Newcastle United 1, Norwich City 0
PUBLISHED: 15:27 28 September 2012
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Just for a change (and much to the chagrin of the Capital Canaries) Norwich City played an away game outside London last weekend.
Newcastle United beat the Canaries 1-0 in the battle of the birds at the Sports Direct Arena (the stadium formerly known as St James’ Park) on Sunday. This result meant that Chris Hughton not only had an unhappy return to the ground where he enjoyed success and a good rapport with the fans, but also that the Canaries are still without a win this season under his managership. Indeed for some minutes on Sunday they flirted with relegation. When QPR took the lead at Tottenham Norwich were well and truly marooned in the Premier League’s bottom three places. Fortunately when Spurs equalised and then took the lead, QPR slipped below Norwich in the pecking order. And happily for those wearing the yellow and green, Spurs held on to their lead till the end of the game and consigned Rangers to finish below the Canaries….at least until the final whistles blow to end next weekend’s matches.
Hoolahan and Morison both made their first Premier League starts of the season in this game in a revamped City strike force. Holt and Jackson started on the bench. Within the first five minutes Hoolahan cheered the 1,300 or so hardy Canary fans who had made the long journey up North with a diving header, but there was a real blow for City when Bassong limped off after eight minutes with what appeared to be a hamstring strain. He was replaced by Turner.
11 minutes later things went from bad to worse when a splendid through ball from Ben Arfa bisected the City defence and Demba Ba comfortably beat the offside trap and shot past Ruddy. City hit back with a header from Snodgrass which was headed off the line by a Newcastle defender. But both sides had chances, and that man Ben Arfa caused panic again by nutmegging Surman, but Ba was unable to connect with the final pass.
There was more drama just on the stroke of half time when Morison made minimal contact with Williamson in the area and referee Swarbrick immediately awarded a penalty. City fans felt aggrieved, and the relief, and belief that justice had been done, was palpable when Cisse blazed his spot kick over the bar.
Immediately after half-time City might have equalised when Hoolahan did well to set up Surman, but keeper Harper made a timely block. Play then ebbed and flowed. Morison, Surman and Hoolahan had chances for City, but Cisse, Williamson and Ben Arfa also went close at the other end.
After 70 minutes Holt replaced Morison, and after 82 minutes Jackson replaced Surman. City continued to press for an equaliser, and Snodgrass and Turner went close. As tension mounted, Howson was booked after 88 minutes for fouling Tiote, and Tiote himself was booked seconds later for a foul on Turner. In the last minute Ruddy saved well from Obertan.
So another good performance from the Canaries, and manager Hughton was rightly pleased that his team created several chances. But both he and all City fans must be beginning to glance at the fixture list and wonder when we will get our first win of the season. True we are conceding many fewer goals than last season (the fiasco at Craven Cottage being the exception that proves the rule), but we are also scoring many fewer. The Holt/Morison artillery is not yet firing on all cylinders, nor has the Bennett/Pilkington machine played sufficient games to be firing in crosses from both flanks for the big men to feed on.
To my mind City have also badly missed the contribution of Hoolahan, who made a late start to the season because of injury. Wes adds energy and guile to the City attack when he plays, and he was my man of the match against Newcastle. I hope that he starts against Liverpool on Saturday, and I pray that Bassong will have recovered from his hamstring problem.
Liverpool too are winless, and are below us in the League table. This would be a great game to win. Perhaps Holt will emulate Suarez last season and chip Reina from the halfway line to score our third goal. I’ll be there, cheering, and hoping… OTBC.