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Another away day, another close but ultimately fruitless encounter. Matt Barton on the words......
At the wrong end of the table, approaching the sharp end of the season, things could have been quite a lot worse for those of us who still believe that we might pull off a Great Escape. Defeats for West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth still mean there are plenty of teams looking over their shoulders, and becoming accustomed to the squeak of the bums.
For me, though, I reckon we’re done. Cooked. Goosed. Three points today, and I might have harboured some hope, but in the absence of that, no. We’ve gone. Let’s just go and win the FA Cup instead, yeah?
Look, I’m just going to do it. I don’t like to portray negativity towards players, but, well, shit. How is Duda keeping his place in the team, when handsome Mario Vrancic is testing the comfort of the premiershit’s bench facilities?
Moment of the match
I'm going to dip into the realms of controversy and suggest that Billy Sharp's goal - specifically his fan interaction after his goal - was the moment of the match. I'm not sure what the beef is between Sharp and some Norwich fans. I don't know if there's more to it than the kind of immature He Wound Us Up When He Did Them Things And We Didn’t Like It backstory that you often get when a fan-base take against a player. Maybe it's because I'm local to Sheffield, and hear about Sharp off the pitch that I carry no small amount of regard for him. Maybe it's because when his two-day-old son died, my own son was only 14 days old himself, and my heart broke for the family as keenly as I can remember for a family I've never met. Anyhow, should providence have made the world differently, and I had been a star striker scoring against a team whose fans had been vocally calling me a cunt some minutes before, I think I would have reacted exactly as Billy Sharp did today, not going overboard, not giving it the big one, but saying an understated but very clear Fuck You. You come to my house and call me that? Fuck you. Well done, Billy.
Picking centre halves for Star Performer in a game we lost might seem strange, but I'm going to lump for Ben Godfrey and Grant Hanley. Godfrey for being a consistently imperious presence in the back four today, and for coming out at the start of the match wearing his pink-sleeved training top instead of his first-team strip. He's got the wrong shirt, he's got the wrong shirt, oh Ben Godfrey, he's got the wrong shirt. And Hanley for setting the tone for his defensive colleagues by putting in a perfectly timed but nevertheless wicked reducer on an almost-through-on-goal Billy Sharp inside the first twenty minutes.
Not great, to be honest. Norwich sang throughout, but Sheffield United really needed the buffer of a goal before they felt able to express themselves. Big shout out here, though, to the Simon Hooper chorus, just over my right shoulder, who let the rotund whistle jockey know that he was not on their Christmas card list from minute zero.
I wasn't surprised when I came back up for the second half, to find that Farke had made an early change, but I was surprised to see that it was the Dereham Deco who got the hook, not Duda, who I thought looked the least effective of the Norwich forward line in the first period. Nice to see Mario Vrancic get a decent few minutes too, although he wasn't able to really show us what he's made of. There's probably been a few too many displays you could describe like that from Mario this season, unfortunately.
I think one could make a good case for Norwich deserving a point from that game, although, I would personally probably argue that zero points was pretty much what we deserved. Sheffield United will look at that as a solid workaday performance against a competent team that nevertheless takes them a step closer to, deep breath lads, their European football goal. Yeah. I know.
Finally, I'd like to thank the Along Come Norwich family for me even being able to go to the match in the first place. In the second edition of the fanzine I wrote an article about supporting Norwich from far away, specifically mentioning that I could see Bramall Lane from my desk, and that I would have to beg, borrow, or steal a ticket. A kind and friendly reader, Jenny Collins (@radioheadjen on the Twitter), read that and offered me use of her membership for today's game, for which I am very grateful - Thanks, Jen.
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Lawn, Punt and Parsley spend an hour in the company of Norwich City goalkeeping coach and bottle tamperer Ed Wootten. They talk about that night at Spurs, fronting up with Lambert, making ends meet in the early days and loads more.....