Derby County 2 Norwich City 2
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Norwich City defender Steven Whittaker salvaged a battling point for the Canaries after Derby’s Chris Martin threatened to haunt his old club in a 2-2 Saturday lunchtime Championship draw.
Martin carved out the Rams’ opener for Johnny Russell and then slotted a second half penalty after Cameron Jerome had levelled but Whittaker grabbed a deserved equaliser in the final minute of normal time.
Neil Adams’ men could have then won the contest with Lewis Grabban and Jerome carving out chances in a stirring finish from the visitors.
Adams named an unchanged starting line up for the third consecutive game, with Gary O’Neil retaining his place in a midfield which again echoed the manager’s search for solidity. Nathan Redmond was included on a substitutes’ bench alongside the returning Ryan Bennett. Wes Hoolahan and Grabban were additional attacking options.
Beccles-bred Martin was in the Derby line up that showed three changes from the midweek Capital One Cup exit to Chelsea. Ryan Shotton replaced the suspended Jake Buxton with Jeff Hendrick and Liverpool loanee Jordan Ibe also in the Rams’ line up.
Russell looked to have the beating of Carlos Cuellar down the right inside the opening five minutes but the experienced Spanish centre-back did enough to force Russell to run the ball out of play.
Bradley Johnson’s frustration was evident when he planted a free header wide from Alex Tettey’s deep angled cross with Cyrus Christie guilty of letting the midfielder jump unimpeded.
Cuellar’s lunchtime dipped even further when he was cautioned in the seventh minute for a lunging challenge on Jeff Hendrick but the official evened up the crime count seconds later when Craig Bryson cut down Whittaker.
Jerome and Gary Hooper’s growing understanding fashioned another visiting chance in the 10th minute but Hooper poked well wide from 20 yards.
Ibe exposed Whittaker’s lack of pace in the 18th minute but Johnson had tracked the late-arriving Hendrick before Martin glanced over at the near post in his first sighter against his former employers.
Martin’s assured control and layoff invited Ibe forward again but Whittaker held up the Liverpool teenager sufficiently for him to slam a low cross in to the side netting.
Norwich’s most profitable route in the opening quarter appeared set pieces with Gary O’Neil’s deep cross forcing Lee Grant to punch clear after rising above his captain Richard Keogh.
Ibe was Derby’s out ball in the opening period but the youngster this time opted to roll in Omar Mascarell who attempted an ambitious long range curler John Ruddy watched over his bar.
Tettey did roll the ball home in the 32nd minute but Jerome was adjudged to have interfered with play standing in an offside position in front of Grant, but the approach work from Norwich was admirable with O’Neil and Howson combining well.
O’Neil was then convinced he deserved a corner when his clipped right-footed effort drifted wide following a sharp one-two with Hooper.
Ruddy denied Bryson at the other end although Johnson’s deflection took the sting off the angled far post shot.
Jerome was fortunate to escape a caution for a frustrated swipe at Keogh but escaped with a lecture from Mr Tierney.
Derby tempted Johnson to cut inside on his weaker right foot but the rising shot had Grant diving full length before it cleared his bar.
The hosts went in front two minutes from the interval with Martin prominent after powering away from Cuellar before rolling in Russell who arrived unmarked to bury past Ruddy eight yards out.
Derby introduced the highly-rated Will Hughes for Kendrick at the interval but it was City on the front foot with O’Neil and Tettey convinced they deserved a penalty when Hooper was levered off the ball.
City levelled in the 51st minute when Jerome slotted at the far post from Howson’s stabbed cross following patient build up play from the visitors.
The lead lasted barely three minutes when Cuellar was adjudged to have kicked through Martin in his attempt to clear the ball two yards inside his own box. Referee Tierney waved away loud protests from the Canaries before Martin send Ruddy the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Tettey’s frustration earned him a caution before the game could restart. Adams’ side poured forward again in the aftermath of the setback with Ryan Shotton fortunate to get away with a miscued clearance from Olsson’s low cross.
The Norwegian made way for Redmond in the 62nd minute as City strived to get back on level terms for a second time.
Redmond’s first intervention was to service Jerome but the striker’s slip proved costly as his close range shot dribbled out of play.
Jerome then tried to wrong-foot Grant by deflecting Johnson’s long range strike but it veered past the post. Hoolahan replaced Hooper on the 70 minute mark with City looking to turn growing possession into another goal and Grabban joined him shortly afterwards as Adams went for broke.
For all City’s firepower now on show it was Whittaker who went close in the 79th minute when he cut inside and unleashed a left-footed shot that brushed the side netting.
Olsson stayed on his feet in the 82nd minute when clearly clipped inside the Derby penalty area which prompted first team coach Mike Phelan to plead with the fourth official after the referee waved play on.
Redmond tried his luck on the left flank in the closing seconds to force a corner and that persistence paid off when Whittaker slammed home a bouncing half-volley at the far post.
Grabban was then denied by Grant with a fine low stop in the first of four additional minutes before Jerome volleyed over eight yards out as City looked to complete the comeback.
• Derby: Grant, Christie, Keogh, Shotton, Forsyth, Mascarell, Hendrick (Hughes 45), Bryson (Dawkins 74), Ibe (Coutts 83), Russell, Martin. Subs (not used): Roos, L Naylor, Best, Calero.
• Booking: Bryson (foul on Whittaker, 8)
• Goals: Russell (43), Martin (54)
• Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Cuellar, Olsson, Howson, O’Neil (Grabban 72), Tettey (Redmond 62), Johnson, Hooper (Hoolahan 70), Jerome. Subs (not used): Rudd, Turner, Lafferty, Bennett.
• Bookings: Cuellar (foul on Hendrick, 7); Tettey (dissent, 54)
• Goals: Jerome (51), Whittaker (89)
• Added on time: 2 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire)
• Attendance: 27,974 (1,478 away fans)