Preston hit back to deny Canaries victory during eventful afternoon at Carrow Road
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
An unusual and entertaining afternoon at Carrow Road saw Norwich City held to a 1-1 draw by Preston as Alex Neil returned to Norfolk – in a game which finished after 5pm with a City supporter having to step in as the fourth official.
James Maddison’s brilliant free-kick midway through the first half was cancelled out by Tom Barkhuizen in the 70th minute.
The match then descended into something of a comedy show with five minutes remaining, one of the linesman limping off injured and having to go away for treatment, leaving the game in the balance without a fourth official.
However, Norwich Evening News columnist David ‘Spud’ Thornhill, a qualified referee, rode to the rescue after a lengthy stoppage to signal 10 minutes were added on – still wearing a pair of jeans.
The Canaries could not force a winner though, as their run of home matches without a victory stretched to seven.
The big news ahead of kick-off was that Alex Pritchard was on the bench, returning from his pre-season ankle injury, with Timm Klose and Marley Watkins missing out through injury and Christoph Zimmermann and Josh Murphy replacing them.
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A scrappy opening half – with the Barclay in fine voice in support of the hosts – saw Zimmermann survive a nervous header which flew into the arms of a relieved Angus Gunn in the fourth minute.
Mario Vrancic wasted two good chances to cross from free-kicks for City and Preston had two half-chances in the opening 20 minutes, with Paul Huntington looping a header over and Paul Gallagher firing a low shot that Gunn did well to hold.
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The Canaries should have had the lead in the 23rd minute when Wes Hoolahan played Murphy clean through, the winger beating keeper Chris Maxwell to the ball but missing his chance to shoot and seeing right-back Darnell Fisher get back to thwart him – to the exasperation of the home fans.
City were getting on top though, with Maxwell again racing out to beat Oliveira to the ball and Hanley heading a fine James Maddison corner wide at the back post.
Daniel Farke’s team did make their pressure count in the 34th minute though, when Fisher was left outraged to be booked for a soft challenge on Hoolahan to the left of the Preston box.
Maddison grabbed the ball and curled home a high shot into the top-right corner in spectacular fashion, leaving Maxwell with no chance and sparking wild celebrations at the Barclay end as his fifth goal of the season added to his ever-growing reputation as one of the Championship’s hottest talents.
The Canaries regressed though and were relieved to have their lead in tact at the break, with Alan Browne’s superb overhead kick hitting the bar four minutes after the goal.
Zimmermann and the busy Hanley both had to make important blocks in the closing stages, after Oliveira’s poor play lost possession and allowed Preston to counter, with the centre-backs making goal-saving blocks on Browne and Barkhuizen.
Ben Davies made a vital tackle to stop Norwich doubling the lead in the 54th minute, denying Hoolahan from 10 yards after the Irishman exchanged a fine one-two with Maddison, with Murphy seeing his follow-up shot deflected behind.
The visitors had a golden chance in the 64th minute when a Gallagher free-kick beat everyone in the City box and Callum Robinson crossed from the left, picking out Calum Woods unmarked in the six-yard box, but the left-back’s header was weak and held by Gunn.
Zimmermann, having taken a couple of elbows to the head in aerial challenges with Jordan Hugill, tried to let the ball run out of play but was robbed by the striker and Hanley’s brave block deflected the ball behind for a corner.
Preston took full advantage, Gallagher arrowing his set-piece across from the right and Huntington rising unopposed to power a header down, which Barkhuizen flicked in from close range.
With the Canaries losing their shape and looking liable to concede, Farke rolled the dice and threw Pritchard into action well ahead of his expected return, coming on alongside Wildschut in place of Murphy and Reed in the 76th minute.
The returning star curled a shot towards the top-right corner just three minutes later but Maxwell was there to hold the ball.
After the lengthy stoppage due to the linesman’s injury, it looked like City academy product Declan Rudd could be coming off the bench as Maxwell went down after a Maddison free-kick caused some hectic pinball in the North End box, but he picked himself up to continue.
Six minutes into injury-time Barkhuizen burst clean through for the visitors but Gunn stood strong to deny the forward bravely in his box.
Maddison’s wayward header from a Preston corner was headed clear by Zimmermann during the ragged closing stages but neither team could force a winner.
City return to action on Friday night when they make their longest trip of the campaign, to high-flying Cardiff City.
Norwich: Gunn; Pinto (C), Zimmermann, Hanley, Stiepermann; Reed (Wildschut 76), Vrancic; Murphy (Pritchard 76), Maddison, Hoolahan; Oliveira. Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Franke, Phillips, Cantwell, Jerome
Booked: Vrancic (foul on Hugill, 55), Reed (foul on Johnson 63), Oliveira (foul on Gallagher, 71)
Goal: Maddison (34)
Preston: Maxwell; Fisher, Davies (C), Huntington, Woods; Gallagher (Harrop 81), Browne; Barkhuizen (Clarke 90+14), Johnson, Robinson; Hugill. Unused subs: Rudd (GK), O’Connor, Horgan, Welsh, Boyle
Booked: Johnson (foul on Pinto, 5), Fisher (foul on Murphy, 40), Davies (foul on Oliveira, 72), Gallagher (foul on Wildschut, 80)
Goal: Barkhuizen (70)
Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex)