Norwich City 1, Queens Park Rangers 0

Russell Martin's third goal of the season was enough to give Norwich City victory over Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers in a barnstorming match at Carrow Road.

It was a thrilling start to the New Year for the Canaries and their supporters as they served up some tremendous entertainment for a near full house.

Full-back Martin struck after nine minutes, shooting home after a shot by Chris Martin had been blocked by Rangers defender Clint Hill.

In front of a crowd of more than 26,000, the Canaries went on to produce certainly their best home performance of the season, but despite hammering away at the leaders for long periods, they were unable to add to their lead.

New signing Aaron Wilbraham had a first-half goal disallowed for handling and, after Rangers were reduced to 10 men by a red card for defender Matt Connolly early in the second half, City were repeatedly thwarted by goalkeeper Paddy Kenny and some desperate defending.

Kenny made three outstanding saves from Chris Martin and another from Wes Hoolahan in stoppage time to keep his side in contention.

The City line-up showed three changes from the team that started the

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4-2 defeat of Sheffield United on Tuesday.

Adam Drury made his first appearance for 11 weeks – since the goalless draw at Loftus Road in October - replacing the suspended Simon Lappin at left-back.

With Leon Barnett completing a two-match ban and Elliott Ward still sidelined by a calf injury, Zak Whitbread was preferred to Jens Berthel Askou as Michael Nelson's partner in central defence.

Whitbread, who made a late appearance as substitute against the Blades, was starting a match for the first time since Easter Monday, with Askou relegated to the bench.

And 31-year-old striker Aaron Wilbraham was handed his debut two days after signing from Milton Keynes Dons, with midfielder David Fox the other absentee from Tuesday's side because of injury.

Midfielder Matthew Gill returned to the squad as one of seven substitutes after being sidelined with a calf injury.

Rangers boss Neil Warnock made one change with Leon Clarke replacing Tommy Smith in attack. Smith was not available because of a technicality in the terms of his loan from Portsmouth.

City reverted to a diamond formation in midfield with Wes Hoolahan on the left and Chris Martin playing behind skipper Grant Holt and Wilbraham.

Rangers forced a free-kick in the third minute when Nelson fouled Taarabt, but Faurlin's shot was charged down.

With nine minutes gone, City took the lead with Russell Martin scoring his third goal of the season.

Hoolahan fed Chris Martin, who did well to creat space for a powerful right-foot shot that was blocked by the sliding Hill but Russell Martin reacted first, following up to drill the rebound past goalkeeper Kenny.

Rangers were almost level immediately when Ruddy made a fine stop from Helguson after a poor header from Whitbread dropped to the striker.

With 16 minutes gone, Wilbraham had his first attempt on goal, getting on the end of Ruddy's long ball forward and striking a left-foot half-volley over the top.

Hoolahan's inswinging corner reached the head of Whitbread but his effort was sliced across goal.

City had the ball in the net again in the 22nd minute but Wilbraham's goal was disallowed for handball. Nelson's header from Hoolahan's free-kick was parried by Kenny and Chris Martin miscued with his attempt to poke in the rebound, but as Mackie tried to hammer the ball clear, it struck Wilbraham and rebounded into the net, but the ball had come off his left arm.

The Canaries were well on top and a superb cross from Korey Smith found Hoolahan unmarked eight yards out, but he tried to feed the ball back to Chris Martin rather than shoot, and it was eventually worked to Crofts, who fired over from just outside the penalty area.

A foul by Russell Martin on Taarabt gave Rangers a free-kick wide on the left but when it was played short to Connolly, he blazed his shot over the bar.

A promising move ended with Holt moving on to Hoolahan's pass and his shot being blocked by Kenny at the near post, but the flag was up for offside.

Holt got in a header from a Korey Smith cross but it lacked power and Kenny saved comfortably.

Taarabt won a free-kick when he was fouled by Drury but it was wasted as he thumped it straight at the wall, and moments later the Rangers skipper appeared to be struggling as he clutched his groin after pulling up sharply.

Four minutes before the break, Hill stopped Russell Martin in full flight and was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon.

City were putting together some flowing moves and when Holt's flick from Russell Martin fell to Chris Martin, he did superbly to set up Hoolahan for a low cross that Holt touched just the wrong side of the post.

• HALF-TIME: Norwich City 1, Queens Park Rangers 0

Rangers made two changes at the break, with Orr replacing Hill and Agyemang sent on for Helguson.

The visitors forced two free-kicks in the opening minutes of the second half.

Taarabt fired over the top from the first, and the second free-kick was perilously close to a penalty as Crofts brought down Agyemang on the corner of the penalty area. This time Taarabt's powerful effort flattened Drury in the wall, catching him full in the face, and the full-back needed attention before being able to continue.

There was drama as Rangers were reduced to 10 men six minutes after the break when defender Connolly clipped Holt's heels just outside the penalty area and was immediately shown the red card.

It was the seventh time in the last 10 City matches that one side or the other had had a player sent off.

From the resulting free-kick, Kenny made a diving save from Chris Martin and Hoolahan's follow-up was brilliantly blocked by Walker.

Chris Martin's long-range effort from Hoolahan's pass whistled just past the angle of post and crossbar as City kept up the assault.

Nelson took a knock and appeared to be struggling a little as Askou began warming up on the touchline.

The Rangers bench were protesting after skipper Taarabt went down following a challenge by Chris Martin, but the referee was unconcerned and the frustrated Taarabt went into the book after 61 minutes for a wild kick at Hoolahan. That was his last involvement as he made way for Tofas in Warnock's final change.

Another superb move almost brought the second goal 20 minute into the half when Hoolahan was sent racing away on the left and his cross reached Chris Martin, who looked certain to score but didn't quite find the power was denied by a fine save from Kenny.

Kenny was kept busy and after a Holt shot was blocked by Faurlin, the keeper made another vital block as Wilbraham tried to force the ball home from a tight angle.

Whitbread fired into the crowd after another concerted attack as Rangers struggled to get out of their own penalty area.

There was a chance, however, after 74 minutes when Clarke flicked on Faurlin's cross and Agyemang headed just the wrong side of the post.

Russell Martin very nearly had a second goal when Korey Smith's neat pass put him into the area but his shot was blocked by Gorkss.

City made their first change with eight minutes left when Wilbraham made way for midfielder Gill.

One minute from time, a mad goalmouth scramble ended with Agyemang sticking out a leg to get in a shot that Ruddy was grateful to hold on to.

In stoppage time, a swift counter-attack looked set to provide City's second goal as Hoolahan sent Chris Martin clear but after sprinting the length of the field, he was foiled by another brilliant Kenny save.

In the final minute of time added on, Kenny did it again with a great save to deny Hoolahan after Holt put him clear.

• RESULT: Norwich City 1, Queens Park Rangers 0

• Norwich City: Ruddy; Russell Martin, Nelson, Whitbread, Drury; Crofts; Korey Smith, Hoolahan; Chris Martin; Wilbraham, Holt.

Subs: Rudd, Askou, Tudur Jones, Gill (for Wilbraham, 82), McNamee, Johnson, Jackson.

• Queens Park Rangers: Kenny; Walker, Connolly, Gorkss, Hill; Derry, Faurlin; Taarabt; Mackie, Helguson, Clarke.

Subs: Cerny, Orr (for Hill, 45), Borrowdale, Tofas (for Taarabt, 62), Rowlands, Agyemang (for Helguson, 45), Hulse.

• Referee: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire)

• Attendance: 26,273

• Goal: City: Russell Martin (9)

• Red card: QPR: Connolly (51)

• Bookings: QPR: Hill (41), Taarabt (61)