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16:45 9th April 2016


JASON Puncheon's second half strike condemned Norwich City to a 1-0 defeat against Crystal Palace.

The attacking midfielder drove home from outside the box for the only goal of the game at Selhurst Park as the Canaries' three-match unbeaten run came to an end.

There was little between the teams but Alex Neil's side lacked a creative spark and now face a huge relegation clash with Sunderland at Carrow Road next Saturday.

City also suffered the disappointment of seeing Timm Klose stretchered off the in the first half with injury on a disappointing day.

They were unchanged from last weekend's stunning 3-2 win over Newcastle United as Neil opted for consistency with his team selection.

Palace hadn't won in 14 Premier League matches and started the day only three points ahead of the Canaries in the table.

After a flying start from the hosts in the opening few minutes, City soon settled into the game and carried the ball with a confidence that has stemmed from two successive victories.

Robbie Brady's speculative effort from range was the only effort on goal in the opening 15 minutes, however, and the home crowd were getting agitated at their team's sloppiness in possession.

Palace gathered some momentum and pushed City back - firstly Jason Puncheon's shot deflected behind off Martin Olsson, before Dieumerci Mbokani made a vital block to stop Yohan Cabaye's goalbound effort.

The contest evened out before John Ruddy was forced into his first save just before the half hour mark when Scott Dann rose to meet a corner, his header comfortably collected by City's goalkeeper.

Soon after, Klose almost got a telling header on Brady's corner - but his flick evaded Ryan Bennett and ran behind for a goal kick.

City then had strong appeals for a penalty when Matt Jarvis was bundled over in the box by Damien Delaney, but referee Michael Oliver whistled only for a corner.

Mbokani was continuing his good form from the Newcastle game - on 36 minutes, he wriggled free from pressure and crossed for Steven Naismith, who saw his volley blocked.

Five minutes before half-time, though, City were dealt a blow when in-form Klose was forced off with a knee injury. The Switzerland international was replaced by Sebastien Bassong.

Despite four minutes of added time, neither team threatened for the rest of the opening period and the break arrived with the deadlock unbroken.

HALF-TIME: Crystal Palace 0-0 Norwich City

The start to the second half was disjoined with neither team gathering a head of steam to try and find the opener.

Yannick Bolasie smashed a shot over the bar from close range after creative endeavour from Jason Puncheon, but the home crowd remained frustrated.

Alan Pardew responded by bringing on crowd favourite Wilfried Zaha for Bakary Sako, and Alex Neil reacted with his second sub: former Palace man Patrick Bamford on for Naismith.

On 68 minutes, however, Palace opened the scoring - Puncheon stepped inside off the right flank and beat John Ruddy from 20 yards, finding the corner.

City could have levelled four minutes later when space opened up for Brady in a central position, but his effort was blocked before Palace raced up the other end and saw Ruddy keep out Zaha's tame effort.

Nathan Redmond came on for Matt Jarvis with 15 left on the clock, but City had Ruddy to thank for keeping them in it as he made a strong save standing up to Zaha's firm drive.

Redmond then dragged a shot wide with seven minutes left of normal time, and even though Ruddy went forward twice in stoppage time to press for the equaliser, it didn't come and Palace ended their dire run.

FULL-TIME: Crystal Palace 1-0 Norwich City

GOALS: Eagles: Jason Puncheon (68)

CRYSTAL PALACE: Hennessey; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare; Sako (Zaha 65), Jedinak, Cabaye, Puncheon (Ledley 76), Bolasie; Gayle (Wickham 79). Subs not used: Speroni (GK), Kelly, Lee, Campbell.

NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Wisdom, Bennett, Klose (Bassong 40), Olsson; Jarvis (Redmond 76), Howson, O'Neil (c), Brady; Naismith (Bamford 66); Mbokani. Subs not used: Rudd (GK), Jerome, Hoolahan, Mulumbu.

REFEREE: Michael Oliver

ATTENDANCE: 24,960 (2,823)


    Did you know Norwich City Football Club have appeared in three Wembley cup finals?