City sign off season in fine style with victory over Villa

Norwich City finished their season with a 2-0 defeat of Aston Villa at Carrow Road. The win was more comprehensive than the score suggests, and means that in the final Premier League table City finished in twelfth position with 47 points.

Bearing in mind that Norwich were playing in the third tier of English football only two years ago, and that our only ambition at the beginning of the season was to finish in 17th position, this is a superb achievement. Well done to the players and management for achieving so much in such a short time.

After the game at Arsenal, manager Lambert for once named an unchanged side for the final game. The Canaries were resplendent in their new 2012-13 season home kit.

Holt was booked after only eight minutes when Collins blasted a free kick straight at the back of his heels. Presumably Holty was booked for not retreating 10 yards, but the booking was harsh, and the referee was roundly booed as a result. However justice was done just one minute later, and Holt had the last laugh, when he scored his 17th goal of the season by chesting in Lappin’s free kick after Collins had fouled Jackson.

After 21 minutes Jackson pounced on an attempted header from Cuellar back to Shay Given and although the keeper saved his first attempt Jackson made no mistake with the follow up shot. City were well in control by now and Howson, Lappin and Elliot Bennett might have added to the score.

The Canaries might also have had a penalty when Cuellar appeared to handle in his area, but referee Atkinson was having none of it.

So 2-0 at half time and smiles all round. At least amongst the City contingent. The biggest smile was on Capital Canaries’ chairman Gavin Cooper as he handed over a cheque for �370 to the Sporting Light Appeal.

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Unsurprisingly the large and vociferous crew who had travelled from Birmingham were less happy with what they had seen in the first half. “Sack McLeish” and “Blue Nose, Blue Nose give us a wave” were some of the more printable chants emanating from their ranks.

Villa rallied briefly at the beginning of the second half, and Ruddy made two brilliant saves from Heskey. But City soon re asserted their superiority and Hoolahan, Naughton, Russell Martin, Bennett, and Johnson all tested Given.

With 20 minutes remaining Morison and Wilbraham replaced Holt and Jackson. Seven minutes later Hoolahan made way for Crofts. City remained firmly in control against what was in truth a poor Villa side. There was no further score and as the Canary fans celebrated the final whistle the Villa fans continued to pour vitriol on their manager.

So a momentous season for Norwich City Football club drew to a close. First and foremost we finished in twelfth position, having amassed 47 points. There were some great moments, like the win at Tottenham and the thrilling draw at Arsenal. There were some significant wins, against QPR, Bolton (both doubles), Wolves, Newcastle and Swansea. There were some disappointments, like the Cup defeats by MK Dons and Leicester, and the maulings by Man City (twice) and Liverpool.

There were some notable achievements too. Paul Lambert proved that he can manage a successful and entertaining side at mid-table level in the Premier League. Holt proved he can score goals at that level too. Whilst clean sheets may have been in short supply (only three recorded) at Carrow Road this season, John Ruddy enhanced his reputation and he and Holt were mentioned as candidates for the England team.

Adam Drury proved that there is room for loyalty in the modern game by clocking up 10 years with our Club and being awarded a richly-deserved testimonial. Grant Holt received a third consecutive Barry Butler Trophy.

All thoughts now turn of course to next season. Clearly the Club’s major priority must be to retain the services of Paul Lambert, keep the nucleus of our successful team, weed out some of the dead or declining wood, and bring in a few new players to improve our quality and strengthen the squad. To sustain our momentum our aim must be to finish higher in league table next year than this.

I did not attend the end of season dinner, but some tantalising snippets are beginning to emerge from it. Will there be new seats in front of the hotel next season, increasing our capacity to 28,000 and increasing our financial muscle? Will we pay off our outstanding debt? Which players will come in?

And well done to Mr McNally for affirming that the board will fight to keep the manager. After a successful season the vultures will of course circle around our manager and our better players. They should remember that in Norfolk we have a habit of shooting burglars.

I hope the weather improves and that all Capital Canaries and all readers of this column enjoy the summer. Personally I care not one jot or tittle for the Olympics nor the jubilee. But next season’s Premier League fixtures are published next month. I shall just have to concentrate on recharging my batteries and contain my enthusiasm until then.