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1 August 2015

Canaries round off Barclays Premier League preparations

NORWICH City wrapped up their 2015-16 Barclays Premier League preparations with a 2-1 win over Sky Bet Championship side Brentford at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Goals in either half from Wes Hoolahan and substitute Cameron Jerome proved enough to secure the win, after Andre Gray has initially levelled for the away side in an entertaining first half.

However, the afternoon was overshadowed somewhat by an injury suffered by Youssouf Mulumbu which required him to be replaced ten minutes from time.

City boss Alex Neil handed a first start to new recuit Robbie Brady, while Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom was named among the substitutes.

The bench also saw a welcome return for last season's top-scorer Jerome, who was included in the squad for the first time since being withdrawn with injury against Cambridge United a fortnight ago.

A lively start to the game saw Lewis Grabban go through on goal in the opening minute before firing over the bar, ahead of testing goalkeeper David Button with a low drive moments later.

That save gave City a corner, and from Brady's resultant set-piece Graham Dorrans sent a fizzing volley narrowly wide after Sebastien Bassong helped guide the ball into his path.

The Canaries were controlling much of the early stages, and made the pressure count on 17 minutes when Hoolahan gave them the lead in style.

Having been sent clear by a measured Jonny Howson pass, the Republic of Ireland international displayed composure to calmly lob the ball over Button and into the net with a deft finish.

No sooner had the hosts gone in front however, they were pegged back; Gray seizing on a defensive slip to fire home beyond John Ruddy emphatically.

City quickly looked to restore their advantage, but were denied midway through the half by Button - the Bees goalkeeper blocking Howson's close-range effort after the midfielder was picked out in the box by Grabban.

Shortly after the half-hour mark, the home side threatened again, only for Steven Whittaker's cut-back to be scrambled to safety from within the penalty-area.

The visitors were next to go close on 37 minutes, with Gogia driving off the foot of the post having collected the ball on the left before breaking towards goal.

It would be Neil's side who ended the half stronger though; Button producing another fine stop to divert Bradley Johnson's long-range strike away just before the interval.

The second period began in steady fashion, with City dealing comfortably with speculative early efforts from Gray and substitute Jota with minimal concerns.

On 55 minutes, a smart turn in the box from Grabban brought a corner; Button on hand again at the set-piece to tip Russell Martin's header wide.

From the second set-piece, City went close again, only for Brentford to eventually clear at the end of a goalmouth scramble while Grabban lurked with intent.

The Bees then had a corner of their own, but soon found themselves on the back-foot as John Ruddy launched a quick-fire counter-attack.

At the end of the move was Howson, whose drive from range was tipped over by the Bees goalkeeper as he continued to keep City at bay.

That prompted Neil to make a triple change on 62 minutes in order to maximise the playing time for his squad, with Nathan Redmond, Jerome and Wisdom introduced in place of Johnson, Hoolahan and Whittaker.

The latter two substitutes combined to make a near-immediate impact; Wisdom's through-ball finding Jerome, who raced clear before thrashing past Button into the roof of the net just four minutes after coming on.

Not to be outdone, Redmond then tried his luck after moving into the box, only to see his effort blocked and the rebound fall away from the awaiting Grabban.

Further City changes were made on 73 minutes, with Alex Tettey and Tony Andreu taking to the field in place of Dorrans and Grabban.

The home side went close to stretching their lead moments after those alterations, with a precise Redmond delivery across the face of goal narrowly evading the stretching Jerome.

There would have been concern for the City management with ten minutes remaining, when an injury suffered by Mulumbu forced him off the field to be replaced by Ryan Bennett.

With time ticking down, Brentford searched for a leveller, but Alan Judge curled wide ahead of a fine double-save from Ruddy preserving City's lead.

The score remained that way until the final whistle despite late efforts from Redmond, Jerome & Andreu, ensuring the Canaries ended their pre-season campaign in winning fashion.

They will now turn their attentions to Crystal Palace, who they face just seven days from now at Carrow Road in their 2015-16 Barclays Premier League opener.

FULL-TIME: Norwich City 2-1 Brentford

GOALS: Canaries: Wes Hoolahan (17), Cameron Jerome (66) ; Bees: Andre Gray (18)

NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Whittaker (Wisdom, 62), Martin (c), Bassong, Brady; Howson, Mulumbu (R Bennett, 80), Dorrans (Tettey, 73), Johnson (Jerome, 62); Hoolahan (Redmond, 62); Grabban (Andreu, 73). Subs not used: Rudd.


RICHARD PIKE GOLDEN GOAL TIMES: 1st (16:31), 2nd (17:48), 3rd (65:10)

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