NORWICH CITY 2-0 BIRMINGHAM CITY; THE ACN REVIEW

29/01/17

This home fixture, with Zola winless since taking on the Birmingham job, had a very 'Along Come Norwich' feel about it. Luckily City are starting to break the hoodoo slowly but surely, Andy Lawn and Jon Punt take a look at a good afternoon for the Canaries. Got to love a bit of Timm, haven't you?

Random star performer

Ok, he didn't actually do that much, but just for sheer kind heartedness we're giving it to Ben Godfrey for his league debut in yellow and green. Louis Thompson's recent Achilles injury demonstrates his luck is in shorter supply than Katie Hopkins' credibility, so it was pleasing to see the manager trusting another of his young guns to see the game out. Well done Ben, hopefully the first of many.

Debutants aside, Brady deserves credit for what probably is his last outing in Canary colours. There were real signs of the player we first signed who started with so much swagger during last season's campaign. Best of luck Robbie, that is if we actually manage to sign a left back so we can let you go.

Honourable mention also for our Norwegian enforcer. Alex Tettey wasn't perfect but looked like he was returning to form, breaking up play and even throwing in a couple of passes.

Moment of the match

It was the moment that defined the match. With the deadlock yet to be broken Birmingham strode forward with purpose, teasing a ball into the box while Norwich's backline went AWOL. There's usually an inevitability about what happens next, but Lukas Jutkiewicz hadn't read the script and thundered his header against Ruddy's bar. 30 seconds later Jerome is stealing the ball from the Birmingham backline in much the same fashion he robbed Ayala on the Wembley turf. Only this time there was much more to do. Having sprinted at full pelt with the ball for 50 yards, the much maligned striker then had the composure and quick feet to fashion himself the chance and stroke it into the corner. The fact he chose the selfish option, rather than playing in the unmarked Naismith is a potential signal Jerome's confidence is returning.

We have to talk about Timm though too. Has there been a more heartfelt Canary celebration than the one Klose roared at the Barclay? A routine header in a routine 2-0 home win is not the kind of goal to get the eyes bulging and the fists pumping faster than Theresa May could run off to tousle Trump's hair. He may not own a house in Diss, but he really meant this. It was just reward for Klose's efforts since his reintroduction to the side, although alarmingly this was the first goal scored by a Norwich central defender this season. Let's hope he can get his lovely Swiss face onto some more set piece deliveries soon.

And then there was that heartfelt 77th minute salute to Sir John Hurt. More of that tomorrow on ACN though.

Atmosphere rating

Excellent, then silent, then excellent, then silent again. There was just the first stirrings of belief rippling through the Barclay as the game wore on, which is hopefully a sign of things to come but once again it was hardly spine tingling. That's understandable though, we've been here before. If this latest dawn proves to be slightly less false the noise will return.

Referee watch

What initially appeared a frustrating lack of desire to book professional fouls, soon came to Tettey's rescue as he halted a Birmingham counter-attack with a characteristic scythe. The official had little to do and did it with the minimum of fuss. No complaints here.

Biggest positive to take

As Alex Neil alluded to in his post match comments, Norwich have starting doing the ugly stuff. Whether that means chasing down a lost cause, getting your foot in where it hurts, or just managing the game better with a smidgeon of 'professionalism', we've started to do it. And as much as Birmingham bossed the possession stats, it was Norwich who looked far more purposeful with the ball. The tempo with which City played when in possession of the ball was far higher and it meant a slightly more incisive performance.

Weekly whinge

It wasn't all plain sailing and our inability to mark men remains a huge concern. Klose and Tettey seemingly found it difficult to decide who was picking up runners, improvement required if we're to mount that push for the play offs. Had Birmingham been clinical, we could easily have been behind with a mountain to climb, such is the emphasis placed on the opening goal when Norwich play. However, this time around we got away with it and with a clean sheet perhaps comes a little more belief.

Summary

A solid win and team performance that backs up last week's taming of Wolves. Birmingham's chances aside, it was Norwich's and in particular Naismith's profligacy which meant the margin of victory wasn't wider. It's possible Stevie had actually borrowed Jerome's shooting boots for the afternoon, such was the wayward nature of his finishing. However, scoring goals this season hasn't been the root cause of our problems. Seeing a game out which could have proved nervy had the visitors capitalised on their fast start to the second half should start to breed confidence. That will be sorely needed to arrest our recent troubles on the road.

We may have played a game extra than most but being 2 points off the top 6 going in to February means all is not lost for this season. It's the hope that kills you and for now we still have it.

You can follow Andy and Jon on Twitter, @Andrew_Lawn & @puntino

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