Preston North End 0, Norwich City 0
Norwich City came away with a creditable point away at Preston this afternoon. In a game of few clear-cut chances, it was Preston’s Kevin Nicholls who came closest to breaking the deadlock when he hit the post late in the second half with a long-range effort.
Norwich City came away with a creditable point away at Preston this afternoon.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, it was Preston's Kevin Nicholls who came closest to breaking the deadlock when he hit the post late in the second half with a long-range effort.
City lacked the creativity of Darren Huckerby, who missed out with a groin strain that has plagued him all summer.
Norwich City manger Peter Grant will be delighted with the point and the organisation of the back four was real cause for optimism for City fans.
Jason Shackell revelled in his new role as skipper making several vital interceptions when Preston threatened to steal all three points.
Chris Brown led the line well up front and looked the most threatening of the strikers on display but he was unable to get on the scoresheet.
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Jamie Cureton, who was reportedly one of the victims of Barbie-gate, was surprisingly named on the substitutes' bench leaving Dion Dublin and Chris Brown to make up the front two.
Julien Brellier made his competitive debut in front of the back four at the base of a diamond flanked by Simon Lappin and Darel Russell.
Luke Chadwick, who has been so impressive in pre-season, was at the tip of the diamond trying to provide the ammunition for Brown and Dublin to fire.
Preston were grateful to welcome back Neil Mellor from a back injury suffered in a pre-season friendly.
Former Southampton striker Brett Ormerod was his strike partner while Darren Carter, who chose Preston ahead of the Canaries, made his debut for the Lilywhites.
At the back French defender Youl Mawene made his first start for 15 months after a knee ligament injury while Sean St Ledger, who once scored an own goal against the Canaries, made up the heart of the Preston defence.
Norwich City kicked off in the sunshine and Jason Shackell immediately looked to Dublin with a long ball but it drifted out of play.
Preston were then making all the early running with a Kevin Nicholls free-kick causing trouble in the City defence.
Kevin Nicholls then drifted in a corner from the left but it went out of harm's way.
Paul Simpson's side were quicker to every ball in the opening minutes with City failing to come out of the traps quickly enough.
City were struggling to gain a foothold in the early minutes with aimless long balls to Dublin and Brown not finding their target at all.
The Canaries mounted their first attack of note in the seventh minute but Brown was unable to gain control of the ball and the move petered out.
The match started to settle down into a pattern with both sides looking to hit the strikers too early.
Norwich then survived a genuine penalty appeal when a good through ball by Nicholls found Mellor and Shackell looked to have clipped the former Liverpool man's heels but the referee waved away the appeal.
The set pieces from Pugh and Nicholls were causing real trouble to the City defence with Marshall flapping at a couple of crosses.
Dublin had to be alert when another good ball in was heading towards the head of Mellor but the veteran striker just managed to flick the ball away.
Nicholls was trying to dictate the play with the new-look Norwich midfield struggling to get to grips with the former Luton man.
The travelling Norwich fans were trying to rally their troops and a good ball in from Lappin was almost met by Brown but the former Sunderland man was inches away.
In the 20th minute Norwich had their first shot on goal but Brellier's effort was well wide.
Nicholls was penalised for a foul on Lappin leaving Norwich with a free-kick 25-yards from goal. The former St Mirren man dusted himself down to take the kick but his effort flew just wide.
Lappin was at the heart of everything Norwich were doing going forward and his cross from the left found Dublin but the veteran striker could not get enough power on the header.
Chadwick almost found himself through on goal after a Dublin knockdown but St Ledger managed to snuff out the danger.
City appeared to have weathered the early Preston storm and were now playing the better football. Dublin and Brown were now getting much better service but still no genuine goal scoring opportunities had materialised.
Drury, who had to receive treatment for a facial injury, was looking at his best on the left-hand side of the defence and seemed to be able to cope with whatever Whaley came at him with.
City boss Grant will have been very happy with the organisation of his defence with Preston appearing to lack the creativity to find a way through.
Mellor looked the Lilywhite's most threatening striker and in the 37th minute his curling effort was easily saved by Marshall.
At the other end Brown was leading the Norwich line well and in the 38th minute he headed just wide.
Apparently frustrated by the striker's efforts, Mawene burst forward behind City's defence but Otsemobor tracked his run and cleared the danger. It was a vital interception otherwise the Frenchman would have been through on goal.
Dublin was booked in the 43rd minute for an aerial challenge on Davidson, leaving the former Scotland international on the floor.
Preston then manufactured the best move of the game when Mellor and Ormerod combined setting up Carter but the former Birmingham midfielder's effort went well wide.
This proved to be the last meaningful action of the half with both side still unable to break the deadlock.
t Half-time: Preston 0, Norwich 0
Preston started the second half on front foot but a Whaley cross was easily gathered by Marshall.
City countered but a well flighted ball in from Otsemobor posed no danger for the Preston back four.
It was end-to-end stuff and a lofted ball from Mellor almost fell to the onrushing Carter but Shackell made a captain's interception.
A long throw from Drury found Dublin who laid it off to Russell but Carter blocked his shot well.
Preston then broke through Mellor down the left-hand side to win a corner of Otsemobor.
A fantastic corner from Nicholls was only just cleared under his crossbar by Marshall. A melee ensued with Mawene and the former Celtic man squaring up to one another.
The match was really starting to hot up now and a Danny Pugh foul on Adam Drury was reprimanded with a booking in the 52nd minute.
City then had a chance of their own from a set piece after Carter fouled Russell but the delivery from Otsemobor was not good enough to trouble the Preston back four.
Carter was being cautioned for a late challenge on Brellier just before Russell registered City's first shot on target with a header from the edge of the box.
Preston then forced themselves on to the front foot and Shackell had to be alert to head away a dangerous Whaley cross from the right.
Mellor then found himself completely free in the 64th minute but his turn and shot was straight at Marshall to the relief of City's fans.
Russell was booked a minute later when he hacked down Mellor from behind leaving Preston with a free-kick in a dangerous area.
Carter teed up Nicholls who curled his shot round the wall but into the side netting.
Lee Croft then came on for the tiring Luke Chadwick with Grant looking to the ex-Manchester City man for a spark of creativity.
City then went close when Otsemobor crossed to Dublin who glanced the ball just wide.
This proved to be the former England international's last action as David Strihavka replaced him to make his League debut in the 72nd minute.
He immediately made an impact when he linked well with Brown on the edge of the box but the Czech's left-foot shot went well wide.
Preston then had a chance of their own when Pugh seemed to bundle over Brellier, but the referee waved play on only for the former Manchester United man's cross to come to nothing.
In the 75th minute Mark Fotheringham came on for Brellier, who appeared to be suffering from cramp.
Mellor was finally making his presence felt up front and his running of the channels was causing some problems. His excellent cross in the 77th minute was only just missed by Ormerod.
The Preston crowd were trying to rouse their team but both sets of players appeared to find it tough going as the match went into its final stages.
Preston boss Simpson then decided to give summer signing Karl Hawley his debut when he came on for the ineffective Ormerod in the 80th minute.
Nicholls then hit a beautiful right-foot shot out of nowhere and Marshall could only stand and watch as the ball hit the outside of the post and rebounded to safety.
In the 86th minute Chris Sedgwick came on for Mellor and Preston almost took the lead when Nicholls played in Hawley but that man Shackell was there again to intercept.
From the resulting corner Marshall again had to scoop the ball off the line with it looking like the keeper was being fouled.
In the dying minutes Pugh almost snatched the points when he got on the end of a Whaley cross but his header landed on top of the net.
t Result: Preston North End 0, Norwich City 0