Norwich 2-1 Newcastle United
Sat 24th July 2010 - Kick Off 3pm
On a day when Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester City were all beaten by inferior opposition, the pre-season battle of the Coca-Cola champions took place at Carrow Road, as League One winners Norwich entertained Premiership new boys Newcastle United.
With Steven Taylor and summer signing James Perch joining Danny Simpson on the injury list after last weeks win at Carlisle, Chris Hughton was forced to name an experimental back four, with James Tavernier playing his first 90 minutes for the club as a make shift Centre Half.
Coloccini and Enrique were the only two recognised defenders in the back four, with part-time footballer Ryan Taylor making an appearance as a right-sided fullback. Following his goal at Carlisle, Haris Vuckic made his first start for the Mags, playing behind a youthful front three of Ranger, Best and Andy Carroll - who was wearing the coveted number 9 shirt for the first time at this level.
It was Carroll who had the first chance of the game in the early stages when he hit a speculative volley from 25 yards which fizzed wide of Ruddy`s Post, but none of that would have mattered had Tim Krul not made a wonder save in the 13th minute, diving to his right to save a powerful Chris Martin effort. However, young Krul was left cursing his defence when, with just 7 minutes to go until the break, Ryan Taylor played a suicidal back pass with no where near enough pace on the ball to reach Krul and Wes Hoolahan was there to square the ball to Chris Martin who made no mistake in rolling the ball into an empty net - notching what will most likely be the easiest goal he`ll score in his professional career.
The Magpies did find the net just 3 minutes later, after some excellent work in midfield, Haris Vuckic played a great pass for Ranger to finish well, unfortunately Rangers well placed finish was correctly ruled out by the linesman`s flag - albeit it by the smallest of margins.
Half time came and Hughton kept faith with the impressive Krul and Tavernier but brought on Routledge, Xisco and Ameobi in a bid to push on for the equaliser and it was those three players who combined excellently when the desired goal came just two minutes after the restart. Some good footwork by Routledge presented the ball to Xisco who brought the ball up field before slotting in Ameobi who turned excellently before putting the ball through the 'keepers legs and into the back of the net.
1-1 and game on as Newcastle pushed forward looking for the winner, first Ameobi came close to notching his second but had to watch his shot roll wide. Then Vuckic produced some great skill, twisting and turning in the box before curling a shot toward the top corner but Ruddy was there to make sure the score came level.
Some great goalkeeping kept the scores level when Tim Krul, just like he did on his debut against Palermo, made a fantastic double save first getting down quickly to keep out Chris Martin and then somehow recovering to deny Surman milliseconds later.
After a great game, Haris Vuckic made way amidst sincere appreciation from the Geordie faithful as the fans got a first glimpse of his replacement, Faroe Island international Jóan Símun Edmundsson, who only turns 19 this Monday.
Unfortunately, just 3 minutes into his Newcastle debut he had to watch his team go behind as a superb pinpoint cross from Norwich wide man Anthony McNamee landed on the heads of
oth Chris Martin and Newcastle second half substitute Mike Williamson before evading Tim Krul and crossing the line. The Norwich hitman`s muted celebrations at first suggested an own goal, but he later claimed it in the post-match interviews - much to Williamson`s pleasing I`m sure.
Both Ameobi and Xisco went close, the former heading a great chance over the bar and the latter hitting straight at the 'keeper. With just one minute left on the clock. Make-shift second half left-back Shane Ferguson crossed expertly for Peter Lovenkrands who very nearly rescued a deserved draw when his looping header beat the Norwich goalkeeper - just not the crossbar as it bounced away to safety.
The full time whistle was blown and Chris Hughton`s side suffered their first defeat of pre-season. But the performance of many of the younger members of the squad will have been a particular highlight for the Toon supremo. There were concerns over the defence though as we had to make do with two make-shift fullbacks, Ryan Taylor`s performance in particular being nowhere near reassuring that we have defensive depth in the Squad.
Overall, the boys can be proud of their performance as I`m sure Paul Lambert`s men will be delighted with what will be a famous pre-season victory for their men. Next up the boys are at home in what promises to be their toughest pre-season game against PSV Eindhoven on Saturday. It remains to be seen whether Ashley will have by then dipped into his pocket to give Chris Hughton that defensive cover he so desperately needs.