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25 July 2013

Canaries finish US tour with narrow loss

NORWICH City concluded their pre-season tour of the United States with a 1-0 defeat to Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field.

Jose Valencia's strike soon after half-time meant City lost by the same scoreline as in their reverse against San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.

They couldn't capitalise on a bright first-half in which Nathan Redmond hit the crossbar, and the Timbers, who currently sit second in their division midway through their season, made them pay with a confident second-half performance.

The squad will now fly home to face Brighton & Hove Albion in their next friendly at the Amex Stadium on Tuesday night.

Chris Hughton made seven changes to the eleven that began the last game, with Carlo Nash making his debut in goal and Steven Whittaker, Robert Snodgrass and Wes Hoolahan their first starts of the tour.

Norwich started positively on an artificial surface unfamiliar to them but what seemed to encourage their passing, and Ricky van Wolfswinkel had the game’s first chance on six minutes.

The Dutchman had originally won a free-kick that David Fox whipped in with venom, and van Wolfswinkel made decent contact with his head but the ball flew just wide.

Two minutes later, Snodgrass put everything into a set-piece from 30 yards that narrowly cleared the bar, but City were lucky to survive when the Timbers hit the woodwork a moment on.

Rodney Wallace made good ground on the right and his cross deflected into the path of Kalif Alhassan, and his low shot rebounded off the post, with Jose Valencia failing to make the most of the rebound.

Valencia then tested Nash with a rasping drive as the home team started to get on top, but Nathan Redmond, who became the only City player to start all three games of the tour, skipped inside from the left and forced a save from Milos Kocic on 16 minutes.

Alvas Powell could count himself lucky to still be on the pitch after two lunges on Redmond, the first of which earned him a booking and the second of which should have, only for the referee to take into context, perhaps sensibly, the friendly nature of the match.

It quietened down eventually, although City’s captain for the night Russell Martin flicked a header narrowly wide from Fox’s corner on 31 minutes.

Redmond got himself into space again three minutes on, finding the gap between defence and midfield after good work from Jonny Howson and although Kocic eventually held his shot, he made tougher work of it than he should have done.

Ryan Bennett then headed just over from a Snodgrass delivery, before Redmond went the closest of anybody with a thunderous drive from range.

The former Birmingham man had skipped past a challenge before unleashing a fizzing shot that Kocic did superbly to tip onto the bar, therefore winning the continual duel between these two.

The game continued to play like a highlights package – the dangerous Valencia hit a shot on the turn that Nash got behind well, and Alhassan then hit a slightly less threatening effort high and wide.

HALF-TIME: Portland Timbers 0-0 Norwich City

The Canaries remained unchanged after half-time, but they were almost behind after a minute – Valencia rattling the ball against the right post, an opportunity that certainly got the home crowd geed up for the second period.

Van Wolfswinkel dragged a shot wide up the other end as the game continued off in the same vain as before the break.

It was the Timbers who took the lead on 53 minutes, though – City faltered in possession and Alhasssan made a break, squaring to Valencia, and the Colombian had no problem dispatching the ball around Nash and into the net.

His threat probably merited a goal but the Canaries will be disappointed with the nature of it after some sloppy ball-work led to possession being given away at the crucial moment.

City weren’t attacking with the same verve as the first-half but got a free-kick right on the edge of the box when Jake Gleeson handled outside the area on 64 minutes, but a quick set-piece to Fox didn’t work out as planned.

Valencia jinxed through City’s defence once more on 70 minutes but this time his shot was easy for Nash to hold onto, and with 20 minutes left Hughton made a triple substitution and two of the entrants went close almost immediately.

Jacob Butterfield found space in the area and forced a decent save from Gleeson, and from the resultant corner, Luciano Becchio saw his tame header roll straight to the goalkeeper.

Redmond had another long-range effort deflected wide with five minutes left on the clock, but City ended their tour on a losing note.

FULL-TIME: Portland Timbers 1-0 Norwich City

GOALS: Portland Timbers - Jose Valencia (53)

NORWICH CITY: Nash; E Bennett, R Bennett, Martin, Whittaker (Ayala 71); Snodgrass (Josh Murphy 76), Howson, Fox, Redmond; Hoolahan (Butterfield 71); van Wolfswinkel (Becchio 71). Subs not used: Ruddy (GK), Bunn (GK), Gafaiti.

PORTLAND TIMBERS: Kocic (Gleeson 45); Powell, McKenzie, Danso (Jean-Baptiste 75), Miller; Zemanski (Dewsbury 63), Alhassan, Will Johnson (Evans 45); Valencia (Harrington 71), Ryan Johnson (Zizzo 45), Wallace (Rincon 45).

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