Tranmere Rovers 3, Norwich City 1
David Cuffley SLIDESHOW: The curse of the Sky TV cameras returned to haunt League One leaders Norwich City as they crashed to defeat in an extraordinary match at Prenton Park. The Canaries conceded two penalties in the first 12 minutes, had goalkeeper Fraser Forster sent off and manager Paul Lambert sent to the stand as they suffered only their seventh league defeat of the season.
The curse of the Sky TV cameras returned to haunt League One leaders Norwich City as they crashed to defeat in an extraordinary match at Prenton Park.
The Canaries conceded two penalties in the first 12 minutes, had goalkeeper Fraser Forster sent off and manager Paul Lambert sent to the stand as they suffered only their seventh league defeat of the season.
Trailing 3-0 at the interval to two spot-kicks by Ian Thomas-Moore and a goal by Craig Curran that appeared to involve a blatant handball, City reduced the arrears after 58 minutes through skipper Grant Holt's 29th goal of the season, but for once they were unable to stage one of their dramatic late comebacks.
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Referee Eddie Ilderton's performance was eccentric, to say the least, and he sent Lambert from the touchline in the second half when the manager ran on to the field to kick the ball back to keep the game moving.
It was City's fourth defeat in four live matches on the satellite channel this season but they still produced some good football with 10 men and on this showing it is unlikely to be more than a temporary hitch in their bid for promotion.
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City were soon under pressure when Holt upended John Welsh on the edge of the penalty area and though the free-kick came to nothing, Tranmere kept up the assault and Terry Gornell's powerful shot was deflected wide.
There was drama in the fourth minute when Gornell's shot struck Darel Russell in the six-yard box, prompting appeals for handball, and after allowing play to continue for a few seconds, referee Ilderton saw his assistant flagging and pointed to the spot.
Russell Martin was booked, it seemed in a case of mistaken identity, and Tranmere skipper Ian Thomas-Moore tucked home the penalty to Forster's left for his 11th goal of the season.
Things went from bad to worse in the 10th minute as City conceded another penalty and were reduced to 10 men. A poor backpass by Gary Doherty was latched on to by Thomas-Moore and when he tried to go round Forster, the Tranmere man went crashing down, the referee awarding a penalty and showing a straight red card to the 'keeper.
City boss Lambert sacrificed Simon Lappin to bring on substitute goalkeeper Declan Rudd, whose first duty was to pick the ball out of the net as Thomas-Moore struck the spot-kick to his right.
With 20 minutes gone, City pieced together a neat move and Hoolahan set up Elliott for a low right-foot shot that swerved wide.
City should have had a goal back two minutes later when Hoolahan's pass put Holt clear and he went round keeper Luke Daniels and looked certain to score, but defender Ian Goodison got back to make a remarkable goalline clearance.
Welsh volleyed wide as Tranmere hit back.
Russell's free-kick was tipped on to the bar by Daniels, and when Nelson nodded the ball back across goal, Welsh took a bang on the head from Holt's boot as City's top scorer tried to hook the ball goalwards.
Curran weaved through for Tranmere and Rudd made an excellent save low to his left, but the resulting corner led to goal number three on the half-hour.
There were appeals for handball again when Gornell's shot struck Nelson, but it did not matter as Craig Curran hooked the loose ball past Rudd, though it appeared he may have controlled the ball with his arm.
Russell's long-range effort was beaten away by Daniels as City tried to find a way back into the contest.
City were playing by no means badly going forward and a shot by Hoolahan whistled wide, Daniels appearing to get a touch, but the referee awarding a goal-kick.
Nelson headed over from Hoolahan's corner a minute before the break.
t Half-time: Tranmere Rovers 3, Norwich City 0
City made their second change at the interval when Stephen Elliott was replaced by Chris Martin.
A foul by Broomes on Holt gave City a free-kick on the left edge of the area and Chris Martin's curling effort deflected off Welsh for a corner, Daniels leaping to punch away Hoolahan's kick.
Paul McLaren was booked for a late challenge on Stephen Hughes on the halfway line, Adam Drury's free-kick being headed over by Nelson.
Chris Martin created room for a low left-foot shot that Daniels held at the second attempt, then as Tranmere broke, Gornell headed just wide from Curran's cross.
In the 58th minute, City threw themselves a lifeline with skipper Holt's 29th goal of the season.
Chris Martin did well to keep the ball in from Doherty's long ball forward and crossed for Holt, who showed good control before firing home.
Goalkeeper Daniels was booked for protesting that the ball had gone out before Martin crossed.
There was further controversy on the hour when Lambert was sent to the stand. The City boss ran on the pitch 20 yards to kick the ball back to get the game moving after a stoppage, but referee Ilderton took exception and sent Lambert, then football operations manager Gary Karsa, to the stand.
Rudd saved superbly from Gornell to deny Tranmere a fourth.
Tranmere's Gordon needed treatment after a vital block tackle by Doherty, who was also left hobbling.
Drury took a bang in the face from a challenge by Curran but was able to continue and as Tranmere pressed again, Curran's shot was deflected wide for a corner. From the flag-kick, Taylor headed wide but needed attention for a blow to the shoulder.
City made their final change when McNamee replaced Hughes with 15 minutes to go.
There was an escape for City with 10 minutes left when Taylor's shot beat Rudd but struck Broomes a couple of yards out.
Hoolahan missed a good chance to reduce the arrears further in the 82nd minute when McNamee's cross was knocked down into his path but he fired a left-foot shot wide across the face of the goal.
Thomas-Moore struck the post with a fine effort, struck with the outside of his right foot, with seven minutes left.
Rudd made a fine diving save in stoppage time to deny Thomas-Moore once again.
t Result: Tranmere Rovers 3, Norwich City 1
t Tranmere Rovers: Daniels; Broomes, McCready, Goodison, Gordon; McLaren, Taylor, Welsh; Curran, Gornell, Thomas-Moore.
Subs: Collister, Edds, Savage, Bakayogo, Labadie (for McLaren, 79), Shuker, Sordell.
t Norwich City: Forster; Russell Martin, Doherty, Nelson, Drury; Russell; Hughes, Lappin; Hoolahan; Holt, Elliott.
Subs: Rudd (for Lappin, 12), Rose, Whitbread, Gill, McNamee (for Hughes, 75), Johnson, Chris Martin (for Elliott, 45).
t Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear)
t Goals: Tranmere: Thomas-Moore (pen 6, pen 12), Curran (30). Norwich: Holt (58)
t Red card: Forster (10)
t Bookings: Tranmere: McLaren (55), Daniels (58), Broomes (85). Norwich: Russell Martin (6)