David Freezer’s verdict: Bristol City stalemate was acceptable in the greater scheme of Norwich City’s season
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Is your yellow and green mug half full or half empty as you look back on another Carrow Road match without a goal?
For some it’s half full, after another dominant defensive display which made sure of a fourth clean sheet in as many league matches.
From the worrying lows of the international break, when Daniel Farke’s team had become the first City side to concede four goals in successive matches in more than 18 years, that is quite the turnaround.
For others it’s half empty though, after witnessing another 0-0 draw in front of the Canaries faithful. This was a very different encounter to the Burton borefest earlier this month though.
Albion pitched up in Norfolk that night with one intention: to not be beaten. Nigel Clough’s side parked the proverbial bus and began time-wasting in the first half, leaving City extremely frustrated.
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The Brewers were a team arriving on the back of a 5-0 hiding at Leeds though. On Saturday, Bristol City arrived with the confidence of an eight-game unbeaten run behind them.
That made for a far more open game, justifying Farke’s decision to leave Alex Tettey on the bench and continue with Harrison Reed in midfield – with difficult trips to Middlesbrough and Reading awaiting this week when Tettey will be needed.
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The only changes from the team which won 3-1 at Brentford in the Carabao Cup in midweek were Marco Stiepermann reclaiming his place at left-back ahead of James Husband and Cameron Jerome returning up front – and it was Jerome who the spotlight shined brightest on.
With Nelson Oliveira’s groin issue keeping him out until tomorrow’s game at Boro at the earliest, Jerome had another chance to prove his worth up front, with Marley Watkins pushed wide.
It didn’t quite go to plan for the 31-year-old though. An early shot fired wide from 12 yards was added to by a disallowed goal in the 29th minute, when an offside flag cut short the celebrations at the Barclay end.
The forward’s burst of pace down the right had teed up Mario Vrancic in the box three minutes earlier, who could only fire against the base of the post, and his cross to Stiepermann in the 34th minute saw the German scoop a shot wide when it looked easier to score. Close, but no cigar.
This was a Bristol team on an upward trajectory, stretching their record to just one defeat in 12 matches with this stalemate.
The Robins had impressively thrashed Derby 4-1 the previous weekend before knocking Premier League side Stoke out of the Carabao Cup in midweek.
Lee Johnson’s side knuckled down and did all they could to prevent the hosts getting into their box again, their wall deflecting a dangerous Vrancic free-kick over early in the second half, as frustrations levels spiked around Carrow Road.
Substitutes Wes Hoolahan and Yanic Wildschut couldn’t unpick the lock either and the Robins retained a threat on the break, with Angus Gunn displaying superb concentration to tip over a deflected chip from Jamie Paterson in the 65th minute on an otherwise quiet afternoon.
The noise surged as Farke’s side chucked the ball forward in the closing stages, with the again excellent Tom Trybull firing a late effort goalwards after a corner was cleared, only to be thwarted in the six-yard box by Josh Brownhill.
With no home game now until Hull City travel south on October 14, it means Carrow Road will have gone a month without a goal, stretching back to Oliveira’s winner against Birmingham on September 9.
By then the Portugal international should be fit again and Farke’s team – unbeaten in five, let’s not forget – can go hell for leather in pursuit of the goals their home supporters crave.
For now though, the focus remains on that defence and remaining hard to beat. It doesn’t get much more difficult in the Championship than trips to promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough and Reading in the space of four days.
Emerge from this week’s challenging away days with defensive stability intact and any points to show for their efforts and September 2017 will go down as a turning point for Farke.
Seven games in 22 days between international breaks was daunting but if they can escape from the Riverside and the Madejski unscathed, the German will have some breathing space as he looks to inspire a push up the table.