You can’t knock Norwich City for their approach
When the referee blew his whistle to signal that time was up at Carrow Road last Saturday, once the initial disappointment of seeing the Canaries’ six-game unbeaten run come to an end had subsided, it was pleasing to hear the crowd’s reaction.
Because in recognition of the performance they had just witnessed, supporters in all four corners of the ground then warmly applauded City from the pitch.
And rightly so.
First things first. Norwich will hardly need reminding that if they manage to create as many goalscoring chances as they did against Pompey in future matches, they really need to convert one or two of them.
City opened the Portsmouth defence up on a good half-dozen occasions in the first half alone last week, yet failed to grab the opening goal which, given their dominance, would have then seen them go on to win the game, quite comfortably in all likelihood.
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And even in the second half when chances proved more difficult to come by, the few that did arrive still didn’t yield to that crucial opener.
However, in terms of how you want to see City go about their business on home soil, namely by taking the game to their opponents at every opportunity, imposing their superiority as early as possible and producing a positive, entertaining and attacking style of football, there really wasn’t much more that anyone could have asked of them.
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And it’s fair to say that it has been exactly the same approach in the vast majority of Norwich’s away games this season, too – none more so than in their last two at Reading and Derby, when the Canaries absolutely ripped into their hosts right from the first whistle.
Some managers don’t normally like to talk about defeats or especially the possibility of defeats, but I remember Mike Walker once telling us that no matter how well we were playing that there would invariably be defeats somewhere down the line.
But he had a saying: “If we have to lose a game of football, let’s at least make sure that we can take plenty of positives from our performance.”
Well, against Portsmouth Norwich achieved numerous positive aspects with their display over the course of 90 minutes.
If they maintain a similar standard of consistency in future matches they’ll invariably continue to pick up points.
• TIMES WHEN YOU WISH YOU COULD REWIND THE CLOCK
Leon Barnett hasn’t put a foot wrong in a yellow shirt so far, and the news before last Saturday’s clash with Portsmouth that he had agreed to sign a permanent contract in January was something that every City fan wanted to hear.
But when he threw the ball at referee Simon Hooper in the dying seconds of the game, unfortunately the day didn’t finish on the same high note as it had started.
Barnett’s reaction was uncharacteristic. And obviously it was fuelled by the disappointment of him not only having received a second yellow card but also having given away a penalty kick.
I’m not making excuses but we’ve all had moments when we’ve momentarily reacted like that. And you know almost instantaneously that you’ve messed up.
You just wish you could rewind the clock.
I remember Ray Wilkins did exactly the same thing when he was playing for England. Everybody in the game knows that Wilkins is one of the most placid people there is, and so his reaction was almost unbelievable.
I actually got away with something similar myself once. After suffering a whole host of bad decisions, I petulantly drilled the ball in the referee’s direction from about 25 yards away.
Incredibly, for once, my accuracy
was almost laser-like, and I experienced one of those slow-motion-type moments as the ball arrowed perfectly towards him. Fortunately he had his back to me at the time and everybody’s attention had been diverted to the melee that had just started on the other side of the pitch, and so as the ball thudded into the back of his head neither he nor his assistants had got a clue who’d delivered it.
Naturally, by the time he’d regained his composure and turned around to try to see who the guilty culprit was, I had long since disappeared!
To his credit, Barnett immediately went to see Hooper after the game to apologise, and, given the fact that Hooper didn’t take any action on the pitch, hopefully he will have accepted the apology and mentioned it in his match report.
And as Leon’s personal hearing is scheduled just three days before Christmas, let’s hope that the disciplinary committee at the FA are full of festive cheer when they ultimately make their decision!
• PROVOCATIVE NUGENT OVERSTEPPED THE MARK
David Nugent. A very good player who can score and create spectacular goals. But also someone who doesn’t score highly in terms of diplomacy.
His behaviour towards the City fans last Saturday was provocative and he overstepped the mark, in my opinion.
Players are warned about getting themselves involved in such situations. But while it’s not easy to think rationally or keep your emotions in check when you’ve just scored or created a goal and the adrenalin is subsequently pumping furiously through the veins, by the same token it’s difficult to offer any such excuses for a player if he continues to try to wind the crowd up when things have calmed down somewhat and it’s basically unnecessary.
Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time you expect players to bite their lip, ignore the catcalls and not allow it to get to them. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong if a player gives a bit of stick back to the crowd if they have been giving him a tough time. Supporters have to accept that. If you’re happy to dish it out, don’t go complaining if the butt of your insults gets the chance to give a bit back. That’s part and parcel of the game.
But when it gets to the stage where it’s needless and likely to incite trouble, obviously that’s when it becomes unacceptable.
Nugent took it too far last week, and in doing so he was unprofessional and foolish, to say the least.
• RUSSELL EARNS RECOGNITION
It’s good to see Russell Martin’s name ranking high on the latest Actim Championship Index.
The City full-back’s performances have been of a consistently high standard this season and he has impressively developed his game to the extent that he is regularly making a significant impact in matches now, both from an attacking and defensive perspective.
When a team is deployed in a diamond midfield formation it relies primarily on the full-backs to push forward to provide an attacking outlet on the flanks.
And that isn’t an easy thing to do. In fact it’s almost non-stop running for 90 minutes. But, in Martin’s case, in footballing parlance, he has a “very good engine”. And all credit to him for using it to maximum effect.