Key moments that determine our fate
Ritchie De Laet’s mistake and subsequent foul to give away a penalty against Wigan.
Referee Neil Swarbrick’s decision to give a penalty and send off Leon Barnett against Stoke.
Paul Lambert opting to start with five in the defence against Chelsea.
Referee Mike Jones’ failure to hand a second yellow card to Fernando Torres.
Steve Morison’s extra touch, rather than early shot, in the same match.
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And ’keeper John Ruddy’s mis-judgment to ensure he clipped Ramires, rather than took the ball, in the same game.
So what do these moments from Norwich City’s season have in common?
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The answer? They are the six key mistakes or misjudgments, no matter how slight, that have had a negative bearing on our fortunes so far.
And they have quickly highlighted a big difference between this league and the two which we have recently fought our way out of – that even the slightest errors get punished in the Premier League.
But also that, in the country’s elite, these moments are likely to have more of a bearing on the game.
And the teams that enjoy the most success are the ones who get fewer of the key moments wrong, or have fewer decisions go against them.
It may seem like I’m stating the obvious somewhat, but think back to some of the games we enjoyed in the Championship.
On the field of play it didn’t always matter as much that we sometimes struggled more in the first half than the second or that we maybe missed a few chances, because we could often turn things around and ensure yet more opportunities soon came our way.
Proof of this is all those last-minute goals.
Those kind of opportunities are unlikely to come about as frequently in the Premier League. Quite simply, the margins between success and failure are far smaller.
To survive in this league, therefore, it’s all about getting those big decisions right – and that goes for not just the players, but the managers and the referees, too.
Now, of course, with us sitting pretty in 14th place in the league, two draws and a battling defeat against Chelsea under our belt, there are already plenty of examples of where Lambert and his lads have got such decisions spot on.
If I’m going to highlight the few negatives, I should also praise Steve Morison’s run and cross and Hoolahan’s finish against Wigan, De Laet’s last-ditch tackles and headed goal against Stoke, Lambert’s decision to change the formation against Chelsea and of course Holt’s goal in the same game, to name but a few.
We will need a few more of these as we prepare to enter what could be a key little period in the season.
The players won’t need telling, I’m sure, that the next two games, Sunderland at home and Bolton away, provide the perfect opportunity to really get the season underway – and securing the win that we all desire.
By the end of them we will enter October having played six games, nearly a sixth of the season.
At that point we simply don’t want to be waiting for that first win, especially as we would enter a month in which two of the four games are trips to Manchester United and Liverpool.
If, on the other hand, we can gain at least four points in this little spell, fans would find themselves more than happy with our start.
Six points at the same stage last season would have put us in 14th position. If we can eke out two wins, and the six points that go with it, we could be entering winter in the top 10.
But for that to happen it’s all about those key moments going the Canaries’ way.
• I’ve already bemoaned the fact that Norwich City fans will face so many blank Saturday afternoons this season, but there could be one positive to come from it – increased support for our many non-league sides. Yarmouth, Wroxham, Dereham and Norwich United are just a handful of local clubs that would no doubt benefit massively from having a few more people through the gates and there’s some cracking games being played out at that level. At Wroxham, for instance, City season ticket-holders visiting Trafford Park will receive a drinks voucher at the gate which can be exchanged for the drink of their choice at the bar.
• Memo to David McNally: How about rewarding/compensating fans after the MK Dons no show of a couple of weeks ago with free entry to the reserve game against Manchester United in a couple of weeks? At just �3 entry it wouldn’t cost the club that much but would be a good positive gesture. Also a game likely to interest fans more than most.