Preston North End 0, Norwich City 1
David Cuffley Norwich City were sitting fourth in the Championship table after skipper Grant Holt's fourth goal of the season gave them a well-deserved Championship victory over Preston at Deepdale.
Norwich City were sitting fourth in the Championship table after skipper Grant Holt's fourth goal of the season gave them a well-deserved Championship victory over Preston at Deepdale.
The Canaries were much the better side against the struggling Lancashire club and Holt struck the decisive goal in the 62nd minute after Korey Smith had knocked back a cross from Wes Hoolahan.
Holt had already struck the woodwork twice in the first half, when City were also denied by a goalline clearance by David Gray.
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For Paul Lambert's men, it was the perfect way to bounce back from their midweek defeat at Doncaster and set them up nicely for successive home games against Hull and Leicester.
Preston boss Darren Ferguson was beginning a touchline ban and his father, Sir Alex, was watching from the directors' box.
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A crowd of more than 18,000 was at Deepdale with a contingent of about 1,600 travelling fans on hand to celebrate City's win.
Lambert said afterwards: “I thought we were the better team all round. I thought we passed it better. Some of the football we played was excellent.”
But he warned against expecting too much with his side just one point adrift of second-placed Ipswich.
“You've got to remember we've come a long way. We're holding our own, no doubt, but we shouldn't get carried away.
“People should remember the days when Norwich couldn't really get a win.”
Lambert made one change to the team that started Tuesday's 3-1 defeat at Doncaster with Simon Lappin recalled in midfield at the expense of Anthony McNamee.
Preston included two ex-Canaries in their eleven - summer signing Darel Russell and striker Paul Hayes - and a third on the bench in striker Chris Brown.
Preston attacked in the opening seconds and Barnett took an attempted cross from Hayes full in the face.
As City hit back, Hoolahan intercepted a pass from Gray and advanced 30 yards before letting fly from more than 20 yards with a left-foot shot that was just over the top.
In the seventh minute, there was a scare for City when Ruddy had to scramble across his goal to palm away a misdirected header from Ward.
Preston won the first corner in the ninth minute when Russell Martin headed Parry's cross behind. From the flag-kick, Parry fired over with a shot on the turn.
City had two corners in a matter of seconds and from the first, Martin flicked on Lappin's kick and an attempted clearance struck Barnett and almost rebounded into the net, Lonergan pushing the ball wide for a second corner. This time Barnett sent a glancing header wide from Lappin's kick.
City forced a third corner in the 15th minute but Barnett headed over from Lappin's kick.
Ruddy kept the Canaries on terms after 17 minutes when he managed to beat away a powerful shot by Parkin after the striker took advantage of indecision in the visiting defence.
City were inches from taking the lead in the 21st minute when Holt's header from a corner by Lappin struck the bar and rebounded to safety.
Parkin was booked after 26 minutes for a foul on Lappin and from the resulting free-kick, the Canaries almost took the lead. Lappin's kick reached Ward, who stabbed the ball goalwards, where Gray cleared it off the line.
Ruddy pouched a header from St Ledger after Preston were awarded a free-kick on the left-hand edge of the City area, but most of the action was at the other end.
Lappin produced a fine tackle to stop Treacy progressing just inside the City area, but both men needed treatment afterwards.
City forced eight corners in all before the break, Holt glancing a header across goal from the last of them one minute from the interval.
Holt was denied by the woodwork once again in first-half stoppage time when he thundered a left-foot shot against the post.
Preston made one change at the break with new loan signing Hume replacing the injured Treacy.
Holt missed one opportunity to open the scoring five minutes after the break when Crofts found Russell Martin and the full-back's cross from the right reached the City skipper at the near post, but he did not make firm enough contact and glanced his header across the face of the goal.
Preston hit back and Ruddy tipped over a powerful shot from Barton, St Ledger heading wide from Parry's corner.
Barton earned a yellow card for a late challenge on Korey Smith, who needed treatment.
Preston made a second change while Smith was receiving attention, Mayor replacing Parry.
The home side forced two corners, the first from Mayor being met with an overhead kick by Jones that was deflected wide, the second by a header from Russell that was well off target.
City took the lead in the 62nd minute when Holt scored his fourth goal of the season.
Hoolahan's cross from left reached Smith beyond the far post and he turned the ball back neatly for Holt to tuck a right-foot shot past Lonergan.
With less than 20 minutes to go, Preston made their final change, one ex-Canary replacing another as Chris Brown came on for Hayes.
Lambert made his first change with 10 minutes to go, Jackson replacing Chris Martin.
With six minutes left, Barton's shot was deflected for a corner but Hume's flag-kick was straight into Ruddy's hands, which rather summed up Preston's afternoon.
Hoolahan fired wide in stoppage time after bursting through and Gill replaced Holt as the seconds ticked away.
t Preston North End: Lonergan; Gray, St Ledger, Wayne Brown, Jones; Parry (Mayor, 57), Barton, Russell, Treacy (Hume, 45); Parkin, Hayes (Chris Brown, 71). Subs (not used): Arestidou, Morgan, Coutts, McLaughlin.
t Norwich City: Ruddy; Russell Martin, Barnett, Ward, Drury; Crofts, Korey Smith, Lappin; Hoolahan; Chris Martin (Jackson, 80), Holt (Gill, 90). Subs (not used): Rudd, Askou, Fox, McNamee, Johnson.
t Referee: Colin Webster (Tyne & Wear)
t Goal: Norwich: Holt (62)
t Bookings: Preston: Parkin (26), Barton (56)
t Attendance: 18,417