As we wave a not-so fond farewell to unproductive dazzle, Paul Buller grudgingly accepts a three-point razzle.
No changes to the team that lost to Rotherham. We can count ourselves lucky to have a squad with a considerable number of players deemed good enough to play for their countries. However, that has its drawbacks when they’re being asked to play in the soporific September heat little more than 48 hours after their return from around the globe. They looked knackered and Stoke’s oppressive football didn’t help. Thank goodness for five sprightly subs and the return of Onel. Rest and recuperation will be needed before Leicester come to town.
Jack Stacey’s goal was not only opportunistically well-taken – his timing was perfect, coming just at the moment we feared Stoke would drag us into their pit of despair and probably nick something from us. It’s always nice to get a goal just before half time and this was very much needed; the second half descended into something so bad it’s barely worth describing. So thank you Jack for giving us something to cheer, a lead to protect and another three points on a day of very forgettable football.
The entire second half was one long, drawn-out boooo but so boring I won’t even give it the dignity of winning this particular moment. That honour goes to the relatively few yet unnecessarily vocal Ben Gibson haters who can’t help having a pop at his tiniest errors. I may be mistaken but he seems to have struck up quite a good partnership with the impressive Shane Duffy, whose sheer presence seems to have a reassuring affect on Gibson, who’s now able to play his more natural game. When he’s good, we’re good, so let’s leave him be.
This nailed-on certainty goes to the fourth official for signalling only five minutes of added time at the end of the game, just as we were fearing having to endure something like 15 more minutes of terrible, sludgey football – and of course an eggy Stoke equaliser at the death.
A bright start on a lovely sunny day helped us all get back into the swing of things after what seems an age since we were last at Carrow Road. It was cheery enough and the goal kept us perky, but some rousing was needed to get us through the second half, which at times felt a bit like being at the Norfolk Show – the audience chit-chatting in the sunshine while in the background some cattle do their thing in the ring. I’d have fallen asleep if it wasn’t for the sporadic drum, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Aside from some worryingly tired performances, the only thing to take from this match is that I’d rather watch us get three points being solid yet under-par, than try to play like a Premier League side for 20 minutes then needlessly give stupid goals away and lose (I’m looking at you, Dean Smith). Say it quietly, but needless mistakes seem to have been reduced dramatically this season and, regardless of form, we look like a good unit. There is a solidity to our defence that has been missing; for example, Shane Duffy gave the ball away in Stoke’s half but within seconds was back to stop the counter attack; Jack Stacey understands positional play at corners; there is no more looking around at each other wondering who should’ve picked up the spare man at the back post. It’s gritty and it’s shitty at times but that will get us those valuable 1-0 wins when needed. It might even get us into the play-offs. Oh, and if you fancy an away game this season, maybe spend your money on something other than Stoke City (A).
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