Norwich City Reserves 1, Fulham Reserves 5
Norwich new boy Ryan Bennett's goalscoring debut was one of the few bright spots in a comprehensive Premier League Reserve defeat today at Colney.
The club's big money January window signing from Peterborough was part of a strong-looking Norwich second string swept aside by Fulham's development squad. Bennett's towering header from Bradley Johnson's corner just past the half hour mark briefly threatened a comeback, but the Cottagers' ran out comfortable winners. The England U21 international was deployed on the right side of a defensive three that also featured Leon Barnett and the fit-again Dani Ayala as the watching Paul Lambert and his assistant Ian Culverhouse opted for the same defensive shape that earned City a weekend Premier League win over Wolves at Carrow Road.
Johnson also started alongside skipper Andrew Crofts in central midfield with Aaron Wilbraham partnering Jacob Murphy up front and Jamar Loza tucked just in behind the front two. Wilbraham was withdrawn after 66 minutes in the warm conditions, but the rest of Lambert's recognised first teamers played the full 90 without pushing their claims for involvement in Saturday's Premier League trip to Craven Cottage.
Norwegian international Bjorn Riise was the class act in the opposition ranks operating down the right flank. His early corner was only partially blocked by Barnett, but Rafik Halliche reacted quickest to lash past Jed Steer from 16 yards.
Riise then pounced on Ayala's slack initial control to centre for the late arriving Alex Smith who swept a low right footer past Steer from the edge of the box. City were struggling to combat Fulham's high energy pressing and almost fell further behind on 30 minutes when Marcello Trotta's looping header dropped inches wide of Steer's far post following another penetrative burst from Riise.
Harry Toffolo's deflected strike reared up off the imposing figure of Dan Burn but landed on the roof of Grant Smith's net. The Fulham keeper had no chance from the resulting corner when Bennett climbed powerfully eight yards out above his own man Wilbraham to despatch Johnson's corner. Norwich were finishing the half much stronger, but paid for more slackness when Buomesca Tue Na Bangna veered infield away from Bennett to pick out the unmarked Riise who unleashed a venomous hit that brushed Ayala on its way past Steer. Alex Smith then grabbed his second from point blank range in the last seconds before the interval after Norwich had switched off again.
Fulham added a fifth within a minute of the restart when the lively Bangna pounced on Johnson's square pass to slot past Steer. Jacob Murphy lashed over on 54 minutes in a sporadic attacking raid for the hosts before Loza profited from Murphy's brave block tackle, but his swinging half volley flew well wide. Alex Smith's dipping free kick flicked Norwich's defensive wall and drifted wide after Ayala hauled down Trotta on the edge of the area. Barnett's desperate lunge blocked Riise at close range but City's afternoon was summed up when Johnson was robbed after retrieving his own weak free kick only for Steer to foil Ryan Williams.
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• Norwich: Steer, Brindley, Toffolo (Barker 86), Bennett, Barnett, Ayala, Crofts, Johnson, Wilbraham (Hall-Johnson 66), Loza, Jacob Murphy (Josh Murphy 78). Subs (not used): Clunan, Wootton.
• Goal: Bennett (34)
• Fulham: G Smith, Harris, Kavanagh, Halliche (Grimmer 25), Burn, Gecov, Riise, A Smith, Trotta, Minwitz (Christensen 80), Bangna (Williams 74). Subs (not used): Oberschmidt, Pritchard.
• Goals: Halliche (10), Smith (12, 45), Risse (42), Bangna (46)
• Referee: A Young
• Attendance: 144