MATCH REPORT: CITY 1-1 DERBYTHE CANARIES were pegged back by promotion rivals Derby County as their meeting finished 1-1 at Carrow Road.
City were excellent in the first half and deservedly had the advantage at the break following Cameron Jerome's close-range finish.
Derby came back into the contest after halftime, and their leveller came when John Ruddy spilled Jamie Hanson's corner into his own goal under pressure.
Plenty was at stake with both team fighting at the top of the table, and City looked the more likely to snatch a winner but Lee Grant's stunning save from Sebastien Bassong's header was the best of a number of chances that came and went.
The point leaves City three points off the automatic promotion spots in fifth place ahead of Tuesday night's game at Huddersfield Town.
Bassong (knee) and Alex Tettey (suspension) returned to the team before kick-off, with Carlos Cuellar and Gary Hooper dropping to the bench.
As expected, ex-Canary striker Chris Martin missed out through injury for Derby, who handed a surprise debut to Academy graduate Hanson.
Norwich were the best team in a very promising first half in which they earned a one-goal advantage through Jerome.
From the first whistle, Neil's troops looked sharp and well organised, with the Rams barely getting an opportunity to keep the ball and build any momentum.
Bradley Johnson and Tettey showed their intent by flashing left-footed shots wide from range, and it took until the 18th minute for Ruddy's goal to be troubled when Will Hughes drilled an effort over.
The Canaries were upwardly mobile, the team on the offensive - and grabbed a much-deserved lead just beyond the half hour mark.
Three minutes after he nudged wide from Wes Hoolahan's through ball, Jerome was the man in place to finish off a slick team move.
Just outside the box, Johnson picked up possession found Hoolahan, who spotted Martin Olsson's dart into the area.
Olsson slid a ball across the box, where Jerome was waiting to tap it home for his 17th league goal of the season.
Derby rallied after going behind, but aside from Johnny Russell's advance in the box when Steven Whittaker had to be there to clear, City were largely untroubled.
HALF-TIME: Norwich City 1-0 Derby County
After a quiet initial start to the second half, Whittaker had two half chances for the Canaries, volleying wide and then at Lee Grant after a scramble in the box.
There was a small break in play as Tettey and Hanson both received treatment after a nasty clash of heads, and City were sloppy in the aftermath.
First a loose Russell Martin backpass almost caught Ruddy out of position, then Bassong's giveaway allowed Ince a drive at goal that Ruddy jumped on at the second attempt.
Then, on 66 minutes, County levelled in unfortunate circumstances.
Hanson whipped in a corner that Ruddy was under, but City's 'keeper couldn't get it in his grasp and it spilled over into the net.
With 20 minutes to go, City started to regain the initiative but they didn't carry the same threat in the final third as in the first half.
Grant had to make a superb stop on 78 minutes, however - Hoolahan floated in a free-kick from the right, and Bassong met it with a fine header that Derby's gloveman scooped away down to his right.
Gary Hooper replaced Dorrans and he forced another stop from Grant with five minutes left on the clock, curling a shot that his opponent to something on.
In the final minute of the game, as City pressed for an opening, Jerome saw a header from Whittaker's cross whistle just over, and Johnson then fired well over from close-range.
It wasn't to come for Neil's men, and the spoils the were shared between the two promotion hopefuls at Carrow Road.
FULL-TIME: Norwich City 1-1 Derby County
GOALS: Canaries: Cameron Jerome (31) - Rams: John Ruddy og (66)
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin (c), Bassong, Olsson; Howson, Tettey, Dorrans (Hooper 79), Johnson; Hoolahan; Jerome. Subs not used: Rudd (GK), Cuellar, Andreu, Loza, Redmond, O'Neil.
DERBY COUNTY: Grant; Shotton (Christie 70), Keogh (c), Albentosa, Forsyth; Hanson, Hughes (Bryson 76), Hendrick; Ince, Ward (Warnock 82), Russell. Subs not used: Roos (GK), Lingard, Thomas, Dawkins.
REFEREE: Lee Probert
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