Norwich City 0 Preston 1
- Credit: Andy Kearns/Focus Images Limited
Norwich City slumped to their first Championship home defeat of the season against a well-organised Preston at Carrow Road.
Alex Baptiste rose unmarked to crash home a close range header in the 75th minute against a below-par Canaries' outfit who lacked the ideas and the nous to break down Simon Grayson's men.
Alex Neil initially named an unchanged starting line up from the midweek 2-2 Championship draw at Fulham. Robbie Brady was preferred to Alex Pritchard again with Jonny Howson (ankle) absent from the matchday squad. But the City boss was forced into a late change after the warm ups with Ivo Pinto removed from the line up to be replaced by Ryan Bennett and Seb Bassong promoted to the bench.
Preston counterpart Grayson also elected to keep faith with the same XI who impressively beat Huddersfield 3-1 on Wednesday.
Cameron Jerome was denied 14 seconds into the contest when he chopped back onto his left foot but Chris Maxwell tipped his goalbound strike over.
Michael McGovern bailed out Bennett when he foiled Jordan Hugill in the fifth minute with the late call-up caught under a booming Ben Pearson clearance.
Alex Tettey's drilled low shot tested Pearson again in the closing stages of a drab opening period but the hosts needed McGovern to intervene again to smother a shot from Callum Robinson.
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The dangerous Robinson smashed a half-volley wide on the restart with Norwich still looking any genuine creativity or attacking thrust.
Neil responded with a double change just prior to the hour mark with Nelson Oliveira and Alex Pritchard replacing Jacob Murphy and Brady respectively.
McGovern survived a nervy moment in the 68th minute when he spilled Paul Gallagher's curling effort but gathered swiftly at the second attempt.
Pritchard's dipping free kick was clawed away by the flying Maxwell but City wasted the resulting corner.
Norwich were rocked back in the 75th minute when the unmarked Baptiste rose unmarked to power Daniel Johnson's whipped free kick past McGovern.
Jerome responded almost immediately when his rising shot thudded the post but Preston survived.
Bailey Wright preserved the visitors' lead when he hooked Pritchard's looping header off his line in the 80th minute.
Wright then wiped out Jerome inches from the Preston penalty area but Pritchard's free kick struck the wall.
• Norwich: McGovern, Martin, Bennett, Klose, Olsson, Tettey, Dorrans, Jacob Murphy (Oliveira 56), Hoolahan, Brady (Pritchard 56), Jerome. Subs (not used): Ruddy, Naismith, Bassong, Josh Murphy, Thompson.
• Booking: Klose (foul on Hugill, 57)
• Preston: Maxwell, Baptiste, Clarke, Wright, Cunningham, Pringle (Spurr 73), Pearson, Johnson, Gallagher (Browne 73), Robinson (Huntington 90), Hugill. Subs (not used): Lindegaard, Humphrey, Doyle, Makienok.
• Booking: Cunningham (foul on Oliveira, 68)
• Goal: Baptiste (75)
• Time added on: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffs)
• Attendance: 26,239