REVIEW: BRENTFORD 0-0 CITY
TEN-MAN Norwich City earned a deserved point away to Brentford on New Year's Eve by playing out a 0-0 draw at Griffin Park.
Arguably having the lion's share of chances for much of the match, the visitors' primary aim switched with ten minutes remaining when Robbie Brady was harshly shown red.
A low-key opening period saw City's best chances fall the way of Cameron Jerome, with Brady supplying the ammunition on each occassion.
First, the frontman headed a measured Brady cross at Brentford goalkeeper Daniel Bentley on seven minutes, before a block from Andreas Bjelland denied him later in the half after good work from the wing-back.
With two minutes to the interval, Brady combined well with Mulumbu to move out of defence and play over the top for Jerome to chase; a lack of a clean connection seeing his effort bobble through to Bentley.
Within sixty seconds, Brentford had their clearest opportunity of the first half; Scott Hogan collecting Nico Yennaris' ball into the area ahead of skewing wide of goal to ensure it remained all-square at the break.
Jerome had a further chance to put his side in front during the second half when he fired Ivo Pinto's cut-back over, before substitute Jacob Murphy was expertly denied by Bentley.
Brentford looked to take advantage of their numerical superiority in the closing stages, but a resilient defensive effort personified by Ryan Bennett's superb tackle on Hogan meant the game ended level.
HOW THEY LINED UP
Alex Neil opted for a change of shape to a 3-5-2 formation in a bid to arrest City's slump in form, with captain Russell Martin and Timm Klose returning as part of a three-man central defence.
Ivo Pinto and Robbie Brady operated as wing-backs to provide the side with width, flanking the midfield partnership of Alex Tettey and the recalled Youssouf Mulumbu.
Further forward, Alex Pritchard was included in a central role behind the strikers having excelled in the Canaries' 5-0 dismantling of Brentford at Carrow Road in the opening week of December.
In attack, Cameron Jerome and Nelson Oliveira were paired together for the first time; young forward Carlton Morris stepping onto the bench.
As the game moved towards injury-time, Brentford's Scott Hogan looked certain to notch a cruel winner over City when he found space in the area.
With seemingly only John Ruddy to beat, Hogan readied himself to pull the trigger; Ryan Bennett's perfectly-timed lunging tackle stopping him from doing so.
It reflected the Canaries' overall efforts when facing a late onslaught, and ensured they got the bare minimum they deserved from the contest.
WHAT IT MEANS
An unquestionably difficult 2016 for Norwich City ended with a draw away to Brentford, where Alex Neil's side dug deep to secure a point.
With Derby County on the horizon on January, 2, the Canaries know they need to build on their efforts at Griffin Park in their next outing at Carrow Road.
BRENTFORD: Bentley; Colin, Bjelland, Dean, Yennaris, Hogan, McEachran (Sawyers, 74), Egan (Hofmann, 88), Woods, KaiKai, Field (Barbet, 76). Subs not used: Bonham (GK), Kerschbaumer, Clarke, Vibe.
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Bennett, Martin (c), Klose; Pinto (Ja. Murphy, 76), Tettey, Mulumbu, Brady; Pritchard (Naismith, 90; Jerome (Olsson, 85), Oliveira. Subs not used: McGovern (GK), Bassong, Hoolahan, Morris.
REFEREE: Oliver Langford
ATTENDANCE: 9,377 (1,190 away)
A quick turnaround for the Canaries, who are next in action when they host Derby County in the Sky Bet Championship on Monday, January 2.