Norwich City 1, Crystal Palace 0

DAVID CUFFLEY David Strihavka’s first goal for Norwich City was enough to give them a welcome Championship victory over Crystal Palace at Carrow Road this afternoon.

DAVID CUFFLEY

David Strihavka's first goal for Norwich City was enough to give them a welcome Championship victory over Crystal Palace at Carrow Road this afternoon.

The Czech striker on as a second-half substitute for Chris Brown, scored the only goal after 75 minutes when he headed home from close range after Dion Dublin had nodded back a corner from Simon Lappin.

It had been a struggle for much of the afternoon for the Canaries, but they had the best opportunity against a poor Palace side.

Darel Russell struck the crossbar in the first half and had another effort saved after the break, while Jamie Cureton had a couple of opportunities to add to his goal tally.

Darren Huckerby started a Championship match for the first time this season but had a fairly quiet afternoon and was substituted 13 minutes from time.

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City skipper Jason Shackell lost his battle for fitness, with Dion Dublin continuing to deputise as centre-half and skipper. There was just one change to the starting line-up from the team beaten 2-1 by Cardiff a fortnight ago. Darren Huckerby, fully recovered from hip and groin problems, started his first Championship game of the season, with French midfielder Julien Brellier dropping to the bench. Lee Croft, Ian Murray and David Strihavka, all whom played for the reserves at Milton Keynes on Monday after recovering from illness, were the other three outfield substitutes with no place in the 16 for Chris Martin.

Palace showed four changes to the team beaten 1-0 at home by Charlton two weeks ago. Striker Clinton Morrison, stuck on 99 career goals for Palace, and summer signing Jeff Hughes were relegated to the bench and there was no place in the 16 for either Matt Lawrence or Mark Kennedy. Into the starting 11 came Danny Butterfield, Stuart Green and two on-loan forwards, Besian Idrizaj, from Liverpool and Paul Dickov, from Manchester City. Dickov was a thorn in Norwich's side two seasons ago when he scored three times in two matches against them for Blackburn in the Premiership.

Before kick-off, striker Jamie Cureton was presented with the Anglian Player of the Month award for August.

City kicked off in bright sunshine attacking the Barclay End but Palace won the first free-kick on the halfway line, Craig taking it, but his cross drifted out of play behind the goal.

As Norwich pressed forward in response, Russell took a return header from Brown and let fly from outside the box but his effort struck Cureton and deflected well off target.

With just three minutes gone, Palace won another free-kick in more dangerous territory when Doherty fouled Green on the edge of the area. After the referee spent time pushing the wall back, Green struck a crisp left-foot shot low through a crowd of players which Marshall did well to hold on to close to the goal line.

Otsemobor tried to get Norwich going as they counterattacked but his centre was an easy catch for the ponytailed Speroni.

One of Norwich's more promising moves was spoiled by a poor pass from Drury just outside the Palace area and, as the visitors switched to attack, Dickov tried to create space for a shot at goal but his effort was charged down.

Chadwick was next to give the ball away in Palace territory and as the visitors pushed forward again there was almost a hiccup when Marshall failed to control a back pass from Dublin with Dickov hovering, but the keeper was able to regain his balance just in time to clear.

Otsemobor became the third player to spoil a useful move when he gave the ball away midway into the Palace half and they again attacked with purpose as a cross from Idrizaj found Soares around the penalty spot and Dublin did superbly to block the midfielder's low drive.

With 12 minutes gone there were ironic cheers from the home crowd when City finally managed to give Huckerby possession wide on the left and his cross to the far post was met by the head of Brown but he was unable to make clean contact and the ball dropped behind for a goal kick.

The Canaries produced their best effort after 15 minutes when Chadwick sent Otsemobor racing clear on the right and the fullback pulled a cross back neatly towards Cureton, whose first time effort was just wide of Speroni's right-hand post.

City were still struggling to make much headway, however, and there were a few groans when Dublin produced a fairly agricultural up and under from deep in his own half, which cleared the entire team and bounced into Speroni's hands.

Huckerby was unhappy with one or two decisions up to now and when he tried to wriggle into the Palace area, he was muscled out by Scowcroft.

In City's next attack, Otsemobor aimed a deep cross towards Brown but it was a little too strong and the striker's header again fell wide.

Palace hit back and a cross by Green was headed back by Scowcroft, for Dickov to slide in and just poke the ball wide as Marshall closed him down.

But with just over a quarter of the match played, it had been pretty average entertainment for another big Carrow Road crowd.

Huckerby was trying to make things happen for City, but after getting the better of Butterfield, his next cross drifted out for a goal kick.

After 27 minutes, City had another dead ball opportunity when Hudson fouled Brown halfway into the Palace half. But inexplicably, Lappin rolled a square pass to Russell, who then played another to Huckerby and he was quickly closed down as he attempted to cross and the opportunity was wasted.

Another useful move was ruined when Drury's cross fell behind to a goal kick.

A mix up between Speroni and Hudson almost handed Norwich an opening when the keeper failed to kick clear and it needed the alert Fletcher to clear the danger for Palace as Chadwick hovered.

It had been a very scrappy contest and with half an hour gone, there had not been a single corner but it finally came after 33 minutes when Butterfield whipped the ball off Huckerby's toes after Chadwick had sent him clear. Huckerby worked a short corner routine with Lappin and when his cross was nodded down by Dublin, Russell managed to get in a shot which was deflected wide for another flag kick, but this time Palace were able to clear easily.

The visitors seemed to be afflicted with the same problem and Dickov ruined another opening when his over hit pass towards Idrizaj rolled out of play.

