Norwich City Reserves 1, Sunderland Reserves 1
The Canaries suffered a double injury scare today when Marc Tierney and Dani Ayala were both forced into early exits during Norwich's Premier Reserve League 1-1 draw against Sunderland Reserves at Colney.
Tierney's long-awaited comeback from groin and knee problems lasted just past the opening quarter of the contest before he left the field as a precaution - pointing to the top of his right thigh area. Tierney did not require any treatment on the pitch, but immediately signalled to the bench prior to heading for the changing rooms at Colney – pausing only for a brief chat with City boss Paul Lambert and his assistant Ian Culverhouse who were watching the action from behind Jed Steer's goal.
Ayala's ankle injury ten minutes from the end initially looked far more of a cause for concern when the Spaniard landed awkwardly following an aerial challenge with Sunderland's towering frontman Adam Mitchell. The centre back lay prone on the ground for a minute or so whilst City's medical team called for a stretcher, but Ayala was thankfully able to walk off the pitch before receiving treatment on his left ankle just over the touchline.
Both would appear unlikely to come into Lambert's thoughts for Norwich's Easter Premier League fixtures against Everton and Tottenham - although the club's medical staff will need to assess the extent of both injuries over the next couple of days.
Declan Rudd's return was the one major positive with the England U21 international featuring for the second half on his first outing since foot surgery following a training ground injury prior to the club's FA Cup fourth round win at West Brom in January.
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Rudd made one excellent stop to deny Anthony Callaghan, but had no chance when Roarie Deacon fired the Black Cats ahead on 73 minutes. Richard Brindley was denied an instant reply by a smart stop from Ben Wilson but the City midfielder lashed home from the resulting corner to earn City's second string a point in their final home reserve fixture of the season against a young visiting line up.
Tierney started in his familiar left back role with skipper-for-the-day Leon Barnett partnering Ayala in a flat back four. The lively Jacob Murphy was a constant threat for the hosts - bursting down the left and producing a dangerous cut back the sliding Reece Hall-Johnson was inches from rifling past Wilson in the early exchanges. John Egan's last ditch block foiled Hall-Johnson again following more intelligent interplay with Murphy.
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City were forced into a swift reshuffle when Tierney was withdrawn on 21 minutes – Harry Toffolo entering the fray. Ayala was alert to sense danger when Steer was caught out by Carl Lawson's header. Murphy's swinging shot flew well before Barnett's glancing flick dropped off target in the closing stages of the opening period.
Rudd was pressed into action within three minutes of his arrival when he denied Callaghan with his legs at the edge of the Norwich penalty area. Patrick Drmola was the latest home player in need of medical attention following a robust tackle from Egan before he eventually rejoined the action. Murphy drifted inside Liam Marrs, but drilled wide with both sides struggling to fashion clear-cut chances until Deacon rifled a low half-volley into Rudd's bottom left-hand corner. Wilson parried from Brindley seconds after the restart, but the Sunderland keeper was left badly exposed when Brindley lashed home Toffolo's corner.
City's bid for a winner was halted when Ayala suffered a heavy fall in a tussle with Mitchell. The Spaniard was eventually withdrawn before walking to the changing rooms for further treatment. City goalscorer Brindley worked some space in the final seconds, but his long range strike failed to match the precision of his earlier finish.
• Norwich City Reserves: Steer (Rudd 45), Barker, Tierney (Toffolo 21), Brindley, Ayala (McKenzie 82), Barnett, Hall-Johnson, Clunan, Loza, Florence, Jacob Murphy. Subs (not used): Joshua Murphy, McGeehan.
• Goal: Brindley (76)
•Sunderland Reserves: Wilson, Marrs, Callaghan (Elliott 61), Gorrin (Armstrong 61), Egan, Watson, Honeyman, Oliver, Laidler (Mitchell 78), Lawson, Deacon. Subs (not used): Dixon, Mandron.
• Goal: Deacon (73)
• Attendance: 189
• Referee: B Holderness