Reading 2, Norwich City 0
David Cuffley Two late goals in the space of two minutes condemned Norwich City to defeat at the hands of promotion chasing Reading.The Canaries looked as if they were going to claim a point from a battling display in difficult conditions at the Madejski Stadium until disaster struck in the closing stages.
Two late goals in the space of two minutes condemned Norwich City to defeat at the hands of promotion chasing Reading this afternoon.
The Canaries looked as if they were going to claim a point from a battling display in difficult conditions at the Madejski Stadium until disaster struck in the closing stages.
With less than seven minutes to go, skipper Mark Fotheringham, recalled to the side, handled in the penalty area, City conceding their eighth penalty of the season.
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Goalkeeper David Marshall managed to get a hand to the spot-kick from Stephen Hunt, but could not keep it out.
Two minutes later, substitute Shane Long headed a second from a cross by substitute James Henry.
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There was more bad news for City when defender John Kennedy had to be helped off in the closing minutes.
The Canaries had battled hard with Darel Russell playing as a lone striker until the introduction of debutant Carl Cort in the second half.
Both Russell and Matty Pattison missed good chances to give Norwich the lead before the break but in the end they were left to reflect on their seventh defeat in the last eight away games and they face the Christmas period in real trouble in the Championship table.
Skipper Mark Fotheringham and defender John Kennedy returned to the City side, which showed two changes to the 11 who started Wednesday's 2-1 defeat at Watford.
Kennedy replaced Elliott Omozusi, who was relegated to the substitutes' bench. With Leroy Lita unable to play against his own club while on loan to Norwich, manager Glenn Roeder chose to go into the game without a recognised striker, though Fotheringham returned in a revamped formation.
Arturo Lupoli once again had to settle for a place on the bench, as did Wes Hoolahan, who missed the Watford game because of a virus.
Striker Carl Cort, who joined City for the rest of the season earlier this week, was also named among the substitutes after receiving international clearance from the Spanish FA after playing for Marbella last season.
Reading showed three changes to the side who started the 1-0 victory over Blackpool on Tuesday.
Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann suffered a calf injury in that match and his place went to Australian keeper Adam Federici.
James Harper was back as captain and Kalifa Cisse was also recalled, while former Norwich loan winger James Henry and Brynjar Gunnarsson were both relegated to the bench.
Reading kicked off on a bitterly cold and wet afternoon and Stephen Hunt won a corner in the opening minute, which he took. Bertrand headed clear from the flag-kick and Rosenior followed up with a powerful right-foot shot which flashed through the City goalmouth but was a couple of yards wide.
City were playing with Russell as their one striker and Pattison in an advanced central position just behind him in the kind of role filled by Hoolahan in recent matches.
As Norwich pushed forward, Doherty tried to find Russell with a through ball but Federici got there first, collecting comfortably.
Doherty was then called into action at the other end, making a timely interception to prevent Noel Hunt getting on the end of a cross.
With just five minutes gone, City had a good opening when Pattison found Otsemobor on the right and the fullback's cross presented Russell with an excellent chance, but he scuffed his first-time shot from six-yards out.
Reading attacked again and Matejovsky flashed another effort just wide.
It was a lively start in tricky conditions with steady rain falling and Fotheringham was next to try his luck but his shot was blocked on the edge of the area.
Bertrand did well as Reading counter-attacked by guiding a well-judged header back to Marshall from a cross by Stephen Hunt.
In another swift Reading counter-attack, Harper sent Matejovsky away on the right and his cross reached Doyle, but the Championship's leading scorer was just wide with his first-time shot.
The Canaries carved out another great opening in the 15th minute when Croft made a smart interception and delivered the perfect cross into the six-yard box, where Pattison met it with a glancing header which was just the wrong side of the post with the travelling fans getting ready to celebrate.
It was encouraging that despite their limited attacking options, Norwich had created the two best opportunities so far and only disappointing that they had failed to take either of them.
Pattison already looked as if he had been in a mud bath and with less than 20 minutes gone, he went to the dugout to change his shirt.
Harper became the first player booked for a foul on Fotheringham, which gave City a free-kick some 15-yards into the Reading half. Bell took the kick, aiming it towards the six-yard box, but Ingimarsson was well placed to head clear.
At the other end, Doherty completely miss-kicked in trying to clear a centre from Matejovsky but, thankfully for City, Marshall had it covered.
With a quarter of the match gone, Harper was in the wars after challenging Marshall when the keeper punched clear under pressure, but the Reading skipper got to his feet and continued without treatment.
Moments later, Norwich were pushing forward again and Bell got his head to a Fotheringham cross but could get no power behind his effort and it went straight to Federici.
Russell was certainly working tirelessly and he also suffered a knock when challenged by Duberry, but after a word with referee Kettle he too carried on without needing attention.
Noel Hunt attempted a shot from long-range after 27 minutes but it ended up nearer the corner flag than the goal and so far, Marshall had not had a direct shot to save.
Harper had Reading's best opportunity so far when a cross by Stephen Hunt was only half cleared by Bertrand, but the Reading man fired a couple of feet wide of Marshall's left-hand post when he probably should have done better.
As Reading stepped up a gear, Fotheringham cut out a cross from Rosenior and then Doherty did well to intercept a centre from Armstrong at the expense of a corner.
