Jon Punt looks back on a decent City performance, blunted by a lack of quality in the final third. He even manages to complete a match review without mentioning James Maddison for pretty much the first time this season.
Random star performer
Harrison Reed’s energy and industry continues to be a huge positive in a rather flat end to the season. He may also now be the best right back we have at the club, no mean feat given his preference for a midfield berth. On the left side of defence Jamal Lewis was also excellent, at least defensively, and Farke’s decision to use him more sparingly may well be justified as the young man adapts to the rigours of the league.
However, and not only because the man has played little football for some time, our pick is Moritz Leitner. The German was involved in most of City’s better moments and looks equally adept at both ends of the park. His quick feet and intricate passing adds another facet to Norwich’s play, yet there’s a real sense of more to come from someone who’s largely been frozen out of his last two clubs. Whether there’s a permanent deal to be made is anyone’s guess, but his relationship with the head coach, allied to the fact Leitner seems to be playing with a smile on his face in a yellow shirt, might just mean an elongated stay isn’t just fanciful thinking. You know what to do Mr Webber.
Moment of the match
It’s the little things that count. During the second half, Gary Madine and Jamal Lewis contested a ball, only for City’s left back to be left sprawling on the grass. Referee Tim Robinson (more on him later, obviously) awarded the home side a free kick, which Madine was clearly upset about. However, he was more annoyed with the alleged meal Lewis was making of the challenge. The former Bolton man started to approach Jamal, probably for a little bit of gesticulation, but Grant Hanley had seen these kind of situations too many times to let things get silly. Hanley provided his young team mate an able shield of hard bastard proportions, which Madine was too hesitant to even think about trying to breach.
It demonstrated not only do the players around Jamal want to protect him, but that Hanley’s experience at this level is invaluable. Madine’s clear intention was to provoke some kind of reaction, and even the slightest of handbags might have been a worry, given the referee’s wildly inconsistent approach to game management.
Tactically, Norwich were set up pretty well. But aside from that, there was a hunger to match Cardiff physically, which allowed us to have the better of a match which only had one winner until second half substitutions changed the tide. And that’s the perennial issue here, City’s replacements don’t meaningful impact games often enough. That may be due to the cards Farke has been dealt. The wily Warnock was able to introduce Kenneth Zohore into the fray, City’s head coach had to gamble on Oliveira. One was dynamic, full of running and brought another dimension to his team. The other was Nelson.
Honourable mention for Daniel’s first half control of the ball too. After plucking it from the air, and stopping and holding it in between his toes and shin, there was a nonchalant flick to the throw in taker to boot. Sexual.
Biggest positive to take
Post match parallels were drawn to the recent encounter with Fulham, but City’s performance was more measured and controlled. They clearly bested the visitors for long periods of the game, in what was a more physical test of their mettle. The weakness at the top end of the park is obvious and should be addressed come the summer. Hopefully.
I’m not one to berate officials unnecessarily, but…. Tim Fucking Robinson. Has there been a referee at Carrow Road with so little control over a match so quickly? Colin’s brand of football is cynical, yet effective when it’s allowed to be. Robinson failed to address the clear and professional tactic, which was to break up any fluidity from a match Cardiff were struggling to gain a foothold in. To continue to award free kicks was never going to be enough if they failed to be followed up with any kind of caution. When he tried to address the issue, with a quick word into skipper Sean Morrison’s ear to calm his side down, the feeling was the next challenge would see a yellow card brandished. No such luck, and it remains a mystery how only two of the visitors’ side were cautioned in the 90 minutes given that Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker had clearly been providing training sessions to the Cardiff squad this season. Fuck you Tim.
We’re now into end of season procession territory when it comes to crowd noise, so the feeling of apathy can be forgiven somewhat. Obviously the loudest it got was to remind the aforementioned Robinson of his responsibilities.
However, following his wonderstrike/howitzer/thunderbastard/insertbettersuperlativehere last week, the Barclay afforded Josh Murphy much more patience. Given the academy product wasn’t enjoying his finest afternoon in terms of decision making it was welcome respite for the lad, and might just see him prepared to roll the dice more often in the future.
It’s hard to get upset about this result. You could argue City were hard done by, yet the determining factor in football matches is always quality in the final third. Cardiff are clearly light years ahead of City in this regard, but summer targets must have been identified by now and the key piece of business is bringing in players who will add more goals to what is becoming a more attractive and balanced side to watch.
Minor worry, the midfield five so pivotal in Norwich’s dominance were all excellent. Only two of them are likely to be at the club come August.
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