December 7 2013 Latest news:
Monday, December 31, 2012
The last time City were on the wrong end of a Carrow Road defeat featuring seven goals, the overwhelming feeling was one of: “Where do we go now?”
The mood on Saturday, though was more a case of: “Got away with that then. Onwards and upwards.”
Given how it started, to have won the final 85 minutes 3-2 against Manchester City was no mean achievement.
When the visitors went two up it seemed a question of “How many?”
At that point you’d have settled for a repeat of last season’s 6-1 defeat, that’s for sure.
As an attacking prospect Manchester City looked in a different league compared to the likes of Manchester United or Chelsea. Every time they went forward they looked like they could score.
Maybe on a collectively bad day we might have got something if we had played out of our skins.
The sending-off certainly rattled the visitors.
But in the closing stages we just didn’t pressurise the Manchester City defence.
The scene was all set for a Middlesbrough 2005-style grandstand finish, but there was no Dean Ashton or Leon McKenzie to apply the finishing touch in the absence of Grant Holt.
However, the Boro side which qualified for Europe eight seasons ago were a different proposition to the current league champions. Timewasting apart, it’s a joy to watch players of the quality of Sergio Aguero.
And the fact that we’ve lost three successive games to sides in the top seven – worsening our goal difference by the small matter of minus three, as opposed to Aston Villa’s results over the same period – while the bottom three haven’t made a significant march on us is what really matters.
Once we got a foothold in the game on Saturday we showed a great deal of spirit after looking like rabbits trapped in headlights early on.
It was not only better than against Manchester City last season but also Chelsea three days earlier.
Someone getting on the end of a well-aimed free-kick seemed to be our only hope of getting something against the rather more cautious European champions, whose substitutions showed how concerned they were to hang on to their slender lead.
On Saturday we displayed much greater purpose and self-belief and gave it much more of a go.
The defeat reinforced the belief that were we to go to Manchester City on the last day of the season needing something from the game then we’re in big trouble.
But if we can show this much fight again we ought to be able to improve on last season’s away result against the champions as well as the home one. Maybe next time we’ll be able to limit them to just the three goals.
• Joe Hart hasn’t always looked the undisputed top keeper in the land in two Premier League visits to Carrow Road, but hammering the ball right out of the ground at the final whistle on Saturday doesn’t exactly endear him to you any more.
• WHY WE CAN’T AFFORD TO LEAVE ANYTHING TO CHANCE
A full-back bettering two strikers’ season totals in a single afternoon in the final fixture of the year?
Remind you of anything? Such as a young goalkeeper matching the performance level of the first-choice man in the last match of 1994?
Well we all know what happened in the first five months of 1995, and you would have to say that lightning shouldn’t strike twice.
But… no Grant Holt, no Steve Morison, while Simeon Jackson appears to be an impact substitute and the jury’s still out on Harry Kane.
You surely think that the lesson of 1995 has not been forgotten around Carrow Road and that we won’t get to the end of January without some sort of transfer activity involving a new forward.
Yes, we still have that significant gap between us and the bottom three, but all of a sudden if a injury-hit City lose at West Ham tomorrow and then fail against slumping Newcastle on January 12 there will be talk of 1995 starting quicker than anyone can utter the words “post-Christmas slump”.
Now, we’re not quite as bad as some – there’s probably a few Villa fans calling for the signing of Stevie Wonder and David Blunkett to shore up their defence.
But we need those vital last five wins as quickly as possible and we can’t risk a gamble on the strikers we’ve already got.
We have to show more ambition than we have at this stage of the season in other years.
No change up front, and if the midfield goals start to dry up we’d be in real trouble.
Any saving made by not signing anyone in January will prove to be the biggest financial folly in the club’s history if we were to repeat the slide of 1995 and end up missing out on next season’s bumper television deal.
Perhaps we’ll yet sign Jacob Mulenga or Danny Graham – you can’t read much into the latter’s weekend comments of: “If the gaffer wants me to stay I’ll stay.”
But we can’t afford to risk a repeat of the inactivity of the summer of 2004 when it comes to finding a new goal source. The days of prudence without ambition are long gone.
• WHY WINNING THIS CUP TIE IS SO IMPORTANT
So it’s FA Cup time then, and given that Peterborough’s six fixtures in December produced a total of 31 goals Saturday’s third-round tie is unlikely to end 0-0.
And I’m glad it’s a match-up out of the ordinary because neither players nor supporters will be taking anything for granted.
I don’t doubt that if we pick up any more injuries at Upton Park tomorrow Chris Hughton will prioritise the Premier League clash with Newcastle seven days later and hope that the gulf in status will just see the Canaries through in much the same way they edged past Scunthorpe and Doncaster in the Capital One Cup.
Who knows, there might be final appearances in Norwich colours for the likes of Simon Lappin or Leon Barnett? And surely David Fox has to get a game sooner or later unless he’s going to get cup-tied.
But there are two key reasons why we need to make FA Cup progress.
Lose to Peterborough and the post-Swansea run starts to look as patchy as the one following last season’s 3-2 win in Wales. We need to start building a bit of momentum again.
And we have to make amends for the defeat to Aston Villa by having another serious crack at a cup competition as soon as possible.
After edging our way to the brink of an unexpected semi-final place only to then almost casually throw it away we don’t want to revert to the status of being an easy cup scalp for lower-division clubs – see Bury, MK Dons, Leyton Orient, MK Dons (again) and Leicester.
It would be embarrassing beyond belief if we suffered a sixth cup upset in the space of as many seasons.
A TRICKY ONE . . .
If Aston Villa slip up at Swansea tomorrow – which is perfectly possible, you have to say – do you want Ipswich to add to their woes on Saturday in the FA Cup, or are Suffolk’s finest currently so far off the radar that it doesn’t matter what they do at the moment? I can’t be alone in not even knowing who their opponents are on any given Saturday this season.