Norwich City 1, Derby County 2
Norwich’s Championship revival was cruelly halted by title contenders Derby tonight in a thrilling Carrow Road see-saw contest. Peter Grant’s fighters matched County blow for a blow but it was ex-Man United starlet David Jones’ second-half double that pushed Derby back to the Championship summit after edging his battle of the young guns.
Norwich's Championship revival was cruelly halted by title contenders Derby tonight in a thrilling Carrow Road see-saw contest.
Peter Grant's fighters matched County blow for a blow but it was ex-Man United starlet David Jones' second-half double that pushed Derby back to the Championship summit after edging his battle of the young guns.
City's brightest star Chris Martin deservedly nudged the hosts ahead with a clinical lash from the edge of the area before Jones curled a sublime leveller past Tony Warner. The talented midfielder secured the points when he latched onto Giles Barnes' cheeky back heel seconds after Martin was convinced he had put the home side back in front.
Martin was pinged for offside after referee Lee Probert initially appeared to wave play on following a push on strike partner Darren Huckerby during the build up.
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Huckerby emerged with the captain's armband after Adam Drury was ruled out with a pre-match bout of sickness. Simon Lappin slotted into Drury's vacant left back berth with Dickson Etuhu earning a midfield recall in the only change to Peter Grant's Barnsley starting line-up. Grant named the hugely-influential Dion Dublin on the substitutes' bench after his recent calf trouble. Paul Gallacher was again a notable absentee - youngster Joe Lewis named as Warner's back up. Grant also gave Luke Chadwick the night off as he continued his rehab from a lengthy knee injury.
Derby's Darren Leacock made a timely return after missing County's last two matches with a hand problem to replace Michael Johnson (hamstring). Craig Fagan was preferred to Gary Teale down County's right.
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Darren Moore headed Lee Croft's threatening cross away in a bright start for the hosts. Dickson Etuhu unleashed the first shot in anger with a dipping effort from 25 yards well saved by Stephen Bywater.
Croft latched onto Martin's wonderfully precise pass but Bywater's smothering stop rebounded to Martin who tumbled under James McEveley's challenge. Bywater sprung cat like to his left to beat out Fotheringham's follow up.
The fearless Martin pulled the trigger again but Bywater watched his effort roll wide before inform striker Steve Howard's attempted hook failed to trouble Warner on his home debut.
Rams' skipper Matt Oakley headed away Youssef Safri's inswinging free kick as Norwich continued to dictate proceedings.
Huckerby's slaloming run at his old pal Marc Edworthy ended with a cut back for the overlapping Andy Hughes but the returning Leacock blocked the raiding defender's pile driver.
The robust Darren Moore threw a roadblock around Martin as the Beecles youngster looked to pounce on Safri's throughball.
Warner dropped on Barnes' deflected strike from the edge of the area before Moore was again pressed into an emergency shift to dispossess Huckerby.
The Fulham man was again in the right spot after Fagan had shrugged off Lappin to drill a right footer from 20 yards.
Huckerby's quick free kick was cleared by man mountain Moore. Gary Doherty was equally sharp at the other end to shepherd away Howard from the danger area but Fagan's first-time crack shaved the side netting.
Etuhu's block inadvertently dropped for Howard who drilled an inviting centre across the face of City's six yard box - Rams' boss Billy Davies throwing his head in his hands at the near miss.
Bywater bravely raced off his line to foil Croft as the high-octane start showed no sign of blowing itself out.
Jones ghosted in behind Etuhu as the visitors begin to exert a midfield stranglehold but Jason Shackell cut out his intelligent slide rule pass.
Leacock left a calling card on Martin just past the half-hour mark but Safri's curling right-footer flew inches past Bywater's left-hand upright.
Edworthy poleaxed Martin again seconds later to earn a first caution but the youngster almost had the last laugh with a 25-yard snapshot scrambled away by Bywater - Moore completing the escape.
Huckerby's penalty box tumble in the closing stages sparked a robust reaction from Moore - referee Probert on the scene quickly to diffuse the potential flashpoint.
Jay McEveley tried an ambitious 30-yarder on a rare attacking foray before Safri was on near post sentry duty to hack Barnes' cute free-kick clear.
Warner's brilliant reaction stop cleared Arturo Lupoli's angled strike on the restart after Oakley's pass had pierced the Canaries' backline.
Doherty hammered the ball away in an aerial mismatch with the Fiorentina-bound frontman.
Man-of-the-moment Martin broke the deadlock on 52 minutes - popping up in acres of space to lash past Bywater at his near post with a skidding effort from 18 yards.
Warner confidently pouched Barnes' floated cross to huge cheers as Derby probed for an instant riposte.
Jones advanced from midfield before testing Warner with a fizzing long-range strike then smacked over after pouncing on Hughes' misplaced square pass.
City failed to heed the double warning when the Jones latched onto Oakley's throw in to curl a beauty around the sprawling Warner from fully 20 yards.
Lappin failed to conjure another stylish Luton set piece pearler after Huckerby was upended.
Referee Probert angered the home faithful when Martin superbly slotted on 64 minutes after the official had clearly waved play on during the build up for a push on Huckerby.
An incensed Grant confronted the flagging assistant linesman as the boos rang around Carrow Road.
Huckerby's right-footer whistled over as the home side fed off the apparent sense of injustice. Croft's enticing cross was smuggled away by Barnes with Derby pinned back.
But City were hit with a sucker punch on 72 minutes - Jones arriving on cue to sidefoot Barnes' superb flick past the exposed Warner from 16 yards. Davies led the celebrations as Derby's bench erupted with the goalscorer booked for his exuberant jig in front of the delighted away support.
Grant introduced Dublin for Etuhu but Bywater denied Norwich's talisman a comeback equaliser with a world-class one-handed save to claw away his goal-bound hit.
Leacock closed the door on Martin from Dublin's reverse pass before Howard's powerful header flew over Warner's crossbar.
Bywater reacted angrily after a no-holds-barred collision with Martin six yards out as City poured forward in the frenetic final minutes.
Davies raced to celebrate with the Derby support on the final whistle as the home support warmly applauded the efforts of Grant's side.