Snodgrass's guile makes Rangers look like strangers but Hughes is happy
Norwich 1 Queens Park Rangers 1
Queens Park Rangers' manager Mark Hughes believes his side will be good enough to survive without having to endure another nailbiting finale. And that despite seeing them make heavy weather of gaining a point against a Norwich side who will themselves struggle to repeat last year's achievements.
"We've invested well and are certainly in a better position than we were," said Hughes. "It was an important step to get off the mark with our first goal and our first point. It's something to build on. On occasions we lacked the right ball at the right time."
That was as near as he came to admitting that his side were very much second best – a point not lost on Norwich City manager Chris Hughton, who stated simply: "We played really well and should have won."
After kicking off with 5-0 defeats, both managers could consider this an improvement; but there was nothing to suggest that either club will experience anything other than 'difficult second season' syndrome.
If defending was the obvious shortcoming a week earlier, this was a story of one team, Norwich, almost incapable of taking their chances, and another incapable of making them. The brightest spark was the former Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass on his home debut for Norwich, but QPR's army of new recruits appeared strangers to one another.
Norwich introduced to the crowd Norway international Alexander Tettey, Hughton's seventh signing since himself replacing Paul Lambert in the Carrow Road dugout. The 26-year-old former Rennes midfielder arrived too late to face QPR, but Sébastien Bassong and Javier Garrido both featured.
After blooding seven in last weekend's debacle, Hughes sent out no further new faces in his starting line-up, though 70 minutes in José Bosingwa became Rangers' eighth debutant.
It took just 11 minutes, however, for Hughes' defence to be breached, as Anthony Pilkington enjoyed the freedom of their penalty area and Simeon Jackson headed home his cross. Eight minutes later referee Mark Clattenburg handed Rangers a quick route back into the game with the award of a penalty against Bassong for a challenge from behind on Djibril Cissé. The Frenchman's spot-kick was pushed against the post by John Ruddy, but Bobby Zamora fired the rebound home.
Hughton thought the penalty "soft", Hughes' view was that it was a penalty "by the letter of the law – but I'm sure Chris will feel a bit aggrieved". Hughton was aggrieved too that Zamora was "at least three yards inside the box" when the penalty was taken. He was pleased, though, that his side "showed character to come back and be the better team".
In the game's most compelling subtext, Clint Hill found Norwich striker Grant Holt a literal handful. The defender was fortunate to receive only a yellow card for wrestling his man to the ground just outside the area and after fouling him twice more he earned a lecture from Clattenburg. On possession, territory and chances, Norwich were well ahead and got steadily more so, but there was little to trouble goalkeeper Robert Green on his erstwhile home ground.
Midway through the second half Jackson should have scored his second goal but failed to connect with Snodgrass's cross. Then Snodgrass went close with an excellent header and Russell Martin hit the crossbar.
Rangers' only attacking plan seemed to be long balls hit up to Cissé, whose poor timing left him repeatedly offside and frustrated. The greater frustration may have been Norwich's in failing to convert their dominance into three points.
Norwich (4-4-2): Ruddy; R Martin, Barnett, Bassong, Garrido; Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Pilkington; Jackson (C Martin 87), Holt (Morison 87).
QPR (4-4-2): Green; Da Silva, Ferdinand, Hill (Onuoha 45), Traore (Bosingwa 70); Mackie, Park, Diakite (Derry 85), Hoilett; Zamora, Cissé.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: Snodgrass (Norwich)
Match rating: 6/10
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