NORWICH 1-3 FULHAM; THE ACN REVIEW

14/04/17

Andrew Lawn made his way to Carrow Road fully expecting to see City 6-1 up at half-time again. He would leave disappointed as Norwich ensured 2016-17 would remain one to forget. At least he got to witness a Ryan Bennett masterclass in the lost art of shrugging.

Random star performer
Big Dijks. Mitchell put in another excellent shift at left back and again drew cries of "sign him up" from an appreciative Barclay. Strong forays down the left flank coupled with uncompromising defending, Mitchell looks a class find at this level. Dijks is also clearly exactly the kind of bastard this side has lacked all season, when Jon Punt said we needed more dicks earlier in the season, he was more accurate than he knew at the time. First, Dijks goaded Chris Martin into elbowing him, and then he fronted up the Fulham fans who disagreed with the decision and surged forward to give him a piece of their minds, as well as a ball to the face. Dijks responded perfectly. He laughed.

Whether the Dutchman thinks the second tier is a level beneath him, or the new Head Coach has other ideas remains to be seen, but on this evidence few in Norfolk would mind having him back next term.

Moment of the match
Precious little City joy to choose from here, although the goal was another in a long line of tantalising glimpses of what this season could have been as Pritchard picked out Cam, who thumped his header home.

Fulham gave a City a masterclass in how to win Championship football matches here. Solid, organised at the back and bravely direct when they had the ball, Fulham provided one of the best moves seen at the Carra this season when, starting with a goal-kick, 8 one touch passes first drew Murphy and co into a disjointed press, before picking us off and getting Aluko in behind. A combination of Russ and Ruddy saw off the threat at the cost of a corner, but the pattern was set. A similar snappy break gave Fulham their winning third on the brink of stoppage time and a priceless win as they hunt a top 6 finish. On this evidence a Fulham v Huddersfield play-off is a tantalising prospect.

Referee watch
Andy Madley had a tough afternoon, but on first viewing he got all of the major decisions correct. Chrissy Martin's errant elbow may not have been overtly aggressive, but at best he deliberately left raised and in the vicinity of Big Dijks face. The penalty was also a clear penalty.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record Ryan Bennett is not a good defender. Excellent in the air he may be, but the guy doesn't use that ability. Instead he stands about waiting for somebody else to take charge (see the third goal as Exhibit B your honour as rather than attempt any kind of tackle Bennett merely shrugs his shoulders and watches) rather than just dealing with the threat. On this occasion, his first involvement in the game, RyBen let a free-kick drift softly in behind him. Hoping to let the ball run out, rather than planting a header out of play, Bennett appeared shocked to find a Fulham player lurking behind him and rather than responding with some semblance of desire to get there first, he took the easy route and gently nudged his man (maybe he was merely shrugging again), making no attempt to play the ball. A clear pen and game done. Cheers Ryan.

Biggest positive to take
Plus point 1. Stuart Webber has now undoubtedly seen both sides to this City squad, although he was surely always aware of our glaring and frequently repeated failures it can't help to reinforce them to the man currently tasked with finding someone who can find solutions. The same team that blew Reading away here, showing just how good they can be in the process, ably demonstrated why Webber's overworked broom was sorely needed with a showing here that perfectly embodied our season; we started ok, conceded a silly goal, got back into the tie, conceded a silly goal, played well, missed chances, scored and cruelly sowed seeds of hope, before we conceded another silly goal. Game over.

Plus point 2. That's one less game to endure this season which is creaking ever closer towards its conclusion. Roll on the summer.

Weekly whinge
Same old, same old. Same players, same failings. Same brief flurry of optimism, same disappointment. Same Ryan 'The shrug' Bennett.

Atmosphere rating
Again, Carrow Road was at its rocking best for moments, but again these were over before they really got going. The opening 10 minutes and continued chanting of "We are the Norwich yellow army" despite Fulham taking the lead, suggests old wounds are starting to heal as everyone now accepts these season as done and attention is turned to the shuffling of personnel behind the scenes.

The prospect of a comeback, plus the theatrical booing as Fulham expertly did all they could to kill the game threatened to sustain an atmosphere, but the inescapable pointlessness of the three points to us, tends to sap the passion as quickly as it sparks.

Summary
What more is there to say about this season? Once again City did OK without ever really looking like they might win the game and again they did all they could to shoot themselves in the foot and ensure they wouldn't. Fulham looked a good side and for large portions of the afternoon the football was genuinely entertaining fare, but we've seen it all before.

Hats off to those going to Preston because for this season the only remaining excitement is to be found off the pitch.

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