Bizarre decisions gave Bristol such a helping hand

Tim Allman, Capital Canaries So - out with the old and in with the, er, old. A new manager, albeit of the caretaker variety took charge on Saturday whose record now stands at two games, two defeats.

Tim Allman, Capital Canaries

So - out with the old and in with the, er, old. A new manager, albeit of the caretaker variety took charge on Saturday whose record now stands at two games, two defeats. The first loss, to Bristol City featured one of the worst substitutions I have ever seen a Norwich manager make, and I have seen some bizarre ones in my time.

For the record, my personal “favourite worst substitution” was on Sunday 19th February 2003, in the 1-2 defeat at Watford. The score was 1-1, it was very late on in the game, and Iwan Roberts had been repelling allcomers in a heroic defensive display to preserve our potential league point. In the final minute of added on time, just before we were about to defend a corner, he was subbed off for Zema Abbey. We conceded a headed goal from Watford's last corner of the game to lose at the death.

Naively, I had hoped that the supposed new manager bounce would give us a lift on Saturday. And to be fair it did for the first 20 minutes or so, when City should have scored a couple of goals. But then came Adam Drury's injury, and with it the chance to make good the initial selection.

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In a bizarre sort of way, I can understand the logic as to why Duffy did what he did. The front six had started well, albeit with our star player out of position, and perhaps he did not want to change this. But that's the only reason I can see.

On the debit side, at the time of the change, our back-up left back was playing at left midfield, our best left-sided midfielder was playing on the right side of the pitch, and our best (or at least most improved) midfielder was on the bench, together with our right winger, bizarrely ignored yet again. Oh, and our young central midfielder, who apart from one decent game on the left against Manchester City, was selected, despite having looked completely out of his depth at QPR. Are you keeping up with all this? Good.

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After half an hour our caretaker manager was presented with a golden opportunity to redeem his selection mistakes by yet another injury to the unfortunate Drury. The obvious solution, to me, was to get Crofty on right side, drop Lappin back to left back, and move Hucks over to the left. I believe the phrase for obvious decisions such as this is known as a “no brainer”.

Unfortunately no brain was used. Didn't Gunny try to point it out to Duffy, or whoever else was on the bench? Poor Ian Murray, who has looked a decent central defender in the few games he has played, was moved to left back, a position that seems alien to him, and Spillane, mysteriously overlooked for a central midfield slot, was asked to play at centre back. And these changes were in addition to the mistakes already made. I was astounded, as were most of those sitting around me. The game was goal-less at half time but the feeling was that our chance to kill the game had already gone.

Early in the second half Bristol City worked out the weak point and attacked our left flank. Sproule even had the temerity to beat Murray twice before crossing the ball for McIndoe to nod home the first goal. And then we sat through 20 minutes of the most depressing football I've seen in a long time. Why we had to wait an extra twenty minutes to make a change that was desperately needed, and should have been made in the first half, I've no idea, although if we had gone two goals behind perhaps this would have prompted an earlier substitution.

When, at last, we had most of the best eleven on the pitch, in roughly the right formation and positions City posed a brief threat, scoring our first goal since dinosaurs roamed the planet, but conceding an all too predictable goal just as the celebrations were dying down, was a cruel, if not deserved blow.

It's a difficult enough job at the moment for the eleven on the pitch without giving the opposition extra help from the bench.

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