Granted, a 1-1 draw with multiple sliding doors moments, held in oppressive heat. But Jon Punt soaks in an atmosphere that almost compensates for it all.
Given some recent successful tactical switches and off the back of an excellent result in midweek, Herdman opted to continue with a 4-3-3. Unfortunately, Cambridge seemed ready for it and were more effective at utilising the space they were allowed.
The first drinks break saw a quick shift back to a three-person backline, and this seemed to allow City to settle and grab some control of the match. That said, the patterns of play and drift in the second half could have been arrested by some swifter substitutions, with August’s player of the month Freya Symonds cutting a slightly frustrated figure until her introduction in the latter stages of the game.
When this Norwich side click they’re very easy on the eye; albeit that didn’t happen enough on a sweltering afternoon. When they realised the ball doing the work was more forgiving on the legs and started to put their passes together, the hosts looked a real threat. This was typified when Parker, deployed as wing back at this time and perhaps City’s best outlet all match, delivered a pass with razor sharp accuracy into Snelling, only for her finish to cannon back off the bar.
On another day it bounces down and into the net and Norwich go onto win at a canter.
Given the drinks breaks, Cambridge players cramping (coincidentally very close to full-time while they were under pressure) and multiple stoppages for injuries, it’s bewildering that the match officials only found six minutes of added time. Understandable perhaps, as everyone looked as if they’d had enough of the conditions – but there was probably in excess of another 15 minutes due, which would have given Norwich more than enough opportunity to go on and win the game as United retreated further and further into their own half.
Hero of the match
Ceri Flye’s dominance at the back was the base City built from when they started to assert themselves in this match. Flye has made a habit of consistently putting in solid displays, but her determination to track back and strength in both the tackle and her aerial duels set her apart.
A youthful crowd did their best to back their team in that slightly higher pitched way usually seen back in the days of kids for a quid or League Cup home games.
Given the ageing demographic of supporter at Carrow Road, it was encouraging and heartwarming to see large groups of boys and girls given the chance to enjoy their afternoon and interact with the players post-match. For those who haven’t witnessed it before, the stark and refreshing difference from the men’s game is huge. This set of players genuinely care about inspiring the next generation and establishing a legacy for the women’s game. They’d still be on the turf now signing memorabilia and posing for selfies if the demand was there.
Our post-match takeaway
Plenty of frustration was evident post-match as Norwich knew they had more in the tank and hadn’t quite gone about things in the way they’d wanted. The conditions didn’t help and while it was the same for both sides, City like to play with an intensity and pressing game which seeks to force errors. That just wasn’t feasible with temperatures in the 30s and they had to be more considered in their approach to conserve energy.
Despite the weather, Norwich still had the individual quality to win it and just couldn’t force the result. Still, as the saying goes: ‘If you can’t win, don’t get beat’.
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