City need to turn a corner and fast
David Cuffley When Norwich City shareholders gather for this week's annual meeting, it is likely they will have far more pressing subjects on which to quiz the Carrow Road hierarchy than their team's ability to score from dead-ball kicks.
When Norwich City shareholders gather for this week's annual meeting, it is likely they will have far more pressing subjects on which to quiz the Carrow Road hierarchy than their team's ability to score from dead-ball kicks.
This was not always the case. There was a time when the meeting was not allowed to pass without at least one shareholder - possibly the same gentleman each year - questioning City's tactics at corners.
“Why, when we get a corner, do we always pile everyone into the goalmouth and not leave a man on the edge of the area for when the ball is cleared?” was the general drift of the question.
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It was usually the job of Mel Machin, first team coach at the time, to get to his feet with a wry smile to explain the tactical niceties of the Canaries' approach to flag-kicks.
I will be surprised if a member of the current management team is, shall we say, “cornered” by a shareholder on Tuesday night.
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But it is worth bearing in mind that, before today's home game against Preston, City had won 82 corners in their first 15 Championship matches - and scored from just three.
Darel Russell scored following Wes Hoolahan's flag-kick in the first home match against Blackpool.
The next week, at Cardiff, the first of two goals by Arturo Lupoli - remember him? - came after a corner by Mark Fotheringham was half-cleared.
And, 11 days ago at Derby, John Kennedy scored his first goal for the club from David Bell's corner.
Similarly, City have managed three goals from free-kicks, Antoine Sibierski scoring on his debut at Plymouth and two Sammy Clingan dead-ball kicks leading to goals in the 5-2 home victory over Wolves.
I suppose, as a percentage, six goals from set-pieces out of 16 scored this season is not a bad return, but it could have been so many more, a fact not lost on manager Glenn Roeder when the subject was raised at the weekly Press conference at Colney yesterday.
“Our delivery could be better,” he said. “Somewhere between 75 and 85 per cent of scoring goals from set-pieces is down to the quality of the delivery.
“You can have the most fantastic movement in the box - if the deliverer doesn't clear the man in the hole, no one sees that great movement.
“And again it comes down to 'Well, we have just knocked 20 corners in at Colney, 19 fantastic deliveries' - but that isn't any good if we go to Carrow Road and out of 20 deliveries only 10 are decent and the other 10 are wasted. Some people don't show their best when the pressure's really on them.”
At least half a dozen players have been taking corners this season but there is that familiar sinking feeling when the kick fails to clear the first defender or drifts beyond the crowded penalty area into no man's land.
By the time you read this, who knows, there may have been an improvement in the quality of corners and free-kicks against Preston. Roeder, at least, believes he has a new dead-ball specialist to unleash on opponents.
He said: “I think when David Bell's involved, as he's going to be more often, we will be using David more. I have seen quality in his deliveries. We did a lot of set plays yesterday and the quality of David's deliveries was very good. But I emphasise that - at Colney.
“If he is involved and he's involved in set plays, he has to make sure he puts the ball in an area where we're making those runs. I know that we have three or four players that, if the delivery is good enough, the ball will be in the back of the net.
“We don't score enough goals from set plays, but that is not necessarily the fault of the people we are asking to score the goals. We have got to get the delivery better.”