Another late show as Norwich City Reserves hold Swansea City
Aaron Wilbraham made it three goals in five games as a strong Norwich City second string followed the first team's lead at Carrow Road with a late equaliser to hold Swansea City to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night.
Behind to David Cotterill's 26th-minute penalty, City huffed and puffed until their pressure finally paid off two minutes from time to break young Swans hearts.
Right-back Ritchie de Laet's marauding run took him all the way to the by-line and his centre was headed home by a diving Wilbraham to earn City a deserved point and avoid a fifth defeat from eight matches.
More important was the sight of a clutch of Paul Lambert's first-team hopefuls getting 90 minutes, including Andrew Surman, Chris Martin and Simeon Jackson – who put in a lively evening's work at the tip of City's midfield diamond, fresh from helping the first team to their dramatic late comeback against Blackburn.
The likes of George Francomb, playing at centre-back, and young left-back Harry Barker also impressed in front of a watching Lambert and 745 fans at a chilly Carrow Road.
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The Swans methodology was clear as always – short, sharp passing from front to back in a fluid system.
Yet it was City who had the better early chances; a theme that continued until the final whistle. The Canaries started with purpose – Surman in particularly good touch – while Richard Brindley fired an effort from long range that Swans keeper Gerhard Tremmel held well on the bounce.
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Gwion Edwards wriggled into space behind De Laet before driving wide – but that was only a blip. Back came City, Simon Lappin's lovely centre horribly skewed over by Wilbraham before the linesman's flag saved his embarrassment, if only partially.
Martin then ran for yards and yards before bending his effort over – and those misses soon proved costly.
Frederico Bessone cut inside on the Swans left and unleashed a tasty shot that flicked off Brindley's arm as he slid to block. Referee Mike Blackledge pointed to the spot and while the decision looked harsh, given events at Carrow Road three days earlier you suspect few would really argue.
Cotterill missed his last spot kick at Carrow Road: John Ruddy saving in City's 2-0 win in the Championship last season. But this time the one-time Norwich target made no mistake.
From there home side chances came and went. Wilbraham stabbed agonising wide after Lappin's hard work, while Martin was booked for a retaliatory push on Thomas Butler – the City striker on the receiving end of an unpunished and tasty tackle moments earlier.
Jackson was at the heart of most things after the break, fizzing a drive wide before getting in the way of Martin's close-range effort when it looked easier to score.
It looked like City's goal would never come as Jackson's audacious back-heel was cleared off the line and Wilbraham saw his finish ruled out for offside – that was until the striker finally made one count.
Indeed, Martin could have won it in injury time – but could only drive straight at Tremmel after substitute Matt Ball had done well.
• Norwich: (4-3-1-2) Rudd 6; De Laet 6, Francomb 7, Drury 7, Barker 7 (Kelly 80); Brindley 6 (Ball 70), Surman 7, Lappin 7; Jackson 8; Wilbraham 6, Chris Martin 7. Subs (not used): Mathews, Florence, Murphy. Goal: Wilbraham 88; Booking: Martin.
• Swansea: (4-2-3-1) Tremmel 7; Richards 7, Moras 6, Alfei 6, Bessone 6; Lucas 8, March 7; Edwards 7, Butler 7, Cotterill 8; Thomas 6. Subs (not used): B Davies, O Davies, Smith, Walsh, Loveridge. Goal: Cotterill (pen) 26.
• Referee: Mike Blackledge; Att: 745