Saturday, November 10, 2012
Norwich City extended their unbeaten run to four Premier League games when they took a valuable point from winless Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
It was a far from inspiring contest with very few clear-cut chances, but the Canaries will be glad to have maintained a bit of distance over the struggling sides at the foot of the table.
It was, significantly, City’s first clean sheet away from home in the Premier League since October 2004, and they were on the back foot for much of the second half as the Royals looked desperately for that first top-flight win since promotion.
Reading’s Garath McCleary tested John Ruddy in the opening half with a stinging effort, while Jobi McAnuff went closest after the break for the hosts, but City’s defence held firm and they might even have snatched a win had skipper Grant Holt and Robert Snodgrass done better with second-half headers.
Generally Norwich gave the ball away cheaply far too often but at least for Ruddy and the defence, it was a fourth clean sheet of the league season – one more than in the whole of 2011-12.
City boss Chris Hughton named an unchanged side with defenders Michael Turner (dead leg) and Javier Garrido (knee) recovering from knocks that led to them being substituted in the previous week’s 1-0 victory over Stoke.
Russell Martin was still sidelined by a back problem and there was one change on the bench, where full-back Marc Tierney replaced central defender Leon Barnett.
Reading were forced into one change in goal where Alex McCarthy was ruled out by a shoulder injury he suffered in the 1-1 draw at Queens Park Rangers six days earlier. It meant a recall for Australian ’keeper Adam Federici.
Before kick-off, an immaculately observed minute’s silence was held to mark Remembrance weekend.
City, wearing their black away kit, almost carved an opening in the fourth minute after a good spell of possession but Whittaker’s pass was just too strong for Hoolahan.
Snodgrass then made good headway but a deflection off Shorey took the sting out of his shot and Federici gathered.
McCleary was in trouble early on as he landed on his shoulder after rolling off Garrido’s challenge but he was able to continue after treatment.
Bassong conceded the game’s first corner when he hacked Gunter’s cross into the crowd. Holt headed clear from Shorey’s kick but Turner soon had to concede another corner and when it was only half-cleared, another Shorey cross threatened trouble before Turner cleared again.
The best effort so far came in the 14th minute when McCleary let fly with a powerful effort that Ruddy could only parry for Bassong to hook clear. City were under a bit of pressure and Whittaker did well to head clear from a Shorey free-kick after Bassong was penalised in a tangle with Hunt.
Hunt earned jeers from the away fans when he ran into Garrido and hit the ground as a cross came in from McAnuff, but referee Foy was unimpressed.
Midway through the half, Johnson blazed over from 25 yards after dogged work by Hoolahan, but Federici had not really been troubled.
Snodgrass was penalised when he appeared to catch McAnuff with his arm, but Gorkss headed over from the resulting free-kick by Shorey.
Snodgrass was then in action at the opposite end when he headed wide from a Hoolahan cross.
Bassong landed City in trouble by dithering on the edge of the six-yard box after cutting out a cross from Roberts, and Turner had to come to the rescue.
The Canaries win their first corner on 38 minutes when Whittaker’s shot flew wide via a deflection off Gorkss, and Pilkington’s kick was headed out for a second flag-kick, but Snodgrass’s twice-taken kick came to nothing.
• Half-time: Reading 0, Norwich City 0
Another slice by Bassong handed Reading a corner straight from the restart but he atoned by heading clear from Shorey’s kick.
Hoolahan hooked a shot wide after good work by Pilkington to sum up City’s rather toothless attacking show.
Garrido denied Roberts a shooting chance at the expense of another corner after the striker turned away from Turner.
Reading were enjoying greater possession but their lack of a goal led to a double change on the hour when Pogrebnyak and Kebe replaced Hunt and McCleary.
Holt was having a lean time and a cross from Hoolahan was just too high as he jumped at the far post in a rare Norwich raid.
Another of Shorey’s many free-kicks might have provided an opening but the ball drifted wide as Pogrebnyak and Morrison jumped together.
Holt was unable to make clean contact from another Hoolahan cross as his half-hit shot drifted wide, but Reading finally went close when McAnuff got away from Whittaker and sent a 20-yard effort narrowly over the top.
A foul by Tettey on Kebe gave Shorey a free-kick opportunity on the edge of the Norwich area, but he fired it into the wall.
There was another close shave for City when a cross from Kebe bounced on top of the bar to safety.
Holt headed wide from Garrido’s cross when it appeared Gorkss did just enough to put him off but it rather summed up the City skipper’s afternoon.
City finally had an opening when Pilkington won a corner on the left. Turner got his head to the kick but Reading were able to clear their lines.
A poor cross from Garrido enabled Reading to counter-attack swiftly through Kebe but as he cut in from the right, his low shot was cut out by Ruddy at the near post.
Turner was booked for bringing down Roberts on the edge of the Norwich area
Snodgrass headed over from Pilkington’s cross with just over 10 minutes left when he should have done better, and an awful attempt at a cross from Tettey typified City’s lack of quality.
Pilkngton wasted another opening when he took Holt’s backheel and blazed a shot wildly into the crowd, then Holt headed straight at Federici from a Pilkington centre.
With less than five minutes left, Holt and Snodgrass made way for Morison and Elliott Bennett.
Turner went down clutching his shoulder after a collision with Pogrebnyak as the minutes ticked away, but he was able to continue without treatment.
In stoppage time, Tettey broke forward on his own but pulled a weak effort across goal as Reading defenders converged on him.
• Reading: Federici; Gunter, Morrison, Gorkss, Shorey; McCleary (Kebe, 60), Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff; Roberts (Le Fondre, 79), Hunt (Pogrebnyak, 60). Subs (not used): Taylor, Cummings, Mariappa, Robson-Kanu.
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; Snodgrass (Elliott Bennett, 86), Hoolahan, Pilkington; Holt (Morison, 86). Subs (not used): Bunn, Tierney, Ryan Bennett, Howson, Jackson.
• Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
• Attendance: 24,080 (2,199 City fans)
• Bookings: City: Turner (77)