Iwan Roberts: Norwich City’s draw at Reading was a point worth making
The points you pick up away from home in a season will go a long way to securing a club’s survival in the Premier League, and even though it wasn’t the most entertaining of games against Reading, the point the lads came back with might be invaluable come the beginning of May.
Chances were very few and far between for both sides last Saturday, and in all honesty neither side did enough to win the game. Being away from home, I think Chris Hughton would have been the happier of the two managers when the final whistle was blown.
As the away side you have to try to make sure you don’t concede an early goal which would lift the confidence and spirit of the home team and their supporters. You have to slow down the high tempo that a team who are playing at home tend to start with, and you have to try and stop any momentum they have going into the game.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an away team going out and spoiling the game as a spectacle for the first 20 to 30 minutes in order to keep things tight, and after being successful in doing this you can then go on and hopefully put your marker down on a game.
Hughton sent the players out with a good team shape against Reading. Bradley Johnson and Alexander Tettey, who has been very impressive in the middle of the park, had more of an anchoring role in midfield, releasing the likes of Anthony Pilkington, Wes Hoolahan and Robert Snodgrass to take up more of an attacking role in the team, providing the main source of support and service to Grant Holt, who once again played the lone striker’s role.
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I do like this formation. Whatever people think, it’s not too defensive as you’re playing with three attacking midfielders, but you also have the safety net of two holding midfielders who will sit just in front of the two central defenders, making it difficult for the opposition to play the ball into their strikers.
Once again City defended admirably, reducing Reading to very few clear-cut opportunities, and I’m sure everybody will have come away from the Madejski Stadium delighted with yet another clean sheet, the club’s first away from home since their return to the top flight.
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On Saturday night I spoke to my good friend Ady Williams, who is a former Reading player and was working at the game for Radio Berkshire. He was very impressed with the organisation and commitment shown by Norwich and was in no doubt that they are more than capable enough of staying in the division this season.
• A GOOD MOVE FOR BUTTERFIELD
I was pleased to see City allow Jacob Butterfield to go out on loan to Bolton for a month.
It will do him the world of good to get some first team games under his belt, and he’s joining a very good club with a highly-rated young manager in Dougie Freedman.
Jacob has had his injury problems since joining the club and has only appeared in the Capital One Cup. He’s played in the Under-21 league but it’s nowhere near the same standard as the Championship.
I only ever went on loan once in my career and that was right at the end of it. I had fallen out with Stan Ternent, the Gillingham manager at the time, and he’d made it perfectly clear that I’d never play for him again – which was more than okay for me.
Instead of rotting away in the reserves at 36, I had a chance to join my old Canaries team-mate Rob Newman, who was assistant manager at Cambridge United. I jumped at the opportunity to go on loan for three months, and although I couldn’t score the goals that would have kept the U’s in the Football League, I loved every second at the club.
• CITY FACING THE ULTIMATE TEST
What a test it will be for the players tomorrow at Carrow Road.
Manchester United are in town. I think everybody gets excited when Sir Alex Ferguson brings his team to visit. They are the most successful club in Premier League history, and it wouldn’t be any great surprise if they won their 13th title this season.
I don’t think it’s the best United side we’ve seen since they won their first back in 1992. But one thing is for sure – they are so resilient and never know when they are beaten. You only have to look at last week’s victory at Villa Park to see that. Not for the first time this season they conceded early goals (they have let in the first goal in seven of their opening 11 league games, amazingly going on to win five of those) but with the attacking players Sir Alex has at his disposal – with the likes of Van Persie, Rooney, and Javier Hernandez – he always knows they are more than capable of out-scoring their opposition.
The City players have been outstanding defensively over the last few weeks and they are going to have to be at their very best, defending as a team and working hard for each other, if they are to keep United at bay.
Then hopefully they can capitalise on what is an unusually leaky Red Devils back four at present!