Jon Punt drew the short straw this week. Were City ruthless and professional, or lucky Barnsley refused to take any of the three or four good chances we gifted them? Either way, are we back in the play-off hunt?
Random star performer
Mitchell Dijks’ ungainly and ill timed challenge last week meant the question on everyone’s lips was; ‘Which of the Snake Pit’s favourite scapegoats will turn out at left back this week?’ Turns out Whittaker’s the answer.
Now this wasn’t a vintage performance from Whitts by any means. There were poorly placed passes, runs not tracked and some positional ill discipline, but generally the Scot stuck to his task well. Playing on your weaker side with an opposition full back eager to attack on the overlap and you're lacking match fitness isn’t an easy ask, yet there was an understated determination about his display. Well done Stevie. Someone had to say it, once.
Moment of the match
It says something about the quality of the 90 minutes when the most moment is Ryan Bennett deciding to thunderbastard the ball 60 yards into the air before landing in the South Stand. It was every immature Sunday footballer’s dream, the chance to give it the full ‘ave it’ treatment for no apparent reason and under very little pressure.
However, there is a point worthy of note here. Bennett’s decision to agriculturally clear his lines potentially emphasised the key differential between Neil’s and Irvine’s playing styles.
Alex’s sides were encouraged to play out from the back, to casually dilly dally in possession in their own defensive third. It was part of his eventual downfall, as blunders and lapses in concentration caused City to haemorrhage goals for fun. This fact hasn’t been lost on Irvine. The instructions to his backline were clear and have been repeated by many an under 10s manager desperate for a result, ‘If in doubt, get it out’.
Even with this back to basics approach Norwich were still vulnerable to any sort of ball into the box from wide areas. Our resultant clean sheet was in part due to Peter Kay style tomfoolery but also relied on Barnsley’s lack of cutting edge. Still, we kept a top half side at bay with RyBen and Whitts playing. NO-ONE saw that coming.
Darren Bond enjoyed a relatively incident free and quiet afternoon. There were very few moments of controversy and even fewer big calls to make.
Biggest positive to take
The clean sheet was fortuitous. The three points welcome. But on an afternoon when some people dared to dream again, it was to be the failure of Sheffield Wednesday, Fulham and Preston to gather any kind of momentum towards a play off push, which continues to leave the door ajar. To suggest we even have a chance of sustaining any kind of consistency which might support a tilt at the top 6 is still premature, but it's not beyond the realms of possibility. Yet. Still, playing 6 of the top 8 in our remaining fixtures may well see the dreams fade and die fairly soon.
However, the fact Norwich still have even a glimmer of hope suggests the Championship is either the most competitive or shithouse of leagues. I’ll let you form your own conclusions on this one.
It’s been a regular grumble throughout the season, and luckily it didn’t cost Norwich dearly, but the desire to actually man mark when crosses were fired into the City box was still alarmingly absent. Fortunately, on the multiple occasions a red shirt found they had a free header with McGovern’s net waiting to ripple, they decided to head high or wide.
A summer overhaul of centre backs is long overdue, regardless of their respective strengths. There is something very stale about our beleaguered backline.
Before the visiting fans decided to embark upon their own in fighting they quipped that ‘”your support is fucking shit”. On the evidence of Saturday afternoon its difficult to argue, but the lack of any atmosphere until the match was over as a contest is potentially understandable. City fans have been through the ringer this season, as their team have lurched from title contenders to the most out of form side in the division. Proverbial corners were then turned before another horror set of results put paid to Alex Neil’s tenure. If the team aren’t going to show any kind of consistency then why should the supporters? There’s plenty of bridges to be built and trust to be regained on both sides of the fence here.
At times, this was a workmanlike and thoroughly professional performance. Exactly the kind of match Norwich may have contrived to throw away earlier in the campaign, yet a moment of belligerence from Jerome had to kickstart affairs after he ably assisted a fine Murphy finish for the opener. It still took a moment of hilarity for City’s second, but an excellent McGovern double stop just after half-time was equally as important.
All logic and reason points to the fact we shouldn’t be able to sneak into the play-offs, but with Wednesday continuing to do their best to keep the season interesting, at least into April, then hope remains.