James Maddison’s brilliant free-kick was cancelled out by Tom Barkhuizen’s second half header as Norwich City drew 1-1 with Preston North End at Carrow Road.
Josh Murphy missed a great opportunity early on before Maddison found the top corner with a trademark set-piece on 34 minutes. However, Barkhuizen headed home from a Paul Gallagher delivery midway through the second half to earn Preston a point.
Daniel Farke made two changes from the side which started the defeat to Nottingham Forest in midweek. With Timm Klose and Marley Watkins ruled out through injury, Christoph Zimmermann and Murphy both earned recalls. On the bench, there were spots for long-term injury absentee Alex Pritchard and academy stars Adam Phillips and Todd Cantwell.
In its infancy, the game was quiet and goalmouth action was minimal as both sides struggled to get a foothold in the game. The best of the chances came from the visitors but a Paul Huntington header and long-range Gallagher strike were of little threat.
City then began to assert themselves on proceedings midway through the first half and should have gone ahead on 22 minutes. A delicate chipped pass over the Preston defence from Wes Hoolahan set Murphy away and he lobbed Chris Maxwell before having his shot blocked by Darnell Fisher with the goal gaping.
After sustaining that pressure as the half wore on, City finally got their breakthrough with ten minutes to play until the interval. Maddison looked set to cross his free-kick from the left but instead bent the ball over Maxwell and into the top corner.
Preston finished the half stronger of the two sides though after Alan Browne hit the crossbar with an overhead kick on 38 minutes and Barkhuizen headed inches wide of the post from a Browne delivery five minutes later.
City emerged from the interval the sharper of the two sides and had a good opportunity to add to their advantage on 53 minutes. Maddison played an intricate through ball to Hoolahan who found himself in on goal but good defending from Preston forced his shot to deflect to Murphy on the left but his shot was cannoned off a visiting defender and went just wide.
Preston then went close ten minutes later when Calum Woods nodded straight at Angus Gunn from six-yards but the visitors didn’t have to wait long for their equaliser which came on 70 minutes. A Gallagher corner was met by Barkhuizen free in the area and he headed the ball into the net to makes the scores level.
Pritchard was introduced by Farke on 76 minutes and, on his first competitive appearance since last season, the playmaker almost made an instant impact, swivelling and then curling a long-range effort which was saved and held well by Maxwell.
With the game approaching its climax, the game took a bizarre turn. With one of the assistant referees unable to continue through injury, fourth official Andy Davies was forced to step in. But with no reserve official available in the dugout to replace Mr Davies, a fan – and qualified referee – was plucked from the Geoffrey Watling City Stand to step in and become fourth official for the remainder of the match.
The stand-in official then proceeded to hold up his board for ten additional minutes but City were unable to find a winner in that time as they drew for the second successive game at home.