One goal and one point - but it could and should have been more for Norwich City
Norwich City today scored their first goal of the 2012-13 campaign and won their first point in a 1-1 home draw with Queen’s Park Rangers. Both of those are causes for satisfaction.
But the Canaries and their fans will be disappointed not to have taken all three points, and will still be questioning whether QPR’s controversial penalty should have been allowed to stand.
Both teams came into the game on the back of 5-0 defeats in their opening games. The back fours of both sides had truly been at sixes and sevens last week and both managers had moved into the transfer market to strengthen their defences. After last week’s capitulation at Fulham Hughton showed that he was not afraid to ring the changes. His new look team lined up with Ruddy in goal, and a back four of Russell Martin, Barnett, and debuts for new signings Sebastien Bassong and Javier Garrido. The midfield of Johnson, Howson, Snodgrass and Pilkington remained unchanged from last week, but Jackson was recalled to partner Holt up front.
City opened brightly, and took the lead after 11 minutes following a flowing move which involved Snodgrass, Jackson and Holt, and culminated in Jackson heading home Pilkington’s perfect centre. QPR equalised only seven minutes later when Bassong was harshly adjudged to have clipped the ankles of Cisse and referee Clattenburg awarded a penalty. Cisse’s spot kick was magnificently saved by Ruddy, but Zamora was on hand to tuck away the rebound. City protested in vain that Zamora had been one of three Rangers players unfairly encroaching in the area when the kick was taken.
City continued to look the most likely of the two teams to add to their tally, and Martin and Snodgrass both went close, but there was no further score in the first half. City fans were still discussing the penalty fiasco at half time when the news came in that Everton were winning 3-0 at Villa Park, which provoked an ironic cheer.
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At the start of the second half Rangers replaced centre back Hill, who had been fighting a losing battle with the physical power of Holt and been booked for his troubles, with Onuoha. City continued to press forward, and the lively Jackson, Snodgrass, Martin and Bassong might have scored but the QPR goal continued to live a charmed life and they failed to convert their chances. Ex-Canary Robert Green was also lucky not to be penalised when he seemed to handle the ball outside his area. Finally Ferdinand was booked for his umpteenth foul on Holt. After 87 minutes strikers Holt and Jackson went off to tumultuous applause and were replaced by the fresh legs of Chris Martin and Morison. To most peoples’ surprise and dismay, only 3 minutes injury time was played and there was no further score. As the referee left the pitch, Hughton engaged in several minutes animated conversation with him, presumably about the penalty or the lack of time added on.
So ended the first home game of the season. City played a thousand times better than they did at Fulham (which was not too difficult) and registered their first goal and point of the campaign. Overall they can be pleased with their encouraging performance. This week they showed that they can play and compete. New signings Garrido and Bassong both played very well. Snodgrass was Man of the Match. Pilkington put in a stream of excellent crosses. Holt played like his old self again and Jackson was a real handful for the Rangers rearguard. Barnett played very well on his return to the fold. In fact the whole team played well and were unlucky not to turn their superiority into more goals.
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This week has seen a number of new signings and there are rumours of more to come. This suggests to me two things. The first is that the Lambert era is now well and truly over. The team he built is being transformed, and his philosophy of buying hungry players from lower divisions has been discarded. Players who were injury prone and did not live up to their potential are being shipped out. Hughton is putting his own stamp on the team and going for a different type of player. The second point is that we now have too big a squad. It is not a good idea to pay good wages to players who are not going to get many games. Nor will they be happy to sit in the stands indefinitely. I counted ten potential first teamers who were sitting on the non playing bench on Saturday and didn’t even make the subs bench. Expect some more departures (either permanent or on loan) before the August deadline.
After the home game against Scunthorpe on Tuesday in the second round of the Capital One Cup (which I believe is the new name of the former League/Milk/Coca Cola/Carling Cup), City continue their sequence of league games against London teams with an away game on Saturday at Tottenham Hotspur. Let’s hope the Capital Canaries will be celebrating another great result in North London just like last year.
It would be invidious of me to close without giving a first mention this season to our friends from Ipswich. In case you didn’t notice, they lost 6-0 at Blackpool.