Norwich 2, Preston 0
CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City 2, Preston 0: The pressure is off for the Canaries after two second-half goals earned them victory number one of the season. Having endured three home draws at the beginning of last season and then started this campaign with an unfortunate defeat at Leeds on Saturday, City went into the game desperately hoping for a change of fortune.
Norwich City 2, Preston 0
The pressure is off for the Canaries after two second-half goals earned them victory number one of the season.
Having endured three home draws at the beginning of last season and then started this campaign with an unfortunate defeat at Leeds on Saturday, City went into the game desperately hoping for a change of fortune.
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They got it thanks to an own goal by Sean St Ledger and a typical Robert Earnshaw strike, which wrapped up a thoroughly deserved win.
Perhaps just as encouraging was the way in which victory was achieved. While this is by no means a genuine indicator of what lies ahead - Preston would clearly have been happy with a point - there were signs that the passing game is back. The “oles” were heard again, as they were at Leeds, as City kept possession for long periods.
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What will be worrying, if criticism is appropriate, is that all that possession failed to produce a goal of City's own making until close to the end.
However, three points it is, and another win at home to Luton on Saturday would mean it's a good week's work for the Canaries.
City had the game by the scruff of the neck from the off, although the first promising attack ended prematurely when Paul McKenna fouled Earnshaw as both sides tried to keep the ball on the ground.
The tone continued and earned City the first corner of the game on five minutes, Earnshaw volleying Huckerby's kick well wide.
With a vocal City support behind them City were clearly up for making an impression, and when Croft broke down the right, courtesy of a perfectly weighted pass from Etuhu, Earnshaw was unable to get a clean header on the new boy's cross.
While City were looking pretty enough there was little in the way of penetration, although, to be fair, Preston were hardly causing Canaries keeper Paul Gallacher any problems.
Huckerby created an opportunity for Croft on 19 minutes when he chipped in a short cross but the City man couldn't rise to the occasion.
Simon Whaley woke the visiting fans minutes later when his average-looking cross from the right caught City's defence wrong-footed, particularly Gary Doherty, whose attempted clearance was an ugly one and earned Preston corner.
Liam Chilvers then saw a header from Graham Alexander's cross go straight at Gallacher, while Huckerby raced to the other end and tried one too many turns in the area and wasted his opportunity.
City pressed forward but Earnshaw couldn't get a clean connection on Croft's cross. Huckerby tried again, this time with his head, but failed to win Croft's cross and while the rebound fell to his feet, Sean St Ledger did well to block it.
Whaley kept Gallacher busy with a drive from 15 yards that the Scot pushed aside for a corner, with St Ledger then testing him again with a low drive that was easily handled.
Half an hour gone and the first real sign of a breakthrough came when keeper Carlo Nash palmed away Croft's cross - the ball fell to Huckerby who worked himself a glimmer of space but shot inches wide of the left-hand post.
Preston were packing their defence but that didn't stop Carl Robinson from turning on the style, jinking his way through a host of blue shirts only to see Nash do well to block his shot.
Earnshyaw had their first attempt of the second half but his effort was blocked and the rebound didn't fall kindly for Etuhu on the edge of the area. Etuhu then tried to return the favour with a neat little pass, but Matt Hill was quick to intercept.
Safri then caught most people, apart from, Nash, by surprise with a free kick four minutes into the half, but his grass-cutter was easily gathered.
But the real surprise was provided by St Ledger on 56 minutes, a goal that owed much to Earnshaw's persistence on the right side of the area. The Welshman refused to give up the ball despite being surrounded by Preston players, but while he was unable to control it, a ricochet sent it spinning over to Huckerby on the left flank. Huckerby looked up and swung in a cross that was a danger to no one in particular, until St Ledger's sliced clearance which sent the ball sailing over Nash's head.
Fortuitous it may have been but it was just the break that City needed.
Croft took heart, running at the defence but seeing his shot blocked, and the crowd responded with the sort of backing that Worthington had asked for.
Huckerby was denied twice in the space of a few minutes, first by a terrific penalty area tackle by Graham Alexander as City went for the kill and then when a rarity, a bullet header, from Croft's cross on 64 minutes hit Etuhu's back.
Safri took heed of the fans' cries by taking a pot at goal on 69 minutes, just before Croft departed to be replaced by Paul McVeigh.
McKenna kept Gallacher on his toes with a couple of long-range effort that were wide of the woodwork, while Nugent had a shot that fairly trickled into Gallacher's hands.
It signalled the first signs of frustration by City fans as their team allowed Preston more territorial advantages than nthey'd had all game.
Nothing came of it, and they paid the price when Earnshaw struck on 82 minutes. Etuhu played it wide McVeigh and the Irishman's neat little cross from the right bounced once before it was met on the volley by a twisting Earnshaw whose shot left Nash with no chance.
Preston's night was complete when Alexander was shown a straight red for a tackle on Drury.
Norwich: Gallacher 6, Colin 6 (Fleming 83), Doherty 6, Shackell 6, Drury 7, Croft 6 (McVeigh 69, 7), Etuhu 7, Safri 8, Robinson 7, Huckerby 6, Earnshaw 7 (McKenzie 86). Subs: Lewis, Thorne.
Preston: Nash, Alexander, St Ledger, Chilvers, Hill, Whaley, McKenna, Jarrett, Pugh (Agyemang 76), Stock (Sedgwick 65), Nugent. Subs: Lonergan, McCormack, Wilson.
Referee: P Joslin.
Canaries Man of the Match: Youssef Safri. At the heart of everything. Good passing, worked hard to win the ball back.
Goals: St Ledger (og) 55, Earnshaw 83.
Time added on: 2/4
Bookings: Preston - Hill, 35, foul on Croft; Jarrett, 45, foul on Huckerby; Nugent, 67, foul on Drury. Norwich - Etuhu, 64, foul on St Ledger.
Red: Alexander 90, foul on Drury