Ipswich Town set the seal on my Boxing Day nightmare
Boxing Day turned out to be a complete nightmare for yours truly. We set out for the trip to Crystal Palace, somewhat forlornly, early in the morning on account of the freezing temperature and the inevitable postponement of the game because of a frozen Selhurst Park pitch.
And sure enough, at around nine o’clock, the phone call confirming the news duly arrived.
Now some credit must go to the referee who had been allocated to officiate on the day, as well as to Crystal Palace themselves for showing a bit of common sense and more importantly a bit of respect and consideration to the Norwich supporters.
Because by inspecting the pitch as early as they did on the day and making a prompt decision, it meant the vast majority of City fans were probably still within the boundary of Norfolk on their journey by the time the decision was announced, if they had even started their journey at all. We made it to Barton Mills, about 40 miles from Norwich.
Making that decision four hours before kick-off obviously wasn’t early enough to have prevented the team from travelling to London for an overnight stay, but at least it was the sensible and proper thing to do as far as the fans were concerned because it probably saved many City supporters time and money.
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Given that the temperature on Boxing Day morning was around minus 5 degrees C, it was obvious the pitch was never going to be in a playable condition at kick-off time.
So good on everyone concerned for not waiting any longer before calling the game off, when they knew only too well that the temperature wasn’t going to get any warmer.
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Unlike a certain bunch down the road, that is. Bear with me.
Because, on returning home, I thought I’d take the opportunity to spend some quality time with my son. And as Boxing Day is all about football, it was now a case of deciding which game to try to get to.
We settled on Ipswich versus Watford, partly because it’s not too far away, partly because it would have been particularly nice to see Malky’s side stuff the old enemy, but mainly because I managed to secure a couple of complimentary tickets!
So off we set. Now you know what’s coming, of course, but the fact that Ipswich only called their game off an hour and 10 minutes before kick off – at precisely the time I arrived at Portman Road, by the way – was scandalous.
No thought for the Watford fans or neutrals, whatever. Or even for their own supporters who had to travel a distance to get to Ipswich for that matter.
Now City fans have been there before, of course. I remember a game at Burnley a few seasons back being called off little more than an hour before kick-off because a tiny corner of the pitch was waterlogged.
All the City fans had already arrived having spent more than five hours on the journey by coach. And now they had to get back on those coaches and face the prospect of another five hours going home.
There have been other occasions, too. Walsall last season immediately springs to mind when they were literally trying to burn the pitch into a playable state with all those braziers!
I’ve no doubt some clubs already do, but surely they have to make the distance that opposition fans and also some of their own fans have to travel much more of a priority when they decide on a time for a pitch inspection and a final decision on whether or not the game goes ahead?
Anyway, what it did mean was that I had to turn the car around yet again and set off for home, again without seeing a ball being kicked.
And another 80-odd miles were clocked up on the wasted journey meter!
It must be a record, that – travelling to TWO games in one day, yet ultimately being denied the opportunity to watch either!
• I HOPE CITY CAN MAKE THIS ‘EXPERT’ EAT HIS WORDS
One of the sports writers in a national newspaper made me angry this week.
For want of a better phrase, it was the cut of his jib that rubbed me up the wrong way.
Because in offering his pre-match analysis on City’s clash with the league leaders Queens Park Rangers tomorrow, he suggested that an away win was as good as a nailed-on certainty. His opinion focused on the undisputed fact that QPR are flying right now as they sit on top of the Championship table with a seven-point cushion.
They possess a vastly superior goal difference to every other team in the division, as well as being able to boast the best away record in the league, too.
By contrast, his verdict on City came from a completely different angle.
Instead of acknowledging the fact that the effort the Canaries have delivered so far this season has been little short of incredible, and at the halfway stage of the campaign they trail the team occupying the second automatic promotion spot by just a point, he simply stated that City enter the game on the back of a stuttering display in midweek.
Facts are facts, I suppose.
But I do hope that the article is pinned up in the home dressing room tomorrow, just to remind everyone that according to this one know-all, City might as well not bother turning up.
Let’s just wait and see, shall we?
• LINESMAN’S INDECISION COULD HAVE BEEN COSTLY
One of the linesmen nearly caused a riot at Carrow Road on Tuesday afternoon.
I’m referring to those crazy last few moments of stoppage time, and the passage of play that ultimately led to Grant Holt unselfishly squaring the ball across the face of the goalmouth for Wes Hoolahan to tap home for his hat-trick to secure the Canaries’ victory.
Incidentally, did you realise that despite the fourth official having signalled that there were to be only four minutes of added time, there were in fact nine minutes of actual play?
Only moments before City’s fourth, but for an excellent save from John Ruddy, Sheffield United would have equalised and earned themselves a share of the spoils.
But it should never have come to that, because the linesman already had his flag in the air signalling for a foul in Norwich’s favour.
Everyone was waiting for the referee to turn around to face the City Stand, where he would then have spotted the linesman’s flag and accordingly given Norwich a free-kick.
But then, for some inexplicable reason, the linesman decided to change his mind and lowered his flag just as the referee was turning round to face him and just as Sheffield United were mounting that raid down the right flank that led to them almost snatching a point from the game.
If they had scored there would have been hell to pay. The referee’s assistant messed up big time, and Paul Lambert was understandably furious with him at the time as errors like that can have such a big bearing on a club’s fortunes.
Thankfully, Hoolahan completing his hat-trick only seconds later ensured that the incident was quickly forgotten.
I think everyone has agreed that it wasn’t a vintage performance from City. Certainly for an hour it was one of those days that every team suffers from time to time no matter how well they have been playing previously, when for whatever reason they just can’t seem to find their rhythm.
Passes are uncharacteristically sloppy, mistakes are made more frequently than normal and frustration inevitably kicks in.
But, as all the best teams know only too well, the only way to dig yourselves out of the deepening hole you seem to be disappearing into at times like this is to stick to your guns and keep believing in yourselves in the hope that eventually you’ll get the break that you desperately need, whether it be after 30 minutes, an hour or even in the last minute of the contest. Providing that you keep trying to do the right things, even when it’s not the easiest thing to do under the circumstances, you’ll always give yourselves a chance. And that is basically what City did.