Lack of fire is so costly to Norwich City
It was a puzzlingly frustrating night for the Canaries at Carrow Road, and a game in which they never really got going against one of the division’s struggling sides.
When Simeon Jackson latched on to a peach of a through ball from Wes Hoolahan and smashed a cracking left-foot shot against the crossbar after only seven minutes had elapsed, you could have been forgiven for thinking that it might have been just a taste of things to come.
But for some strange reason it didn’t really fire the Canaries into life.
In the first half City did produce several spells of decent football and some of their approach play led them to areas from which they then had the opportunity to deliver a cross into the box or a shot at goal, such as Simon Lappin having his shot cleared off the line by the veteran footballing legend Edgar Davids, for example, and other moments when the visitors were forced into hastily clearing their lines.
But that was offset by Crystal Palace causing one or two problems themselves when they attacked, the fact that City playmaker Hoolahan was forced into dropping deeper than was ideal the longer the half progressed in order to get on the ball, and also the way City struggled to snuff out potential danger whenever it loomed.
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Wilfried Zaha in particular put the Canaries’ rearguard on the back foot throughout the contest and caused more than one or two moments of concern on account of his direct approach and sharp turn of pace.
The half couldn’t have ended better for City, though, when Grant Holt put them ahead with a well-timed run and assured finish just two minutes before the break, as although they hadn’t really found their rhythm yet, the skipper’s strike did at least put them in the driving seat.
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A bright and lively start to the second half from George Burley’s men, though, set the tone for the rest of the evening, and from then on Palace seemed to grow in confidence while City faltered.
Two goals from corners completely turned the game on its head, and City will be kicking themselves for allowing it to happen. There was one far-post cross and one near-post cross, but two headers into the net from inside the six-yard box. It kills you.
After that it was a case of Palace putting 10 men behind the ball and trying to frustrate the life out of City.
And it worked for them, partly because trying to break a team down in such circumstances can be very difficult and annoyingly testing even at the best of times, but primarily because City didn’t really have their usual spark.
Pleasingly, there have been precious few of them over the past year or so, but last night was one of those frustrating occasions when the Canaries never really got out of the blocks.
• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – ANDREW CROFTS: With the team having an off day, unsurprisingly there aren’t too many genuine contenders for the man of the match award. Andrew Crofts gets my vote, though, for producing another consistent display, even if it wasn’t his best. He broke up play well, he won the ball when it was there to be won and he was accurate with his passing most of the time.