It’s a winter wonderland for Norwich City
As most of the country shivered and missed out on any footballing action at the weekend, the Canaries’ bandwagon continued to roll along nicely.
The conditions at the Ricoh Arena were far from ideal, and when the officials gathered for some 20 minutes just over an hour before kick-off – as the Coventry ground staff busied themselves trying to prevent the pitch markings from being covered by the falling snow – you wondered whether the game might fall victim to the elements like so many others around the country.
Saying that, credit must go to both sets of players on Saturday, as once the action got under way they didn’t allow the conditions to affect them at all.
As on so many previous occasions this season, City started the game brightly. They passed the ball well, looked sharp in attack, were industrious and creative in midfield and tried to play out from the back at every opportunity.
By contrast, Coventry kept things much more simple by routinely opting to shift the ball from one end of the pitch to the other as quickly and with as few passes as possible.
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The long ball, direct approach has clearly suited Coventry this season, and you can’t knock the fact that it has lifted them to the lofty position they enjoy in the table.
But on Saturday it didn’t really cause the Canaries too many problems.
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And when Aaron Gunnarsson was given a red card after just 35 minutes, Aidy Boothroyd’s team were certainly facing a steep uphill task.
As can so often be the case when a side is reduced to 10 men, Gunnarsson’s dismissal ensured that the game lost its sense of pattern, and on reflection half-time probably came at the right time for both sides.
With Coventry using a more narrow formation in the second half, the Canaries began to exploit the spaces they were afforded in wide areas particularly well.
And when Grant Holt headed City in front from an inviting Russell Martin cross, it seemed as though the points were as good as sealed there and then.
But then Norwich took their foot off the gas and got a little sloppy at times, and in one of the very few attacks that they mustered, Coventry surprised everybody inside the stadium by grabbing an equaliser.
City responded by stepping up the tempo of their game and they came close on a few occasions, but as time ticked away it seemed as though two points might slip agonisingly through their grasp.
Then, as he has done on so many occasions since he arrived at Carrow Road, Norwich’s main striker, figurehead and inspirational captain scored his and City’s second goal to ensure that it was another memorable day.
The Canaries controlled the game. They were the dominant side, they were positive going forward and generally solid enough at the back.
And although it’s fair to say they didn’t fire on all cylinders, they ultimately got the job done to provide all their supporters with the best possible Christmas present.
• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH - GRANT HOLT: Not a difficult choice, really, as Holt’s 10th and 11th goals of the season sealed City’s victory and continued their impressive run of away form. The City skipper led the line well and worked hard all afternoon, including a fair share of defensive duties when needed.
After missing a lot of vital pre-season work and, by his own admission, not initially recapturing his scintillating form of last season, he has been back to his best for some weeks now. And it is something opposition sides are fast discovering, to their cost.