Pritchard masterminds victory at Birmingham to provide festive cheer for Canaries
PUBLISHED: 22:08 26 December 2017 | UPDATED: 22:08 26 December 2017
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Alex Pritchard's first goal of the season and a sumptuous assist has provided some belated festive cheer for Norwich City, getting back to winning ways at struggling Birmingham City.
The playmaker proved he was starting to rediscover his touch during his sixth game since recovering from pre-season ankle ligament damage, blasting a snap shot home in the 33rd minute.
The former Tottenham man then slipped Josh Murphy clean through with a fine left-footed pass with 20 minutes remaining and the winger rounded keeper David Stockdale to seal victory with his eighth goal of the season.
Daniel Farke made five changes to his starting XI from Friday’s miserable 2-1 home defeat to Brentford, with key defensive midfield duo Alex Tettey and Tom Trybull reunited for the first time since September after injuries.
Jamal Lewis was also handed his full debut at left-back after coming on as a substitute against Brentford and coped admirably with Spanish playmaker Jota, with Marco Stiepermann missing out completely.
Cameron Jerome and Wes Hoolahan were not fit enough to return but Josh Murphy also got the nod to start, as did Christoph Zimmermann, in place of Grant Hanley, who hurt his knee on Friday.
The Canaries were the better team from the off, with James Maddison curling an early free-kick just wide and Murphy also firing a low effort just beyond the right-hand upright.
Timm Klose’s slip saw Lukas Jutkiewicz find the side-netting for the hosts in the 13th minute under pressure from Zimmermann and Pritchard was in the right place to clear after Harlee Dean made a Gary Gardner corner with his head soon after.
Lewis did well to hold up Jutkiewicz on the left in the 26th minute but Angus Gunn had to make an excellent save at full stretch to stop a Jonathan Grounds effort from the edge of the box nestling in his top-right corner.
Three minutes later Pritchard scuffed a decent shooting opportunity after being teed up by Maddison but the former Tottenham man made no mistake in the 33rd minute.
The playmaker was holding his ankle after being fouled by Cheikh Ndoye 25 yards from goal and limped away, only to be slipped into the right channel from Maddison’s free-kick before blasting a shot into the roof of the net from a narrow angle.
Pritchard nearly doubled the lead in the 44th minute, Nelson Oliveira being denied by David Stockdale, who had to tip over a fine shot on the volley from the 24-year-old as some confidence started to flow through the visitors’ veins.
The bottom-of-the-table hosts – who had failed to score in eight of their last 12 games – were booed off at the break which prompted boss Steve Cotterill to make a double change for the second half, bringing on David Davis and Jacques Maghoma replacing Ndoye and Jota.
Maikel Kieftenbeld thumped a 25-yard shot over the bar as the Blues started the second half brightly but Stockdale had to get down to a low shot from Murphy after a Maddison free-kick soon after.
Birmingham’s keeper made a superb save to prevent Pritchard’s shot going into his top-left corner just before the hour mark and was relieved to see Trybull poke wide after the resulting corner was recycled by Norwich.
The Canaries made sure of a desperately needed three points in the 71st minute though, Pritchard wonderfully threading Murphy through, who shimmied past the keeper to fire into an empty net at the same end as City’s 921 travelling fans.
Murphy lashed a low shot just wide 10 minutes later, as the Blues continued to shoot from all angles out of desperation, allowing City to largely keep them at arm’s length.
Norwich return to action on Saturday with another away game, taking on another struggling teams, Burton Albion.
Norwich: Gunn; Pinto (C), Zimmermann, Klose, Lewis; Tettey, Trybull; Pritchard (Wildschut 85), Maddison (Reed 80), Murphy; Oliveira (Watkins 80). Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Husband, Vrancic, Hanley
Booked: Zimmermann (foul on Maghoma, 52), Murphy (on Kieftenbeld, 79)
Goal: Pritchard (33), Murphy 71
Birmingham: Stockdale; Colin, Morrison (C), Dean, Grounds; Gardner, Kieftenbeld; Jota (Maghoma 46), Ndoye (Davis 46), Boga; Jutkiewicz. Unused subs: Trueman (GK), Roberts, Nsue, Bramall, Gleeson
Booked: Kieftenbeld (foul on Maddison, 45+2)
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)
Attendance: 19,967 (921 away)