Late winner was a kick in the teeth for Norwich City
It was the proverbial game of two halves at Turf Moor on Saturday, if ever there was.
In the first half, City struggled to get a foothold in the game, and they were pegged back in their own half for long spells.
After the half-time break, though, it was a completely different story and we saw precisely what this Norwich team is capable of.
Paul Lambert changed the formation of his side from the usual diamond midfield system to a 3-4-1-2 set-up, possibly to ensure that the team might have a better chance of creating more scoring opportunities than they have in recent matches.
With an extra central defender present, full-backs Russell Martin and Adam Drury were pushed into midfield in order to try to stretch the opposition and provide the team with an attacking threat out on the flanks, as well as increasing the chances of more crosses being supplied into the box.
It was a positive move from the City boss, which really shouldn’t have come as any great surprise given that he has repeatedly stated this season that that his intention is to send his team out to try to win every game, home or away.
As it transpired, though, the way the opening half developed, both Drury and Martin seldom had the opportunity to venture forward with any real conviction.
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Burnley had the upper hand, and when they worked the ball into the channels they caused City problems. The home side also had plenty of opportunities to deliver the ball into the box, but were ultimately left to rue Norwich’s competency at dealing with them or their own wastefulness.
But with City creating precious little themselves in the opposition’s half of the pitch, the main concern at half-time for the Canaries was whether they could alter the dynamics of the game.
To simply say that City upped the tempo in the second half and played with more urgency and quality wouldn’t be painting the full picture. They really went for their opponents as soon as the half began, and they suddenly looked back to their old, familiar attacking best.
They got themselves back on level terms courtesy of an unusual but essentially tremendous Grant Holt finish, and from then there only ever looked to be one team that would go on to win the game.
City looked very positive and bright, their ball retention was good and they had managed to impose their dominance on their opponents. So it goes without saying that the defensive lapse in concentration that ultimately cost City at least a share of the spoils was a real kick in the teeth.
Can we be positive after Saturday’s reverse? Too right we can. Because while every defeat is disappointing – and City will certainly feel that this could easily have been another profitable afternoon if only they had performed in the opening 45 minutes the way they did after the interval – and irrespective of formations, tactics and substitutions, the fact remains that this was their first away defeat since last October.
• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – WES HOOLAHAN: There were some really good performances in the second half, none more so than Chris Martin, who impressed when he came off the bench. But my vote goes to the mercurial Irishman, who provided the cross for Grant Holt’s equalising goal and generally provided a big threat to the Burnley defence whenever he had the ball.