The flag-kick came to nothing and as City pushed forward, Armstrong very nearly left his keeper in trouble with a back-pass that fell short and Federici had to dash out to beat Russell to the ball.
Croft was looking to add to his four goals so far this season, but as he cut inside from the right he sliced a left-foot shot well wide of the target.
Doherty made another timely interception to keep out a low centre from Noel Hunt as the hosts began to press for an opening goal.
With nine minutes of the half remaining, Bertrand needed attention after a poor challenge by Matejovsky, who appeared to catch the fullback with his arm but afterwards went across to shake hands with Bertrand as he got to his feet after treatment.
Russell inadvertently uprooted the corner flag when he slid in to try to keep an over-hit cross by Otsemobor in play. There was some dispute between Duberry and the official when a throw-in was awarded, because Reading believed they should have had a goal-kick.
City had done a pretty good job in the opening half with Reading restricted to very little in the way of clear-cut changes and, as the interval approached, Kennedy was in the right place again to head clear from an Ingimarsson free-kick.
t Half-time: Reading 0, Norwich City 0
Bertrand did well in the opening moments of the second half when he slid in to cut out a cross from Noel Hunt and then Reading won a free-kick when Pattison fouled Duberry. Stephen Hunt took it and Duberry dived in for the header but was well off target.
Three minutes into the half, Russell brought Federici into action with a well struck shot on the turn from outside the area, but the keeper was right behind it.
A foul by Bertrand on Matejovsky gave the home side another free-kick but this time, Stephen Hunt curled it straight into Marshall's arms.
Reading were awarded their third free-kick of the half in the same position when Doyle was fouled but when Stephen Hunt played the ball wide to Matejovsky, his cross was easily cut out by Marshall.
Kennedy earned a ticking off from the referee but no yellow card for another foul on Doyle and this time, Doherty sliced the resulting free-kick behind for a corner.
Reading went close to taking the lead when Stephen Hunt's corner was met first time by Ingimarsson and his shot was only inches wide.
Eight minutes after the break, Cort was introduced for his Norwich debut with Pattison, who had been hobbling during the first half after a knock, the man to make way for him.
Cort won his first header from a cross by Otsemobor, managing to find Russell, but as Russell tried to tee up a short with his back to goal, he inadvertently caught Ingimarsson with his boot.
The game was a scrappy one at this stage, influenced to a great extent by the increasingly slippery conditions, and littered with free-kicks.
The pitch, also used for rugby, was cutting up quite badly in places.
Bertrand tried to force his way into the Reading area by playing a one-two with Russell but skidded over as he went for the return pass.
After 63 minutes, Noel Hunt flashed a header wide from a cross by his brother, Stephen, but it was a rare attempt on goal.
Harper then hooked a volley over the bar after a cross by Doyle was only partly cleared and there was a delay while Cisse needed attention for a bang on the head.
There were groans from the home crowd midway through the half when Doyle and Noel Hunt combined well to create a shooting opportunity for Stephen Hunt but he blazed a left-foot shot over the top.
With just over 20 minutes left, Henry, on loan at Norwich last season, was introduced by the home side in place of Cisse.
Croft was still looking lively at times and won a free-kick when he was fouled by Matejovsky.
Bell's dead-ball kick was over hit but City retained possession and Duberry had to head clear from another Bell cross for City's first corner.
Bell's flag-kick was cleared as far as Clingan, whose shot was deflected for another corner, but this time Federici made an easy catch.
Reading made another change after 73 minutes when Gunnarsson was sent on in place of Harper.
City produced a rare shot on goal when Russell showed excellent control before finding Croft with a square pass and the winger struck a firm right-foot drive from outside the box, but Federici was right behind him.
Reading forced another corner with 12 minutes to go when Doyle's cross squirted out off Kennedy and there was a squabble between Fotheringham and Stephen Hunt before the kick could be taken.
The referee spoke to the City skipper before Henry took an inswinging corner, but Cort was the man to head clear.
With just over 10 minutes to go, Reading made their final change with Long replacing Noel Hunt.
Bertrand did well to get back and clear from a centre by Long as Reading began to step up the pressure in the search for a late winner.
Cort was doing some valuable defensive work and headed clear from a Stephen Hunt corner but there was bad news for City with eight minutes to go when they conceded their eighth penalty of the season.
Fotheringham appeared to handle as the ball was bouncing around in the Norwich area and referee Kettle had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
The yellow card was shown, it appeared, to Bertrand before the kick could be taken and Stephen Hunt stepped up to score, although Marshall was desperately unlucky after getting a hand to the spot-kick as he dived to his right.
It was suddenly a double disaster for the Canaries when, less than two minutes later, substitute Long scored a second goal.
Henry crossed from the left and Long jumped in the six-yard box to score with a glancing header.
With less than two minutes to go, there was more bad news for Norwich when Kennedy had to be helped off with an injury and was replaced by Omozusi.
t Result: Reading 2, Norwich City 0HHalf
t Reading: Federici, Rosenior, Ingimarsson, Duberry, Armstrong, Matejovsky, Cisse, Harper, Stephen Hunt, Doyle, Noel Hunt.
Subs: Gunnarsson, Long, Henry, Kelly, McCarthy.
t Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Doherty, Kennedy, Bertrand, Croft, Clingan, Pattison, Bell, Fotheringham, Russell.
Subs: Hoolahan, Lupoli, Omozusi, Nelson, Cort.
t Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland)