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16 May 2015

Wembley dream is over as 10 men Town go down at Carrow Road

Town’s dreams of a first visit to the new Wembley were ended by a three goal second-half blast from Norwich at Carrow Road. 

Christophe Berra was sent-off five minutes after the break for handball on the goalline in the crucial moment of the game. 

Wes Hoolahan scored from the spot and although Tommy Smith levelled for Blues soon after, the Canaries restored their advantage almost immediately through Nathan Redmond and then Cameron Jerome gave them a foot in the Play-Off final 15 minutes from time. 

Redmond could have made it four as the 10 men of Town battled valiantly to stay in the game but Blues’ ambitions of getting back in the Premier League will have to wait another year.

Town made one change from the first-leg draw at Portman Road, goalscorer Paul Anderson replacing the injured Luke Varney. 

Daryl Murphy had an early opening, climbing above the Canaries’ defence to meet Kevin Bru’s free-kick but his header cleared the bar as Blues started on the front foot.

Freddie Sears’ cross was cleared by Alex Tettey as Town pressed the home side back in the early exchanges, Norwich responding with Steven Whittaker curling a left footer well wide after a corner had been cleared to him on the edge of the box.

Murphy shrugged off a challenge from Sebastien Bassong but John Ruddy came to his side’s rescue as Sears threatened. 

Anderson was in the right place to clear off the line from Russell Martin’s shot just past the quarter hour as the home fans prepared to celebrate, while at the other end the Canaries breathed a sigh of relief when Teddy Bishop went down under Redmond’s challenge in the box but referee Roger East didn’t give it a second glance.

Sears showed a good defensive side to rob Redmond as the wideman looked to get around the back of the Town rearguard, Berra then clearing from Whittaker’s cross.

Bru lashed a long range effort over, Whittaker at the other end seeing a shot blocked by Tyrone Mings after Hoolahan had led a break for the home side as an even first-half came to an end.

Berra cleared following a goalmouth scramble after Jerome and Martin Olsson had chances to strike at goal from close range, Sears firing wide as the second-half got underway.

Town were rocked five minutes after the restart though, Hoolahan fed Redmond, who cut inside Luke Chambers and his goalbound effort was handled by Berra on the line. 
The Scotland international was sent-off and Hoolahan converted from the penalty spot.

Jerome had a shot charged down as Alex Neil’s side looked for a second, Ruddy plucking the ball out of the air as Murphy looked to get on the end of Anderson’s cross.

On the hour Town were level, Bishop’s free-kick was headed on by Murphy and Smith beat Ruddy to the ball and kept his composure to find the empty net.

Three minutes later the game swung again, Bart Bialkowski kept out Bradley Johnson’s fierce strike but the ball was fed out to Redmond who blasted it low past the Town ‘keeper into the net.

Hoolahan was emerging as the main threat for the Canaries, the midfielder bursting towards the edge of the box and testing Bialkowski with a stinging drive.

Jerome should have made it three on 70 minutes but he diverted Jonny Howson’s cross wide from four yards out before Blues made a double change with Jay Tabb and David McGoldrick on for Bishop and Bru.

McGoldrick released Mings with a clever first touch but the defender couldn’t keep the ball in, Hoolahan making way for Graham Dorrans in the home side’s first substitution. 

Ruddy held on from Sears’ cross as Town pushed on looking for an equaliser but it was Norwich who took a stranglehold on the game on 76 minutes, Redmond releasing Jerome who toe-poked the ball past Bialkowski. 

Mings robbed Redmond after Howson sent him clear as a fourth goal looked certain but the damage had been done for Town as those dreams of Wembley drifted away. 

Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Bassong, Martin, Olsson, Redmond, Tettey, Howson, Johnson (E.Bennett 87), Hoolahan (Dorrans 73), Jerome (Hooper 83). Subs not used: Rudd, Murphy, R.Bennett, O’Neil. Booked: Johnson.

Town: Bialkowski, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Mings, Anderson (N.Hunt 83), Skuse, Bru (Tabb 70), Bishop (McGoldrick 70), Murphy, Sears. Subs not used: Gerken, S.Hunt, Clarke, Parr. Sent-off: Berra. Booked: Skuse.
Att: 26,994

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