Crystal Palace 0, Norwich City 1
PUBLISHED: 17:31 29 July 2009 | UPDATED: 11:08 06 July 2010
Norwich City's fine pre-season form continued last night as they made a temporary return to Championship football. The satisfaction of winning at one of last season's rivals, courtesy of a second half goal from new-boy Simon Whaley, won't ease any of the pain of relegation, but may perhaps bring some optimism for the League One campaign ahead.
Norwich City's fine pre-season form continued last night as they made a temporary return to Championship football.
The satisfaction of winning at one of last season's rivals, courtesy of a second half goal from new-boy Simon Whaley, won't ease any of the pain of relegation, but may perhaps bring some optimism for the League One campaign ahead.
The loss of central defender Michael Nelson put a real dampener on the night's proceedings, but aside from that, Bryan Gunn will be a lot happier than his Crystal Palace counterpart Neil Warnock.
Gunn fielded the most experienced starting line-up of pre-season, and one which he admitted before the game that we could finally “read something into”.
Former City loan player Alan Lee had the first decent effort on goal, a header from Nathanial Clyne's cross in the eighth minute which flashed well wide of Michael Theoklitos' left-post.
City midfielder Matt Gill showed his passing skills with two crossfield passes within the space of a few moments, one to Adam Drury and another out to Whaley on the right, although the flow of the game, already hampered by its pre-season status, wasn't helped by numerous stoppages for fouls.
Wes Hoolahan combined well with Michael Spillane down the right to get in a curling shot which was off target, but it was Grant Holt who was becoming the player to watch - not just because he wins a good percentage of his headers, but because he combines a love for roughing it with a surprisingly delicate touch.
A near-post Hoolahan corner had Julian Speroni scrambling to clear - and then getting down low to stop Owain Tudur Jones' free-kick moments later.
City were looking value for money - at £15 a pop for adults someone needed to - although Spillane had to stretch to block Neil Danns' effort from a cross on 24 minutes.
Doherty did well to slide in on Palace loan signing Freddie Sears as he pulled the trigger, and shot high, although Nelson was much closer with a header from Gill's corner on 35 minutes that dropped just over the bar on to the netting.
Whaley had been quiet until he linked well with Hoolahan and then drove a low shot just an inch or two wide of Speroni's right-hand post.
No goals at half-time and no surprise, given that neither keeper was really tested - but City will claim they were ahead on points.
However, Palace came close to taking the lead in the opening minute of the second half, left-back Clint Hill powering a header from Nick Carle's corner towards goal, only to find Doherty perfectly positoned to head clear.
Whaley showed early as well, beating two men to get in a good cross which City wasted when Hoolahan and Martin couldn't quite find the same wavelength.
The excitement level rose momentarily on 50 minutes when Gill's corner from the left went straight in at the back post, but the sight of Speroni on the floor was simply the cue for referee David Phillips to blow his whistle for an infringement - some things never change.
City maintained the pressure but couldn't find a way through.
Gill was less than impressed with Hill's tackle from behind which left him in a heap - his reaction to the offer of a handshake was clear proof - while Holt limped away from a challenge with Jose Fonte. Neither player suffered any lasting damage - leaving Gunn a relieved man.
Moments later Drury needed treatment after a coming together with half-time substitute Sean Scannell, but returned to play after treatment to his right foot.
Holt had a chance on 63 minutes to mark his first start with a goal, but shot wide after Martin and then Tudur Jones had worked the ball from left to right on the edge of the Palace box.
So it was left to Whaley to do the honours, sliding a shot in from the right edge of the area on 64 minutes after good work by Holt, who pulled the ball back from the touchline.
Theoklitos made his first save soon after, pushing Sears' effort away for a corner - and then comfortably claiming the flag kick.
Holt's work was done on 69 minutes, Simon Lappin replacing him, but City fans will have seen enough of the striker to know Gunn has spent his money wisely.
That prompted a triple change by Palace - including the departure of Lee who is probably still more popular with City fans than Palace fans judging by the comments which greeted his departure. If that was the cue for the game to degenerate, no one told Lappin, who flashed a right-foot shot just wide after good work by the improving Whaley and Martin.
Moments later City lost Nelson to injury, and the danger was they would lose their concentration with him.
But City went close when Jon Otsemobor's shot was diverted by triallist Kris Bright and took a touch before just clearing the bar.
Otsemobor then drove a shot into the side netting as the clock ticked down, with an extra five minutes added on.
t Crystal Palace: Speroni, Clyne (Butterfield 72), Fonte, McCarthy, Hill, Moses (Scannell 46), Danns, Carle (Hills 72), Derry (N'Daye 90), Sears, Lee (Lawrence 72). Subs: Flahavan, Cox, Ertle.
t Norwich City: Theoklitos, Spillane, Doherty, Nelson (Bright 80), Drury (Otsemobor 74), Whaley (McVeigh 87), Gill, Tudur Jones (Adeyemi 85), Hoolahan, Martin, Holt (69). Subs: Alnwick, Cureton, Dumic, Bright.
t Referee: D Phillips.
t Attendance: 2,216.