Palace won another free-kick midway into the City half but Idrizaj was penalised for a foul on Dublin as he challenged for the cross from Fletcher.

Seven minutes before the break, referee Probert produced the yellow card for the first time when Huckerby was blatantly stopped by Green with a body check as he tried to speed past him on the touchline midway in the Norwich half.

There was a better move from City when Huckerby moved in field to take possession from Brown and then sent the big striker clear on the left. Brown failed to deliver his centre but when the ball dropped to Lappin he curled a left-foot shot just over the top.

Norwich went even closer after 41 minutes when Otsemobor played a one-two with Chadwick and crossed towards Russell, whose first time shot clipped the top of the crossbar.

There was another yellow card before the interval when former Ipswich man Scowcroft produced a late challenge on Drury to earn both the booking and the derision of the home crowd.

In the one minute of time added on, Cureton seemed to have played Huckerby into a dangerous position on the edge of the Palace area, but Huckerby hesitated for just a moment and Butterfield was able to close down his route to goal.

It had been an uninspiring half and the fact there were 20 free-kicks rather summed it up.

Both sides were unchanged as the match resumed and City threatened first when Huckerby found Cureton in the Palace area but the striker's effort as he swivelled to shoot was well off target.

Idrizaj spoiled a useful opening as Palace counterattacked when he tried to go it alone and his shot took a deflection off Drury and was easily gathered by Marshall, with Dickov perhaps better placed at the far post.

There was a short delay when Idrizaj went down after being caught accidentally on the back by Dublin's studs as the two men grappled for possession. The home crowd became impatient and the referee ordered the Palace man to get up and get on with the game.

Five minutes into the half, Craig conceded a corner under pressure and there was an opening for City when Lappin's flag kick was met by a firm header from Doherty. Craig managed to block it but Brown should have done better than volley the rebound high over the bar.

Palace pushed forward and Green made space for a shot just outside the box but his effort lacked power and was easily gathered by Marshall.

Huckerby produced one jinking run after 53 minutes before finding Brown, whose neat back heel set up Cureton for a shot which deflected off Hudson for a corner. City could make nothing of the flag kick but moments later a foul on Lappin handed them a free-kick and the Scottish midfielder floated the dead ball kick into the danger area where Doherty headed just over the top.

Norwich's set piece routine had been poor by recent standards and when Craig conceded another corner, they were once again wasteful with Russell's shot blocked on the edge of the box.

There were more groans from the home crowd when a square pass from Chadwick found Brown but his attempt to float the ball home from 20-yards was way over the top.

Chadwick tried to find Cureton with a 40-yard pass as the Canaries went forward again but Speroni was off his line quickly to beat the little striker to the ball.

With just over an hour gone, both sides made a change in attack with Freedman replacing Idrizaj for Palace and Strihavka on for Brown for the Canaries.

There were appeals for a penalty by the visitors after 62 minutes when Hudson's shot was blocked by Dublin and Palace felt it was handball but despite Hudson's protests, the referee waved play on.

Freedman was looking to make a quick impact and set off on a run which took him deep into the Norwich area, only to be foiled by the diving Marshall. Freedman appeared to leave his boot in and Marshall reacted angrily, with the striker fortunate to escape a yellow card.

As City pushed forward, Russell, who had worked as hard as anyone in Norwich's cause, brought Speroni into action with a low left-foot shot which the keeper grabbed, diving to his left.

A corner from Lappin almost provided City with an opportunity a minute later when it was headed back by Dublin at the far post and Palace were only just able to clear from close to their own line.

The referee produced the yellow card for the third time when Dickov left his mark on Otsemobor with a late tackle and it was his last contribution of the day when Morrison was sent on in his place.

After 71 minutes Palace won their very first corner of the match, but thankfully for City, Dublin was well placed to head clear from Green's kick.

Chadwick and Strihavka fashioned an opening for Russell but when the midfielder's shot was blocked, Palace broke very quickly through Freedman and although Russell did his best to get back and atone for his error, Freedman still managed to bring Marshall into action with a curling right-foot shot. Russell was in the thick of everything and appeared to catch a boot on the chin from Morrison.

While City were waiting to take the free-kick, Croft was sent on in place of Chadwick.

Then with 15 minutes to go, City's seventh corner of the afternoon finally produced the desired result when Strihavka gave them the lead. Lappin's corner was nodded back by Dublin and the substitute reacted first to flash a header past Speroni into the roof of the net.

As Palace pressed quickly for an equaliser, Marshall produced a smart save from Morrison but the flag was already up for offside.

The Canaries made their final change after 77 minutes when Huckerby was replaced by Brellier.

Cureton had a half chance to stretch City's lead a minute later when he connected with a Croft centre but curled his shot into the side netting.

A foul by Croft gave Palace a free-kick 10-yards outside the City area but after much deliberation, the ball was played to Craig and he floated a harmless cross out of play.

Palace made their last change with seven minutes to go when Hughes was sent on in place of Green.

There was just a glimmer of a chance for Croft when a cross from Lappin dropped awkwardly for him around the penalty spot but he failed to connect and Palace pushed forward again.

A corner from Hughes could have caused City problems with four minutes left and Doherty did well to get the ball clear from the six-yard line.

Morrison, desperate for that 100th Palace, carved out enough room for a shot with one minute left but struck his effort wide of the target.

Cureton had an opportunity to make the game safe in the final minute when Hudson failed to control a high ball from Otsemobor but Speroni managed to close the striker down and the chance was gone.

Palace began to push for a leveller and Dublin did well to clear another corner under pressure from Hudson.