Leeds United vs Norwich City
In a strangely sparse Elland Road, it took one moment of misfortune to deny Norwich a point in one of the most keenly contested matches this season.
Paul Lambert had to make do without Korey Smith's energy after he picked up a thigh strain, but this meant a recall for recent Scotland cap Stephen Hughes.
John Otsemobor also returned from injury, as City set up with a diamond formation that Leeds matched with a 4-4-2 system.
The home side welcomed back key man Robert Snodgrass from a knee injury, and two ex-city men in Andy Hughes and Leigh Bromby lined up against City.
Almost from minute one, Norwich displayed a zippy passing game that Leeds found hard to contain. As a result, two glorious chances were created in the early stages.
An overlapping Otsemobor received the ball wide after good work from the City midfield, and put in a tricky cross that Russell side footed towards goal. Keeper Shane Higgs failed to gather the attempt at his first, having to turn and scoop the ball back from the goal-mouth.
The clearly stunned home team had their hearts in their mouths again as Grant Holt found himself a little room left of the box and sent a low left footed pass into the centre for Hoolahan, who sent his tame effort straight at Higgs when he should have done better.
As is often the case with wasted opportunities, City paid for their missed chances when Leeds earnt a corner. Snodgrass whipped in an excellent in swinging corner which Bradley Johnson headed home at the back post. Otsemobor was the man out-muscled, but it was a massive relief for the home side.
The nature of the match became more frantic after this, with the visitors still enjoying greater possesion and looking good on the eye, though Leeds had a couple of sighters- including a burst from Beckford away from Doherty and a dragged shot- but still they failed to test Forster.
Norwich drew level when the tricky Hoolahan freed up Lappin on the right, whose left-footed cross was expertly turned in by Grant Holt in the box.
A keenly-fought match went to half time with both sides even, though it was clear City had bossed the midfield.
The second period was a little more scrappy as Leeds changed from 4-4-2 to combat the lack of possesion, but ultimately snappy challenges were the order of the day as both teams wrestled for control.
City threatened from Lappin's set-piece delivery, from which Askou hit a loose ball straight at replacement keeper Ankergren.
Holt also had a snap shot into the side netting from Doherty's nod-down, but the home side were to threaten themselves soon after, when Snodgrass's 25 yard free kick was well-parried away by Fraser Forster.
It was the home team again that threatened when Beckford received a fortunate deflection off a covering Russell that sent him clean through, but he was stunned to see Newcastle loanee Forster brilliantly save his low effort to his left.
Leeds were undoubtedly looking the fresher of the two teams, thanks to the introduction of the lively Gradel and Kandol, and it was Gradel that tested Forster again with a low left footed effort from just outside the area.
City were riding their luck again when Gradel got free on the right and sent in a low pass that Beckford narrowly failed to convert at full stretch.
Norwich still looked to pass and move, and were often finding space on both flanks, but it was clear that the pace wasn't there to get behind the Leeds full backs. Perhaps this was the time to introduce McDonald or Daley to aid a visibly tiring team, but what happened in injury time was not fair on the valiant City.
Forster was to restart with a goal kick, but scuffed his kick straight to the lethal Beckford, who raced through and scored through a fortunate deflection off the excellent covering of Otsemobor.
The youngster had a mixed night with his kicking to be fair, but this was a harsh lesson for both Forster and the battling canaries.
Norwich City- Darel Russell
The initial set-up of the diamond in midfield caused problems for Leeds, who were out-passed for most of the evening. The City boss didn't use any subs in the game though, and when the opposition ran fresh legs at tired ones, Lambert should have introduced his own to help the tiring Hughes, Russell or Martin.
The Leeds manager was out-thought initially by Lambert, as the home team struggled in midfield, causing Grayson to change from 4-4-2 at half time In the latter stages he made key substitutions that helped turn the tide.
He spoke to the BBC website:-
'I thought Norwich were excellent and that's the hardest game we've had this season.
'We played Liverpool a few weeks ago and they didn't give us the problems Norwich did.
'We knew they would cause us problems but we have got a desire at this club to keep going and get results when we haven't played as well as we can do.' '
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