Photo Gallery: Only one point against QPR but Norwich City pride restored

The dark, brooding clouds at the final whistle were restricted to the skies over Carrow Road. Any lingering opening day despondency had been firmly lifted by Norwich City's vibrant display.

Victory may have eluded them, but after those chastening events at Fulham this was a line in the sand; a foothold in their Premier League season. Chris Hughton's men bossed proceedings following a period of adjustment towards half-time triggered by a penalty incident which divided the two managers.

Hughton felt hard done by on two counts. The initial award when Djibril Cisse cutely exploited a rash challenge from debutant Sebastien Bassong.

The recent signing got none of the ball and enough of Cisse to convince Mark Clattenburg of his guilt.

Soft it may have been. Contentious it was not. The same could not be said of the immediate aftermath.


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Bobby Zamora was level with Clattenburg inside the Norwich penalty area when Cisse stepped up at the moment of impact. John Ruddy's fantastic reaction stop via a post deserved so much more than Zamora's follow-up slot from a tight angle.

Ruddy berated his team mates for allowing Zamora an apparent free run. The truth was the one-time England striker had gambled on the complicity of the official.

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Mark Hughes was right in his post-match assessment. Zamora was not the only player who had encroached. City's personnel were also on the move, but Hughton was equally within his rights to state the goalscorer had gained an unfair advantage which demanded a re-take.

Encroachment on such an industrial scale should be punishable in the same way as shirt-pulling inside the penalty box, or those less innocuous incidents when defenders shepherd the ball out of play by manhandling the attacker and showing precious little regard for the spherical object.

The reality is you need the fingers on one hand to count how many times such infringements are highlighted and summarily dealt with over the course of a campaign; which should be cold comfort for the Canaries.

Yet in their response to a viable sense of injustice, Hughton's men demonstrated they have lost none of the fighting qualities which have defined the club's recent era.

City dominated the second period. QPR were restricted to swift counters that invariably floundered with a misplaced pass or a miscommunication that left Cisse straying well offside.

Robert Snodgrass grew by the minute as a Premier League footballer capable of leaving his imprint on top flight games. Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson combined seamlessly, in stark contrast to their efforts at Fulham.

And Simeon Jackson proved what most seasoned observers would tell you when they look down the roll call of available striking options to the Norwich manager.

The Canadian may not be prolific in front of goal, but he is undoubtedly the best foil for Grant Holt; a union of contrasting qualities. Jackson's pace and ability to stretch static defences allied to Holt's aerial presence and link play to bring others into the game. Anton Ferdinand needed treatment barely a minute into the contest after coming off worse in an opening skirmish.

Clint Hill was mercifully saved any further punishment by his manager at the interval, when Hughes opted for a policy of self-preservation after Holt had surgically worked over his centre-back to such an extent Hill looked set to embrace the referee at one point when he was eventually awarded a free-kick following another robust tangle.

The last time Holt and Jackson had taken to the Carrow Road stage in tandem for a competitive fixture it ended with a goal apiece. A match subsequently to be remembered as the clash between Paul Lambert's current and future employers.

Hughton has been impressively swift in his transfer dealings over the intervening period. The new manager quite rightly will look to put his own imprint on the current chapter in Norwich's story.

But in the embryonic stage of his tenure, Holt and Jackson continue to offer a tried and trusted formula.

Against Aston Villa back on a warm May afternoon on the final day of the last Premier League season, Jackson had reacted quickest to slot past Shay Given in front of the Barclay after Holt caused havoc aerially to unsettle Carlos Cuellar.

The poacher's instinct was just as sharp again when Snodgrass exchanged passes with both frontmen to free the overlapping Anthony Pilkington. Jackson's movement took Hill towards the near post before a momentary pause and drift sideways created the illusion he had been left unmarked to despatch Pilkington's perfectly-weighted cross.

One could admire the finish and laud the precision passing that led to its creation. It bore all the hallmarks of Fulham's fourth goal at Craven Cottage the previous weekend; fast, sharp, intricate triangles around the opposition penalty area prior to a ruthless execution.

The group celebrations in front of the Barclay told another story; of relief and confidence surging back into a set of players who had suffered a major dent to their professional pride.

Suddenly Pilkington was bamboozling Fabio Da Silva with a Cruyff-like turn tight to the touchline before producing a first time cross the harassed Hill had to clear. Jackson then galloped after a seemingly lost cause. Pilkington and Snodgrass poured forward in support, but the final centre this time was too high for Holt. City's creative players were in the mood – until QPR cashed in on Bassong's honest attempt to nick Junior Hoilett's pass from Cisse.

Professionals in such circumstances will always tell you to observe the direction of the ball. It spat towards Ruddy. Not conclusive proof, but even Hughton himself acknowledged it had been Cisse who made contact first.

Most of Norwich's squad has faced adversity on their rise to the top. It is the common bond that unites, but it was the fresh context of this latest blow that differed. City's anaemic display at Fulham had left plenty of questions at kick off. Here was another.

Snodgrass moved centre stage in search of answers. The former Leeds captain may be new to this scene, but he has football intelligence in abundance; always on the half turn, always with a picture of the pitfalls and opportunities in his general vicinity.

Russell Martin glanced a free-kick wide at the back post from his international colleague. Martin's reaction told you everything; head in hands. Pilkington tested Robert Green but the strike failed to match the venomous intent. Snodgrass' curler was destined for the top corner before Green clawed it away to safety.

City rumbled forward with greater intent as the second half elapsed. Howson and Johnson held sway in the centre of the park.

Martin felt confident enough to leave dangerman Hoilett to raid with greater frequency. And Snodgrass remained the fulcrum. One anticipated flick on from Holt sent him clear. The cross was a yard overcooked for Jackson hurtling towards the six-yard box.

Clattenburg and his team of officials did little to improve their popularity among the home supporters when City old boy Green escaped censure after appearing to stray just outside his penalty box to intercept Howson's raking crossfield ball destined for Jackson.

Bassong spurned a chance for redemption following his part in QPR's penalty leveller when he met Snodgrass' deep free-kick on the way back down to earth.

Then Garrido picked out the midfielder for what, in the cinematic land of Hollywood script-writing, would have been his crowning glory.

A wonderful outswinger that Green could only watch as Snodgrass' free header brushed the top of his netting. There was still time left for Martin to thud woodwork with a looping effort from Pilkington's centre in the closing seconds.

Hughton cautioned afterwards about the need for clinical precision. He was right. It is early days and he is experienced enough to know it remains a work in progress.

But after this 90 minute offering he also knows now he has the raw materials in his grasp.

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