Bristol City 1 Norwich City 1
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's set piece woes surfaced again as relegation-threatened Bristol City hit back late to earn a 1-1 Championship draw.
Yanic Wildschut's first goal for the Canaries put them in front prior to the interval but Bailey Wright scrambled home in the 78th minute after Alex Neil's men were unable to clear a corner.
Neil made four changes after a desperate 5-1 weekend Championship defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. Michael McGovern replaced John Ruddy for his first league involvement since a 3-2 home loss to Leeds United on November 5. Ryan Bennett partnered captain Russell Martin with Timm Klose omitted from the matchday squad. Jacob Murphy was also a notable absentee, with twin brother Josh replacing him on the right and January signing Wildschut in for Wes Hoolahan. The Irishman was not involved for City's second outing in three days.
James Maddison made his first Championship appearance on the bench for the club, with Ben Godfrey and Alex Pritchard part of the young guard. Seb Bassong profited from Klose's exit with a rare place on the bench.
Struggling Bristol City included former Canaries' Korey Smith and Aaron Wilbraham but Gary O'Neil missed out on his 500th club appearance through injury. The Robins also announced prior to the game the departure of assistant manager John Pemberton, with head coach Lee Johnson under intense pressure after just one league win since early December.
Norwich showed plenty of bite and appetite for work in the early skirmishes, following the recriminations from a no show at Hillsborough. Cameron Jerome's brutally honest post-match verdict at the Owls had taken on a life of its own in the intervening period but the powerful striker appeared keen to get back to business with a burst and cross that just evaded Wildschut seven yards out.
The Dutchman was never far from the action in the opening minutes, guiding a low far-post shot the wrong side of the post following Murphy's surge.
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Wilbraham's flashing near post header drifted into the away support in a rare sight of McGovern's goal from the hosts during the opening quarter.
Murphy desperately tried to avoid a glare from his manager patrolling the front of the technical area in the 26th minute after twice coughing up possession in his final third, but McGovern dropped on a Wilbraham effort.
The declining fortunes of both sides contributed to a contest rich in industry but woefully lacking in quality with a lack of confidence visible for all to see. Steven Naismith summed up that lack of clinical intent when he evaded the Robins' backline on the half-hour but rolled his angled shot wide from 12 yards with Frank Fielding to beat.
Wright smothered the Scot's follow up effort as the Canaries looked to muster a modicum of attacking intent.
Aden Flint glanced David Cotterill's free kick over with McGovern indecisive in emerging through a crowded six yard box.
Howson predictably raised the quality threshold when he guided an exquisite reverse ball into the path of Murphy, but the young man's low cross was cleared. Murphy then drilled a right-footed shot against the back of Flint.
Wildschut announced his arrival at the Canaries with a superb solo goal to open his Norwich account in the 39th minute, cutting inside Flint to guide a low, right-footed shot past Fielding into the bottom corner.
Neil's men survived a major scare in the aftermath when Callum O'Dowda hammered a rising shot against the top of McGovern's bar after swerving around Martin.
The Northern Irishman denied Wilbraham in the final act of the half but the assistant had already flagged for offside.
McGovern kept his side in front with a fine point blank reaction stop after Marlon Pack rose unchallenged to meet Cotterill's deep free kick. Pack then hammered a half-volley well over the top but there was a palpable nervousness again to Norwich's defensive work.
Martin's needless back pass sparked a bout of pressure only relieved when McGovern claimed Milan Djuric's cross.
The Canaries' vulnerability from set pieces was finally punished in the 78th minute after McGovern had made an acrobatic stop to concede a corner, Wright smashed home inside the Norwich six-yard box.
Neil introduced Bassong for Murphy in the final stages with the Robins sensing blood, which drew a predictably negative response from the travelling support.
• Bristol City: Fielding, Bryan, Flint, Smith, O'Dowda, Reid (Taylor 45), Wilbraham (Djuric 56), Pack, Vyner (Tomlin 68), Cotterill, Wright. Subs (not used): O'Leary, Paterson, Magnusson, Hegeler.
• Booking: Smith (foul on Murphy, 69)
• Goal: Wright (78)
• Norwich: McGovern, Pinto, Bennett, Martin, Dijks, Tettey, Howson, Josh Murphy (Bassong 83), Naismith, Wildschut, Jerome. Subs: (not used): Ruddy (GK), Whittaker, Lafferty, Pritchard, Maddison, Godfrey.
• Booking: Dijks (dissent, 79)
• Goal: Wildschut (39)
• Time added on: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffs)
• Attendance: 17,035 (944 away fans)