It’s not all gloom on the Norwich City goalscoring front
The productivity of Norwich City’s strikers has become the subject of lively debate in recent weeks.
Much of our Pink ’Un website question and answer session this week was dominated by fans’ concerns over the Canaries’ attacking potency.
While skipper Grant Holt has been ticking over steadily at Championship level with 11 goals – and 13 in all competitions – this season, the rest of the front men are undergoing something of a barren spell.
The last of Chris Martin’s four league goals came on December 4 in the 2-1 win at Derby, Simeon Jackson has not found the net since scoring the winner at home to Middlesbrough on October 23 and Aaron Wilbraham has yet to open his Canary account, though in fairness he has started only two Championship games since arriving from Milton Keynes Dons.
The fact that City’s Cody McDonald, out on loan and for the moment beyond recall, has rattled in 17 goals for Gillingham has merely added spice to the debate.
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And fans are already calling for a chunk of the �2m invested in the club by director Michael Foulger this week to be quickly put to use in bringing in an experienced striker on loan to keep the club’s promotion challenge bubbling along. Where you find Mr X is another matter.
Of course, it is impossible to tell how McDonald would have fared had he stayed at Carrow Road this season, where his first team opportunities may once again have been limited. Clearly he has done a great job for the Gills and will have benefited greatly from his first full season of league football – one hopes City will also get the benefit when he returns with that extra experience and confidence.
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But League Two is two divisions lower than the Championship and the comparison is perhaps unfair on those at Carrow Road currently struggling to find the net. Jackson, after all, scored 14 goals in League One for Gillingham last season, and has found moving up one division can be tough, let alone two.
So how concerned should we be?
One statistic that might surprise a few supporters is that City have scored exactly the same number of goals – 47 – in their first 30 games this season as they did in 2003-04 when they won the Nationwide League title, and five more than they managed at the same stage when they reached the play-off final in 2001-02.
The bad news is that Nigel Worthington’s title-winning team then scored 32 goals from the final 16 games so City, who have managed only eight in the past seven league matches, will have to seriously increase their output to match that average of two per game for the rest of the campaign.
But if the strikers are misfiring or, as some have argued, are not having enough chances created for them, manager Paul Lambert has been consoled by the fact that there are goals coming from all departments.
Most of his defenders have scored at some point, full-back Russell Martin bagging four, while Andrew Crofts has scored six and Wes Hoolahan eight from midfield.
“They’re a team so if your strikers aren’t scoring you need other people to give you a hand, as you do other people to keep the ball out of the net – it’s a team that gets you things,” said Lambert after the 2-1 home win over Millwall.
Most of City’s successful campaigns seem to support that argument, with the goals having been shared around rather than the scoring charts dominated by individuals.
Last season, when Holt scored 24 League One goals and Chris Martin 17, was an exception. Kevin Drinkell’s tally of 22 in Division Two in 1985-86 was another.
But in other promotion years, City’s top league scorers have included Darren Huckerby – the only player in double figures with 14 in 2003-04 – Keith Bertschin with 12 (1981-82) and Ken Foggo with 13 (1971-72).
Even Ted MacDougall’s 17 league goals in 1974-75 included six penalties, though the other half of the famous double act, Phil Boyer, was just one behind on 16.
Clearly the defence and midfield cannot be expected to make up the strikers’ shortfall indefinitely, but I have a feeling they won’t need to.
Chris Martin, in particular, was unlucky not to score at Sheffield United and unfortunate with two of the three openings that came his way at Burnley, and it may need just one goal to provide the spark to get him back on track.
• TV SWITCH WILL CAUSE TRAVELLING CITY FANS MORE INCONVENIENCE
The TV planners must take some kind of perverse delight in finding City’s longest trip of the season and then changing the kick-off time for live coverage.
Last season the Canaries’ FA Cup second round tie at Carlisle, some 285 miles away, was moved to a 5.15pm start – in foggy November, remember – so it could be screened live on the FA website. Small wonder fewer than 4,000 turned up to watch the real thing.
Now the potentially crucial Championship game at Swansea on Saturday, April 9, has been switched to 5.20pm, to be shown on Sky Sports.
That means travelling fans will have to start a homeward journey of more than 300 miles at about 7.30pm or else stay overnight in South Wales, or have a stopover on the way home.
City’s compensation – as the away team in a live game – for the inconvenience inflicted on their fans is, I believe, a paltry �10,000 fee.
Another case of the tail wagging the dog?