Norwich City 2-0 Preston North End: Late goals condemn PNE to defeat on poor night at Carrow Road
Two late goals condemned Preston North End to defeat on a night to forget at Carrow Road.
Both sides were below-par in a game low on quality in Norfolk.
But after the Lilywhites had had the better openings, a fine Tim Krul save helping Callum Robinson’s effort on to the bar 15 minutes from time, the home side had a couple of late sucker-punches up their sleeves.
First Teemu Pukki was given time to fire home 11 minutes from the end with Alex Tettey’s sweet strike from distance making sure of the Canaries’ first Championship win of the season.
PNE boss Alex Neil had made three changes with Paul Huntington making a first Championship start of the season and Tom Barkhuizen and Louis Moult returning to the starting line-up.
It was an even start in Norfolk with both PNE left back Andrew Hughes and Norwich’s Onel Hernandez seeing crosses just about cleared from the danger area in the opening quarter of an hour.
Both sides struggled to hit top gear though, the first real clear-cut opening of the match coming 25 minutes in.
Lukas Nmecha pounced on a loose ball and turned well in the box. His left-footed effort was palmed away by Krul with the on-rushing Darnell Fisher only able to blaze over the rebound.
Chances remained few and far between with Ben Marshall bending a free-kick just the wrong side of the angle of post and crossbar on the half hour after Ben Pearson had conceded a needless foul.
PNE were next on the attack with Robinson’s free-kick being headed into the air, the ball dropping for Moult who with his back to goal attempted an overhead kick that displayed perfect technique but was straight at Krul.
A first-half that won’t live long in the memory ended with Norwich having two sights of goal.
First, Rudd failed to get a hand on a Marshall corner with North End relieved that Timm Klose could only direct his header over the bar.
Then with time just about up in the opening 45, Alan Browne was robbed on halfway allowing Norwich to break.
Hernandez, the player of the first period, twisted and turned before feeding Moritz Leitner but his shot was high and wide from 15 yards in a moment that just about summed up proceedings at that point.
Both managers will have been looking for an improvement after the break and it was North End who were first to go close.
Robinson’s deep, hanging cross was met by Moult who powered a header goalwards but Krul was equal to it with a sharp save at his near post.
His strike partner Nmecha then had a sight of goal 10 minutes into the second half but his well-struck shot from 20 yards was always heading wide.
Despite the promise from the visitors at the start of the second half and the fact they were controlling the ball it remained a flat contest.
Fresh from signing a new contract Daniel Johnson replaced Moult with 20 minutes to play as Neil looked to press home PNE’s advantage.
The all important breakthrough nearly came four minutes later.Robinson pounced on a loose ball from Alex Tettey and broke clear, crashing a shot from just inside the area off the underside of the crossbar.
But it was Norwich who got their noses in front 11 minutes from time.
Jamal Lewis fed Pukki on the left-hand side of the area and he had the time to fire a low shot across Rudd and into the far corner.
From then on it the hosts who pushed for a second goal, Rudd pushing away Tettey’s low shot from 25 yards with five minutes to play.
The midfielder wasn’t to be denied though as moments later the ball dropped to him in a similar position and with a swing of the left foot a sweet strike rifled into the corner of the net to leave North End with a plenty to ponder.
Norwich: Krul, Pinto (Zimmermann 74), Hanley (capt), Klose, Lewis, Tettey, Marshall (Buendia 66), Leitner (Trybull 90, Pukki, Hernandez, Rhodes. Subs not used: McGovern, Godfrey, Srbeny, Thompson
PNE: Rudd, Fisher, Clarke (capt), Huntington, Hughes, Pearson, Browne (Harrop 90), Barkhuizen (Barker 79), Robinson, Nmecha, Moult (Johnson 70). Subs not used: Maxwell, Davies, Ledson, Burke
Referee: Gavin Ward