Norwich City hit by Nugent’s double burst
The Canaries really didn’t deserve to see their six-game unbeaten run come to an end on Saturday.
On the balance of play, and the way they were able to dominate for long spells, Norwich did more than enough to put another three points on the board and close the gap on the teams ahead of them in the table.
The team demonstrated a healthy work ethic and they moved the ball impressively quickly in the middle third of the pitch, and had they managed to capitalise on any one or more of the many decent goalscoring opportunities they created in the first half, they might have gone on to win the game quite comfortably.
After an opening 10-minute spell in which they struggled to find their rhythm, City reassuringly stepped on the gas in a similar fashion to many occasions this season and caused a decent Portsmouth side plenty of problems. They attacked well on both sides of the pitch, with Simeon Jackson and Chris Martin showing a willingness to work the channels and full-backs Russell Martin and Simon Lappin providing the necessary attacking support down the flanks.
The Pompey defence regularly looked rattled as the ball fizzed across the face of their goalmouth or was whipped into dangerous areas inside the box. Andrew Crofts and Henri Lansbury looked to break forward beyond the strikers at every opportunity, Wes Hoolahan buzzed around in advanced areas and David Fox kept things ticking over nicely from his holding role, and it seemed only a matter of time before the deadlock would be broken.
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Chances came and chances went. Some were wasted, some were well saved or dealt with capably by the opposition defence and sometimes the ball only failed to hit the back of the net on account of bad luck. But at half-time you felt that if City could continue to play the with the same attitude and quality, an opening goal wouldn’t be long in coming.
As it turned out, in the second half City weren’t quite as threatening in the final third of the pitch. For 10 or 15 minutes after the restart the game developed into more of an end-to-end affair and spaces that had previously been denied both sides suddenly began to appear all over the pitch. But as they still managed to produce more convincing attacking approach play than the visitors, Norwich were still looking good for another victory.
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And then City were hit by a sucker punch. Give credit to David Nugent here. He may indeed have annoyed the crowd. Some of his provocative gestures and his behaviour bordered on being disrespectful rather than simply good-natured banter, but his run and cross for fellow strike partner David Kitson’s tap-in was impressive, as was his run into the box to win his side a penalty.
But other than that, Portsmouth didn’t ever look like scoring. And the fact that John Ruddy didn’t really have to make a save of note just about summed it all up.
Naturally the Canaries will be bitterly disappointed that they were beaten on their own patch and have seen their impressive run come to an end. They’ll also know that they weren’t as clinical in front of goal as they have been.
But they really shouldn’t be too despondent, because you can be sure it won’t be long before they get back to winning ways.
• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – DAVID FOX: City impressed on Saturday but it wasn’t a game in which anyone stood out head and shoulders above the rest. So I’m plumping for Fox, partly because he demonstrated that he can deliver an accurate pass over short or long distances, is prepared to put his foot in if necessary and shows that he is game-intelligent, and partly because he has shown a high level of consistency in his displays in recent weeks.