One point gained or two points lost? Are you a Glum or a Glad?
Norwich City drew 1-1 with Wigan on Saturday at Carrow Road. After the match, opinion was divided. The majority of Norwich supporters wore long faces and bemoaned the fact that the Canaries had dropped two points at home to the Premier League’s bottom club.
Some fans even complained that we had blown our chance of qualifying for European competition next season. Most agreed that Norwich had not played particularly well, and that this was a game we might reasonably have been expected to win. This is what I call the glum reaction to the result.
BBC’s MOTD analysts on the other hand praised both our manager and our players for their overall performance and achievements this season. They also sang the praises of our players as well as the Wigan team, for producing the real “Match of the Day”, which in their expert opinion had been a better spectacle for the neutral to watch than either Swansea v Man City or Man Utd v WBA. And in comments after the match both John Ruddy and Wes Hoolahan made clear that the view within the club, and certainly amongst the players, was that this was yet another precious point gained in our quest for the Holy Grail, i.e. our desire to amass sufficient points by the end of the season to ensure that we finish in a position higher than 18th and thereby preserve our Premier League status. This is the glad reaction to the result.
Before the game, there was a sniff of anticipation in the air at the ground, despite the strange kick-off time of 4pm on a Sunday. Most spectators had enjoyed our last home game and hoped to be served more of the same excitement and fare. Most hoped that after our bad luck in extra time against Manchester United, and the clear error made by the officials concerning the throw in from which Etherington scored and which had cost us two points at Stoke last weekend, our luck would change and we would secure a comfortable victory against a Wigan side seemingly already doomed to relegation.
The Canaries had been on a mid-season break in Spain prior to this game. There was much scratching of heads when the team was announced. Why was Jonny Howson not making his home debut after playing at Stoke? Why was he not on the bench nor even with the suited and booted non-playing players on the padded bench behind the dugout in the City Stand? And why was new signing Ryan Bennett suited and booted on that padded bench rather than tracksuited on the real bench or in the starting line up?
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Lambert made five changes to the side that started against Stoke. Should we now call him the new Tinkerman? No matter. We forgave him when Wes marked his 150th appearance in Canary colours by volleying Jackson’s pass over Wigan keeper Al-Habsi following Drury’s quick thinking and quickly taken throw in. It was Wes’ second goal against the Latics this season; he also scored in the season’s opener at the DW Stadium. Although there were chances at both ends, City retained their lead until half time, but never really looked like adding the second goal which their fans craved. And they seemed too inclined to stand off their opponents when Wigan attacked, much to the crowd’s chagrin. Perhaps they were suffering from a surfeit of sun and/or sangria.
During the half-time interval there was a march past by the various City Supporters Groups from around the UK and the world. I waved at Oliver as he proudly carried the Capital Canaries Flag around the stadium, and smirked as he grinned in embarrassment at the applause from all sides of the ground. Did you know that Norwich have a Supporters Club in Botswana? Neither did I (edit – I bet Mr Nemo didn’t know the one of the Botswana Canaries used to be the Treasurer of the Capital Canaries many years ago!)
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Ruddy (who was deservedly named Man of the Match) kept City in the game in the second half with some good saves. Morison replaced an out of sorts Holt after one hour but Wigan, who had created several good chances, finally grabbed a well merited equaliser after 68 minutes when Moses rounded Ruddy to score. Lambert swiftly sent on Elliott Bennett and Pilkington for Crofts and Surman in an attempt to add width. Morison might have won it for the Canaries with only two minutes remaining but his header was brilliantly saved by Al-Habsi. The game ended one each apiece all round, but both sides will feel they perhaps could and should have won. Wigan, and substitute Diame in particular, will rue a host of missed chances.
We are now practically three quarters of the way through the season and with only ten games to go the finishing post is in sight. Let me come clean and declare an interest. I am one of those people who sees the glass as half full. I am a glad. Glad that we halted a run of three successive defeats. And to save you reaching for your calculators, slide rules, or abacuses, or counting on both your fingers and toes, Norwich currently have 36 points. If QPR (currently occupying the third relegation spot), win all their remaining games, they can reach 52 points. No more. So if Norwich can win another 17 points, we are safe from relegation. And for every point QPR drop between now and the end of the season, we need to total one fewer. Come on You Yellows!
Usually my second team is whoever is playing Ipswich that week. But for the rest of the season (or at least until City are mathematically safe from relegation), I support any team playing Bolton, Wigan, Wolves, or QPR. Come on guys. Let’s be avin ya!