NORWICH CITY 4-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS; THE ACN REVIEW

08/05/17

Another regulation home win, another opportunity to speculate on what could have been. At least that's it for the season now though, 2016/17 is done and best forgotten. Here's Jon Punt and Andrew Lawn for one last time though...

Random star performer

Another solid all round performance that only adds to the sense of frustration of what might have been this season. On the back of one excellent save and a few party tricks, the sponsor's choice of Ruddy for Man of the Match was lazy and predictable sop, albeit understandably so. Big John, while solid, was far from the game's stand out performer.

Pritchard again showed why he must be the pillar around which next season's team is built. Josh Murphy was also excellent and thoroughly deserved his goal. There were capable showings from Howson, Russ, Timmy K, Dijks and Dorrans (again), but the star has to be the diminutive Irishman; Wes.

A new Snake Pit flag proclaims "The Irish Messi" as the best there was, is and will ever be, which from a solely Canary point of view is hard to argue. A deserved recipient of the Barry Butler, if only for the longevity of his excellence. He wasn't this season's best player, but he's certainly this Canary era's standout performer. Wes' time as the main man is now done, but a space must be found for him next season in some guise. His footballing brain is too beautiful to bid farewell to just yet.

Moment of the match

Jonny Howson's attempt at replicating his thunderbastard of a strike vs Nottingham Forest was awful. Hilariously awful. Bad enough to draw laughter from the man himself and all those around him.

As bad as it was it only served to highlight just how incredible that goal was. Howson once again contorted his body into the exact same poise, yet the result was altogether different. The strike deserves to live long in the memory, despite this season being one to forget.

Ruddy's send off was also a lovely moment. Few players are afforded the proper opportunity to say goodbye and Russ Martin's offer of the armband for the afternoon says much of the skipper's respect for the contribution of the former Everton man. The fact the majority of fans stayed for the lap of appreciation, despite this season's failure, confirmed the Yellow Army's gratitude for his service.

Referee watch

Was there one? A wholly unremarkable game, capped by an instantly forgotten performance from the man in the middle. To be fair, that's probably a sign he had a very good game. Well done, whoever you were.

Biggest positive to take

2016/17 is done. Finito. Over. Good riddance.

However, the seeds of recovery have been sown. In Stuart Webber City have a Sporting Director who appears to know exactly what is required and how to get that done. Now he just has to deliver it.

In Alex Pritchard we have a new Wes and in James Maddison, we may even have a new Alex Pritchard. At the top end of the pitch there are no worries and now we have a summer to sort out the back end, a process that has begun in earnest with the removal of Bennett, Bassong and Turner (who?) from the club.

Among all this, Alan Irvine deserves praise. He hasn't reinvented the wheel, choosing to stick with the same personnel and system that failed Alex Neil for so long. Yet subtle tweaks around the edges have proved play off form wasn't that hard to summon up. Perhaps Irvine's lasting gift may be the tactical flexibility he instilled into the City front four. It's well documented Pritchard has flourished under his stewardship, yet Josh Murphy has emerged as the main beneficiary of his short tenure. While Neil favoured a static number 9, Irvine's formations have been more fluid, allowing Murphy to interchange with Oliveira or Jerome. In turn this has given Norwich an extra dimension. Suddenly a quick ball over the top, coupled with Josh's pace and anticipation, means City can break quickly and with purpose.

Weekly whinge

It may seem an obvious rant, but the omission of Steven "The Answer" Whittaker from the matchday squad seemed a little mean spirited. This man has been the subject of terrace abuse for some time, yet he got on with his job as the consummate professional he is. His part in Redmond's Wembley wondergoal will never be forgotten, and he deserved more of a send off than a trudge round the pitch in a tracksuit.

Atmosphere rating

Good, then silent, then excellent, then silent - not unexpected from a game that is essentially another pre-season friendly for next year.

Ruddy was afforded a proper send off and his presence in front of the Barclay for his final half of football in Yellow and Green was a nice touch, but just as the team needs to improve next season we need to too. Like the team, we have shown glimpses of what we are capable of, but we need to produce it consistently. Stuart Webber's comments around the club creating an identity the fans can get on board with may be key.

Summary

A 4-0 win was no less than a confident and commanding performance deserved, but once again only demonstrates just how frustrating this season has been. Again, having scored the first goal, City's confidence flooded in and they made swatting QPR aside look easy. That was never the issue though. The problems came away from home, when our backs were against the wall and a little bit of fight and guile was needed. When that happened, we were awful and it cost us.

A season in which we were joint top scorers but had the 3rd worst defensive record in the division sounds like it was an enthralling spectacle. Instead this will be remembered as a campaign best forgotten.

See you in August.

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