Norwich City have to take defeat on the chin
If you judge Saturday’s trip to South Wales purely on its merits, then we have to say the Canaries weren’t at their best and were beaten by an impressive Swansea side who have already proved this season that they are a force to be reckoned with on their own patch.
However, if we view it more objectively in terms of a 46-game season, it is little more than a blip in what has otherwise been a truly magnificent campaign.
Brendan Rogers has assembled an excellent team at the Liberty Stadium that tries to play football the way it should be played.
But he would have known only too well that only a victory would have been good enough if his side were to keep in touch with the Canaries in the race for the second automatic promotion spot.
And after a very nervy start to the contest in which the home side continually and needlessly conceded possession, for the remainder of the first half they were the best team.
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Swansea kept the ball impressively when it was the right time to do so, they were direct and positive, and there often seemed to be plenty of passing outlets available to the man on the ball.
For their part, Norwich did look threatening, but were often left frustrated by promising attacking play breaking down where it mattered in the final third of the pitch and around the penalty area.
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City struggled to get out of second gear in the opening half, and with the hosts taking full advantage by taking a two-goal advantage with two cracking strikes, it meant that at half-time they had a mountain to climb. To their eternal credit, City rolled their sleeves up and gave it their best shot to try to force their way back into the contest.
They took the game to Swansea at every opportunity, they stepped up the tempo of their play and they refused to accept that there wasn’t something in the game for them.
Norwich enjoyed several periods of sustained pressure after the break and there were moments when they came close to dragging themselves back into the game.
And with the dynamics of the game having changed as a result of Swansea dropping deeper into their own half and getting plenty of men behind the ball, it just needed a City goal to guarantee a grandstand finish. Sadly, it never materialised.
But while the Canaries never quite managed to hit the heights that have seen them rip many teams to shreds this season, and while Saturday didn’t turn out as many of us would have hoped, by the final whistle we could take plenty of comfort from the fact that they showed spirit and perseverance, even though things didn’t go their way.
Swansea and their South Wales rivals, Cardiff, are now breathing down the Canaries’ necks as everything hots up at the top of the table.
But the fact remains that with just six games remaining there are 22 other clubs in the Championship who would gladly swap places with City right now.
And that ultimately overrides any disappointment suffered at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
We’ll just have to take this one on the chin and move on.
• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – SIMEON JACKSON: After his hat-trick last week, it was unsurprising that City striker looked very sharp and positive when he was introduced to the action at half-time. He worked very hard and he undoubtedly added something to the front line, and it was just unfortunate that he didn’t get a clear chance to score.