Norris wins it in extra-time

DAVID Norris rammed home an extra-time winner at League One side Exeter City last night in an entertaining Carling Cup first round match.

A young Ipswich side had looked destined for the win in normal time after second half goals from impressive teenage debutant Ronan Murray and Norris had followed Ryan Harley’s controversial 55th minute opener.

Harley came up up with a sensational 81st minute equaliser though to force an extra 30 minutes, before Norris slammed home a rebound chance in the 99th minute to settle the game.

Town boss Roy Keane was forced into making eight changes to the side which recorded a superb 3-1 win at Middlesbrough on the opening day of the Championship season last Saturday.

Out went the newly injured trio of Carlos Edwards (groin), Gareth McAuley (back) and Mark Kennedy (hamstring), while Marton Fulop and Tamas Priskin were away on international duty. Jaime Peters and Tommy Smith were both dropped to the bench in an attempt to avoid any further key injuries, while Jon Walters was left out completely.

The latter’s omission makes his departure from the club – reportedly to Premier League club Stoke City – almost certain now. Keane had said on Monday that the forward would be involved, but it now appears he has kept him from being cup-tied for any future club.

With all of the above joining Luciano Civelli (knee), Connor Wickham (ankle), Damien Delaney (thigh), Alan Quinn (groin) and Conor Hourihane (Republic of Ireland U21s) on the unavailabilities list, Keane called upon a number of his youngsters.

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Keeper Brain Murphy started behind a back four with an average of just 19 in the form of Jack Ainsley, Shane O’Connor, Tom Eastman and Troy Brown.

Teenager Luke Hyam retained his place at defensive midfield, while Bermudian youngster Reggie Lambe also started. Jon Stead led the line, while Irishman Colin Healy also came into the side.

On the reduced six-man bench there were three more teenagers in the form of striker Ronan Murray (18), Jamie Griffiths (18) and John Carson (17). The result was that the average age of the starting XI was just under 23, while the average age of the 17-man squad was under 22.

Ipswich settled the better after an open start to the match and created golden chances in the seventh and 17th minutes as Lambe and Stead both pulled the ball wide from excellent positions.

The visitors’ rookie defence had looked assured early on, but they were almost caught out from a corner in the 25th minute when centre-back Matt Taylor headed over from an unmarked position inside the box.

The homes players and crowd took encouragement from that chance and, three minutes later, Blues keeper Murphy was almost deceived by a deep cross-cum-shot from the right-hand side by Liam Sercombe.

Ipswich weathered the short storm well and should have themselves taken the lead in the 33rd minute. Grant Leadbitter’s deep free-kick from the left was not cleared and when the ball fell to Colin Healy 10 yards out he snatched at it and fired high and wide.

Keane made a double substitution seven minutes after the break, bringing on Murray and Jaime Peters for Lambe and Ainsley. Brown moved to right-back following the changes and, within three minutes, he was unlucky to concede a goal down his side.

When he and Daniel Nardiello went into a 50/50 challenge the ball popped up and the striker blatantly used his arm to get past his marker. The ball was subsequently pulled back for on-rushing midfielder Harley and he guided it home into the far corner from just inside the box.

Stung by the goal, Ipswich came storming back and twice they forced corners as first Murray’s shot was turned around the post by the keeper before David Norris’ effort was blocked by a defender on its way to goal.

It therefore came as no surprise when the visitors pulled level in the 64th minute when Republic of Ireland U19 international Murray – making his first team debut – expertly looped home a header from O’Connor’s cross.

Bouyed by the goal, Town pushed on and they nearly got their noses in front when Stead curled the ball narrowly wide from outside the box following a fine passing move.

Ipswich had dominated the second half, but they were hit by a sucker-punch in the 81st minute when Harley curled home a sublime equaliser. The midfielder held back to receive a cross just outside the box before guiding the ball in off the bar.

Both sides desperately went for the winner as extra-time approached. Exeter – who introduced the ex-Ipswich duo of Marcus Stewart and Richard Logan late on – had an effort cleared off the line. At the other end, Town were awarded a free-kick rather than a penalty when Murray was hauled back dangerously close to the area.

And after Stewart went close to scoring against the club he made his name at soon after the restart, Town scored the winner when Murray slid in Stead, twice efforts of his were cleared off the line by keeper and defender before Norris eventually slammed home.

Stead could and perhaps should have wrapped things up in the second period of extra-time, but Ipswich held out to inflict a 23rd successive League Cup defeat on the Devon side.

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