the face of the goal where Shackell hooked it away with Marshall beaten.
It was the closest the hosts had come to a goal, although it was not clear whether Nicholson's effort would have crept inside the post or not.
Shackell did well again to get out and block a powerful shot by Chaplow a minute later.
In the 32nd minute, Fotheringham dispossessed the dithering Chaplow and set off towards goal, and his low, right-foot drive took a deflection, forcing Lonergan to palm it wide for a corner.
City wasted the dead ball kick and Preston counter-attacked swiftly with Otsemobor making an important interception to stop Nicholson cashing in on a cross by Chaplow.
McKenna struck a low shot from the edge of the area as the home side pressed again but he was well wide and at the other end, Gow showed some neat footwork before curling a left-foot shot two or three yards off target.
There was a bit of a scramble in the Norwich area when Marshall struggled to gather Sedgwick's cross under pressure but Shackell was there to perform some important tidying up and the keeper was finally able to gather the loose ball.
Six minutes before the break there was a real escape for the Canaries when a misjudgement by Grounds left Jon Parkin in the clear as he advanced before striking a left-foot shot which struck the post and rebounded, thankfully, for a defender to hammer clear.
Parkin had better luck with the woodwork after 41 minutes when he gave Preston the lead.
A free-kick by Nicholson wide on the right reached Brown, whose shot was blocked but rebounded kindly for Parkin, who struck a low, left-foot shot which hit the foot of the post and rolled in.
At long last the home crowd burst into some sort of life and it took a timely challenge by Gary Doherty to deny Parkin space to shoot as he tried to turn the City defender close to the penalty spot.
In the first half stoppage time, Shackell made another important challenge on Parkin to deny him room for a shot.
t Half-time: Preston 1, Norwich City 0
Norwich's 10 outfield players went through a limbering up routine on the touchline after emerging a couple of minutes early for the second half but it was Preston who threatened first from the restart.
With just a minute played, Chaplow played a one-two with Parkin and as the ball dropped into his path he struck it on the volley and Marshall did well to block his shot at close-range.
It was an early warning to City, who could ill afford to concede a second goal, having threatened very little in attack.
The Canaries were awarded a free-kick on halfway when Parkin caught Shackell in the face. Fotheringham floated the dead ball kick into the danger area but Jones was there first to head clear.
Croft pushed forward well before finding Gow, but the debutant was muscled off the ball by Davies as he tried to line-up a shot.
Seven minutes into the half, Brown hustled old team-mate Shackell into conceding a corner. Nicholson took it, but his out-swinging kick was far too strong and Croft carried the ball away until he was chopped down by Parkin just inside the Norwich half.
A cross by Hoolahan gave Cort a rare taste of the action but his header drifted wide.
Some neat work by Hoolahan set up Gow with the chance to run at the home defence but he was crowded out and his attempted shot eventually squirted out for a goal-kick.
There was a brief moment of alarm for Preston when Lonergan raced out and struck his clearance straight at Croft but as the ball rebounded to Cort, some 45-yards from goal, he sliced his follow-up effort out for a throw-in to earn the derision of the home crowd.
With nearly an hour gone, City may have had reasonably claims for a penalty when St Ledger appeared to shove Hoolahan to the ground after a neat pull-back from Gow, but referee Shoebridge was unimpressed.
After 61 minutes, Doherty got his head to a Hoolahan free-kick and tried to direct it towards Cort, but Lonergan got there first to gather safely.
A foul on Gow gave City a free-kick midway into the Preston half and Hoolahan took it quickly with a short pass to Russell, but the sting was taken out of his shot by a deflection and Lonergan collected it easily.
Russell shot well over the top with his next effort after a neat combination between Fotheringham and Cort but at least Norwich were showing more.
Shackell did well again moments later when Parkin got the better of Doherty close to the left corner flag and his cross found Brown, who struck a powerful shot which Shackell did extremely well to block.
The first yellow card of the match was shown to Grounds for a foul on McKenna midway through the half and soon afterwards, Preston made a double change, when Neil Carter replaced Chaplow and Simon Whaley was sent on in place of Sedgwick.
Before play could restart, Norwich also made a change with Chris Killen replacing Gow.
A cross by Croft had Lonergan flapping a little as he came under pressure from Cort but as the ball dropped, the keeper tumbled on top of Russell and Hoolahan, following up, hooked a left-foot shot well over the top.
Preston skipper McKenna was booked for a foul on Hoolahan after 73 minutes and Fotheringham picked out Doherty at the far post from the resulting free-kick, but as the centre-half tried to head across goal, Lonergan was well placed to make a clean catch.
Whaley won a corner when his cross was cut out by Grounds and Preston played a short corner routine with Brown eventually heading wide from Whaley's cross.
Croft was still working hard and when he found Fotheringham, the midfielder tried to play Cort through but the big striker stumbled and fell on the edge of the area.
With 12 minutes to go City boss Gunn made a double change with David Carney replacing Hoolahan and Jamie Cureton sent on in place of Cort.
But the next action was in the Norwich goalmouth when Marshall saved from Parkin after Brown had struggled to make enough room for a shot.
A neat flick by Killen set up fellow substitute Cureton for a shot but he didn't make clean contact his miscue took a deflection off Davies and the ball was cleared.
At the other end, Doherty was penalised, giving the hosts a free-kick five-yards outside the penalty area. Carter took it but curled a left-foot shot off target.
With seven minutes left, a cross by Croft almost provided City with the change to level when Carney and Killen both had efforts blocked at the far post but there was drama at the other end as Preston broke quickly and Shackell brought down Parkin a few yards outside the penalty area as he broke clear.
City must have wondered if the red card would be produced again but the referee produced yellow for Shackell, much to Norwich's relief.
With two minutes left and City waiting to take a free-kick, Preston replaced Parkin with a defender, Mawene. Eventually, Carney took the kick but curled it straight into Lonergan's hands.
Preston forced a corner as the game entered four minutes of stoppage time but decided to try to keep possession by the corner flag rather than get the ball into the area and when Carter eventually crossed, St Ledger was unable to keep the ball in play on the opposite touchline.
Killen attempted a shot on the turn as Norwich broke forward but could get no power behind his effort and Lonergan was right behind it.
Preston forced two more corners by playing some short passing routines close to the corner flag and there was a bit of a dispute between Brown and Carney before Fotheringham stepped in to keep the peace.
t Result: Preston 1, Norwich City 0
t Preston: Lonergan, Jones, Davies, St. Ledger, Nolan, Nicholson, McKenna, Chaplow, Sedgwick, Parkin, Brown
Subs: Neal, Mawene, Hawley, Carter, Whaley
t Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Doherty, Shackell, Grounds, Croft, Fotheringham, Russell, Hoolahan, Gow, Cort
Subs: Nelson, Killen, Cureton, Carney, Leijer
t Referee: Rob Shoebridge (Derbyshire)