Melissa Rudd: Farke needs to come up with a formula for scoring goals
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When the stadium announcer declared that six minutes had been added on against Bolton on Saturday there was an audible gasp of excitement.
Nelson Oliveira had conjured up the magic at Wolves on Wednesday, albeit with the help of John Ruddy, and Tim Klose had of course been the late hero six days’ previously.
Another dramatic stoppage time goal to this time seal a win would certainly have been justified, given City’s complete dominance, but you just got the feeling that they had already spurned the golden opportunity to turn a goalless draw into a comfortable win in the first half.
For once, it was an opening 45 littered with chances for the home team. In fact for anybody not at the game, the minute-long online highlights package produced by a sports broadcaster summed up the match perfectly. It consisted of two efforts from outside the box that forced the Bolton goalkeeper Ben Alnwick into saves, a James Maddison drive that hit the post, a superb block to deny Josh Murphy on the edge of the six-yard box and then ended with Moritz Leitner’s gilt-edged miss with the goal at his mercy.
There was no action from the second half, because in truth it is difficult to remember any. Bolton’s game plan was clear from the off. They had come for the draw and breathed a huge sigh of relief at going in on level terms at half-time. Phil Parkinson’s side adapted after the break, bolstered the midfield and with less space in the final third Norwich had no Plan B to try for a breakthrough.
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The slow build-up play wasn’t punctuated by the quick change of speed and direction that had helped to fashion those earlier chances. Witnessing those was of course a positive. Daniel Farke’s football has divided opinion but had Leitner and Murphy been able to finish the whole narrative of this game would have changed. Supporters wouldn’t have been moaning about a style that hasn’t produced enough goals, they would have enthused about the passages of play that led to them and praised the head coach for sticking with it.
Such are the fine margins of football.
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The problem is those fine margins that did not swing City’s way on Saturday don’t stand out as anomalies in the bigger picture, they are the norm. Norwich simply do not beat poor teams at home and in the Championship they don’t come worse than Bolton. Prior to Saturday they had conceded almost two goals a game on the road and picked up just nine points from 16 games. It is little wonder they were overjoyed with a 0-0 draw.
Farke’s side have played eight of the 10 teams below them at Carrow Road and beaten just two of them - QPR and Birmingham. That ratio speaks volumes for just how far City are off the pace this season. Coming back to earn a point against the league leaders in midweek was fantastic, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t count for much when you can’t follow it up by beating statistically one of the worst travelling teams in the country at home a few days later.
Yes, this is a period of transition. There were only four survivors in Saturday’s starting XI from the side that lined up against Sunderland in August, and five are now plying their trade elsewhere. But rightly or wrongly, the T word can’t be used as an excuse to mask continually poor results at home, and unfortunately for Farke that is where he will be judged. As impressive as some away results have been, only a fraction of the 25,000 people who turn up to Carrow Road every other week witness those first hand.
Perhaps what makes City’s lack of goals more difficult to accept is that Farke was able to magnificently turn a terrible defence into a mean one in quite a short space of time. Obviously the process of combining that defensive solidity with goals at the business end is proving far more tricky. Given the play-offs are no longer within realistic reach of Norwich, I think many of us would be happy to see a shift in emphasis for the remainder of the season from preserving points to discovering that all too elusive goalscoring formula.