City need to create a home sweet home

DAVID CUFFLEY It is always bad news when a team loses its unbeaten home record for the season. That first home defeat chips away at the confidence that comes from building a solid run of results on your own territory.


It is always bad news when a team loses its unbeaten home record for the season.

That first home defeat chips away at the confidence that comes from building a solid run of results on your own territory.

But when it happens in only the second home match of your league campaign, it's even more of a worry.

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Norwich City's 2-1 reverse at the hands of Cardiff City last Saturday was avoidable, irresponsible and, at least for an hour, looked most unlikely.

The old phrase Fortress Carrow Road has gradually faded from our consciousness thanks to 22 home defeats in the last three Championship seasons.

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But, after the flashes of inspiration shown in the Carling Cup win over Barnet and the absorbing fightback against Southampton, one would have expected better of Peter Grant's re-shaped team than to succumb to Dave Jones' Cardiff.

Indeed the Bluebirds have been defeated in each of their previous three visits to Norwich and without a win in these parts since 1971.

After the disappointment of defeat at Hull the previous week, City appeared to have recovered well in the opening half against the Bluebirds and should have been more than one goal ahead at half-time whistle.

But it is their inability to hold on to a lead - we saw it last season at home to Hull City, Plymouth Argyle, Derby County, West Bromwich Albion and Ipswich Town - that let them down again.

It also reinforces my view that it is not City's away record, mediocre though it has been, that poses the biggest threat to their chances of ever getting out of the Championship at the top end.

It is the number of points they throw away at Carrow Road.

In each of those five games listed, they have been unable to build on a one-goal lead, either through complacency, fear or lack of killer instinct.

It is interesting that the big debate among supporters I spoke to after the Cardiff match was over the substitutions.

Some criticised Grant for not bringing Darren Huckerby on sooner, say, at half-time, to press home City's advantage when a second goal might have made the game all but safe.

Others, however, felt the substitutions did more harm than good for disturbing the balance of the side.

Simon Lappin, previously outstanding on the left, did seem to suffer after Huckerby's arrival, which left the side overrun in midfield.

Until City can toughen up at home and show more resolve to finish off teams like Cardiff, they can't hope to be treated as serious contenders for honours.

Just to reinforce the importance of a good, strong home record, consider the following statistics.

Seven Norwich City teams have won promotion in the club's history.

In doing so, not one of them has lost more than four home games.

The successful team from 1971-72 was unbeaten at home during their campaign.

Those from 1933-34 and 1985-86 lost just once in front of their own fans.

Even more recently when Nigel Worthington's teams reached the Division One play-off final in 2002 and won the Nationwide League title two years later, they each lost only two matches in front of the Carrow Road faithful.

It's a pretty good benchmark for Grant's current squad to recognise and then try to follow.

After eight home defeats last season, City have to at least halve that tally of mishaps if they are to climb up the table this time around and avoid a long season of disappointment again.

Proportionally, one out of two is not a good start.


Best football news I heard this week was of a special award for one of City's most remarkable fans.

Maurice Sills, a member of Capital Canaries, was named Supporter of the Year by the Association of Provincial Football Supporters Clubs in London.

It's a well-deserved honour, not least because of the fact that Maurice is 92. Not that anyone meeting him would guess.

Interviewed on BBC Radio Norfolk about his award, he confessed to having only attended 13 away games last season.

Only 13 - and long trips to Plymouth and Cardiff were among them.

Capital Canaries and Norwich City can be very proud of such a fan.

A season ticket-holder in the City Stand, not too far from the Press box, he is, if anything, an even more ardent follower of Norfolk County Cricket Club, a regular at Manor Park during the annual festival, just as he was at Lakenham before the move.

And when he is not in Norfolk watching cricket, he's invariably at Lord's or The Oval, not so far to travel from his home in the capital.

Two years ago, friends served champagne at Manor Park in honour of Maurice's 90th birthday during the Norfolk festival. And we should all raise a glass to him tonight.

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