PRESTON NORTH END 1-3 NORWICH CITY; THE ACN REVIEW

18/04/17

Full of dread, Dughall McCormick trudged up to Deepdale, expecting another away day loss. Quite the surprise then when Norwich played well, took their chances and gave young Maddison a sniff of a chance.

Random star performer

Josh Murphy brings a bit to the party. His game feels to be a little more robust than brother Jacob (who has generally been a loyal and fairly productive servant this season but who also probably deserves a breather having put in some shifts). Joshua has a confidence in his own pace that leads to a willingness to nudge the ball beyond the defender and blast into space. Although this didn't always come off today, it at least afforded the canary supporters some of those exciting 'Go-on son!' moments and it keeps the opposition nervy. A good game for young Murphy and one in which he bagged a well-deserved goal, finished with encouraging composure. He's one of our own, you know?

Moment of the match

...has to be James Maddison's 92nd minute goal on his senior debut. A nicely timed through ball from Naismith (more on him later, by the way) put Madders through for a delightful finish between the legs of the Preston keeper. I know I'm not alone in having despaired of the amount of bench-warming the bums of some of our young talent have done this season - if the bums have even made it to the bench!

"Right laddy, you've got 10 minutes to show us what you can do..." I imagine Irvine said as he ushered young James up to the line. To be fair, he came into a side that was leading the game (a side with an unfamiliar level of 'away' confidence) and this would have suited him. In the few occasions he had on the ball, we could clearly see he's decent, and Y'army could not have been happier to celebrate with him under their noses. It was a nice touch that he pointed to the shirt too. I couldn't help thinking this fella's going to need his own song! (Suggestions in the comments maybe?)

Referee watch

Flawless performances from the man in the middle are rare animals and this was not such a rare animal. To be fair, it can probably be considered a half decentshow if the ref doesn't get a slagging at some point or isn't a topic of post-match conversation. So, I'd say it was flawed but half decent. Got a few wrong, mainly on fouls (for both sides) but they weren't 'biggies' so let's move on.

Biggest positive to take

An away win! Do you remember those? Haven't had many of those this season. We'd only had one (Cardiff) since last October.. That's a long old fruitless run. As an away fan, I'm used to this kind of thing in the Premier League, but not in the Championship. This has been one of the most frustrating away seasons I can remember. There have been so many no-shows and capitulations on the road that getting 3 points has to be seen as a massive positive. A successful season at any level cannot be built on home form alone; why have we seemingly had two such different teams this time round? So fragile, so easily roll-overable whilst away from The Carra and so deeply frustrating.

Weekly whinge

Steven Naismith. Come on man! Look like you mean it! Look like you want it! When I think of the eye-watering sum you get each week just to pull on the shirt I love, how dare you pull up short for a ball that I'm sure you could have reached if you could only be arsed?! I know everyone has an off day. Off days can be forgiven and mitigated by effort. But if you don't try hard, that's difficult to swallow.

Naismith isn't the only one guilty of this but it does get my goat. If someone offered me the sort of money they get for their 90 mins, I'd happily risk a heart attack; so it's a bit galling to see them coming up short on effort. Naismith's failure to sprint for the byline compounded a fairly inconspicuous performance from him overall today and definitely challenged my compassion levels (although I will concede him the lovely Maddison assist).

Atmosphere rating

Pretty limp and not surprising really. When there's little to play for, it's hard to really get anything meaningful going. I think that many had sensibly opted to stay at home and spare themselves the expected punishment of a long, fruitless sortie north and this left us a little short-handed. Some of the more vociferous away contingent were also notable by their absence. Having said that, a few corners were met with stirring encouragement and the goals were well celebrated, albeit with a smattering of surprise and relief.
How enjoyable to clap the team from the field and receive in return their heartfelt appreciation for the support. This is something I've missed of late, too often trudging away after the final whistle unable to make eye contact with the disappointing shower before me.

Summary

All too typical of a frustrating and inconsistent season, this. There were glimmers of the promise we know exists in many of the players, some glimmers brighter than others. The fact remains though that this group have fallen short far too often. The frailties cannot be ignored. Wholesale review and refresh is what's needed now. An away win, although comfortable in the end, is just one game and, like Reading the other week, does little to salve the deeper ills that are not far from the surface.

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