The ACN Match Review – Cardiff (h)


We didn't play very well. We won. Maddie Mackenzie charts another uncertain step taken towards a cheering new direction.

The atmosphere

Not great. We seem to have forgotten how to sing without a drum, which isn’t ideal when our resident drummer needs a break. The lack of PA added to the strangeness of the afternoon.

Not massively helpful was the Snake Pit deciding to devote most of their energy to baiting the Barclay. Yes, things were quiet, but the one-upmanship just wasted energy that could have been spent on the players.

Fair play though, their Pukki chant was funny.

The line-up

Changes! One enforced with Kieran Dowell picking up a knee injury, one tactical. Marquinhos was handed his debut while Lungi got to start a game for the first time in about half a century (more on that later of course). There was expectation that Tzolis had done enough to start in Dowell’s absence with a potential change to the midfield structure, but you can’t argue with the result…

Hurrah moment

A very happy debut to young Marquinhos. The transfer window and his loan signing feel a long time ago but Wagner’s first arrival proved his worth with a goal and an assist. To be fair to the lad, he’d clearly been absolutely desperate to get on the pitch; he spent much of the Birmingham game bouncing around the dugout like Tigger on speed. Hopefully a sign of things to come.

Boooo moment

Samba de Janeiro is a staple of this football club. It transcends the goal music/no goal music debate – we tried to switch it up a few years ago, but it came back. The Samba cannot be denied.

Except when two Brazilian players score because obviously the PA system was broken. Sod’s law at its finest.

Hero of the match

No MOTM in the ground today, and although the fan vote gave it to Sara, I think it’s time to highlight Kenny McLean. If ever there was a player to come in for unnecessary stick it’s our number 23. He’s been picked by four Norwich managers (including Allan Russell’s brief turn in the hot seat) but has rarely gone a stretch of games for the club without fans insinuating that he has incriminating photos of the current head coach. He rarely gets the respect he deserves.

This isn’t a holier than thou moment, I can’t deny having engaged in a fair few games of ‘how many times is Kenny going to point’ when things got particularly dull. I’m starting to see that pointing differently now, though. He always owns up to his errors. He makes certain to shower young players with praise and celebrate their successes with gusto. He is eager with praise and loud (and often colourful) with criticism. It’s not an overstatement to say he is captain material whenever he’s on the pitch.

It’s no coincidence that we look a worse team without McLean on said pitch; his performances since Wagner took over have been a cut above his previous levels and he is now a certified powerhouse in the midfield.

Lungi watch

He started! He actually started a game! 

I do feel slightly bad when Lungi’s on the pitch because I immediately become his biggest critic. Of course, if anyone dared to suggest he was anything less than perfect I wouldn’t hear it, but I also lose my mind at any misplaced pass. It’s hypocrisy at its finest but forgive me this strange indulgence.

Looking past my own bias I think he did well, given the length of time he spent injured and the fact that he played as a fullback on both flanks. It would appear that Wagner views Sørensen as a backup fullback, as this is where he has been played since the former’s arrival. What this means for Sam McCallum we can only speculate, but for now Lungi’s back on the pitch so I can’t complain too much.

And yes, he did celebrate both goals with an enthusiasm level you would expect from someone who’d just had his feet run over by a double-decker bus. It’s nice to see him pick up where he left off.

Our post-match takeaway

We didn’t play very well.

We won.

Three home match reviews in a row for me and I’m starting to get the hang of summarising the state of affairs. 

This team clearly offers so much more than it is currently showing. There were times when the players were utterly pedestrian in possession, times where it felt as if 27,000 people were in danger of enjoying a very expensive mid afternoon nap, times where every single pass seemed to end up going side ways or backwards. 

Yet there were also two times where we scored a goal, so I’d argue it balances out.

We all know if you play poorly things catch up with you, we’ve seen it happen this season and it did for the last boss. I believe the difference between then and now is that Wagner has more tricks up his sleeve. He’s clearly not content with the performances he’s seeing, and knows his players have a long way to go before they reach their ceiling. He also knows we know this.

It’s not an accident that Wagner steers his players towards the Barclay at the end of each game, win or lose. He brings them all together, collects any stragglers, then takes a step back and lets them stand at the forefront. It is not a courtesy clap either; they’re there for quite a while. Those of us who were there at the bitter end against Spurs last season will remember how unwilling those same players were to get within half a mile of any of the stands after the final whistle.

Wagner knows we are being patient. He isn’t jumping around and fist pumping because he knows he could feel more content when the game is over; knows there are so many areas for improvement. There’s an unspoken understanding between the Head Coach and fans at the moment – the knowledge that it’s great to win, but we have a long way to go.

It’s hard to be too critical when you’ve got another three points on the board, and once again there were a lot of positives to take. The game against Millwall may end up being far more eye opening than the recent spate of home games, but as long as Lungi plays I’ll be alright.


  1. Roger says:

    Big Lungi fan here. I recall an evening game when Man United’s Ronaldo crocked Grant Hanley out of the game half way through the first half. Sorensen subbed on and proceeded to school both him and Rashford. Sadly late on Aarons left his arm round Ronaldo to give a penalty, duly converted. But the residual feelings on a VERY wet night was of cautious optimism and the feeling that in Sorensen we have a real baller. Hope to see more of him.

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