I wrote at the weekend of the need for a spark. Something or someone to re-ignite a season that is currently in freefall. After watching the latest chapter of ‘the Craven Cottage massacre’ I underestimated. A single spark, as things stand, looks unlikely to be sufficient.
From here on in games like Hull, Stoke and Sunderland at home have to be won, but not at the expense of away-days at Stamford Bridge and the like. As from now they have to be tackled head-on too. No more luxury ‘bonus’ games.
With Elliott Bennett unlikely to feature too much between now and the end of the season, and Anthony Pilkington still to return from his hamstring injury, the game time afforded to youngsters Nathan Redmond and Josh Murphy is clearly more than Hughton perceives as ideal.
The big question is whether Fox can replicate that successfully amidst the intensity of your average Premier League match – not easy when you have a Toure or a Gerrard breathing down your neck – but given City’s inability to keep the ball of late it’s certainly worthy of consideration.
Football is an emotive game of course – and for fans to disagree is completely normal – but there is nothing remotely healthy with the impasse at which we find ourselves.
On one hand under Hughton we finished a respectable 11th with 44 points last season, we are without debt, and spent big in the summer attracting a lot of top talent. On the other hand, in 2013 we have witnessed our team’s playing style deteriorate
If minds and limbs were sapped of energy following the Boxing Day bruising at the hands of mighty Fulham it didn’t show – at least not once they had cleared their heads after a lethargic opening ten minutes.
The winner when it arrived – despite Parker leaving it until three minutes from time – was as gut-wrenching as it was predictable, although the quality of the strike was unquestionable.
Of course it was far from perfect and there remains plenty for Hughton and his team to work on, but wind the clock back a few weeks and I’d have given anything for an ugly away draw, especially one that’s accompanied by a clean sheet.
I can only imagine the mood of the place if Chris Hughton decided to go with one striker, but who would still be asked to drop off and make a midfield six at times. The bloke who sat a few feet behind me on Sunday certainly wouldn’t have approved… route-one apparently being the answer.
Those same folk who cite the Swans as an example we should be following also like to throw in, for good measure, the style and swagger with which the Welshmen play, and there’s no denying they are usually pleasing on the eye.
Gary Hooper’s unerring finish for the first was quality and acted as another reminder of his qualities if afforded an opportunity in front of goal. Give him the much discussed plentiful supply and here is someone who could get 15-20 goals a season.
Of course it’s easy to analyse and criticise, but the regularity and volume by which City make mistakes – particularly when going toe-to-toe with the ‘big boys’ – means it’s invariably ‘game over’ before we even get a foothold in the match.
Wes’s feet were dancing and his brain ticking; a timely reminder for the manager – and the rest of us – that when he’s on song everyone’s favourite Dubliner still has plenty to offer. Mercurial he may be but with that comes a sprinkling of magic.
Saturday’s return of Tony Pulis promises to be another of those where a win at any cost is the only option – the classic ‘must win’ – with anything less likely to furrow the brow of McNally
Those hardy yellow-clad souls who travel to the northern extremities of England to watch a game of ‘Subbuteo’ from the edge of space do so in hope rather than expectation, always with a lingering hope of ‘perhaps this will be the year’.
Ed’s pieces on the here and now are insightful and thought provoking, but it’s his ability to transport us back to days when Carrow Road had a rather different feel that sets him apart from all other Norwich City writers.
When you have a youngster of Ravel Morrison’s ilk even Big Sam can see the benefits of keeping the ball on terra firma but it was telling that the England Under-21 man found himself only a peripheral figure in the second.
With my pint pot still just above half-full, even if the beer is a little warm and flat, I still remain hopeful that Saturday will be a turning point.
The one area where Hughton has always trumped Lambert – the defence – is no longer a strength and speaks volumes. It further undermines the credibility of those, like me, who have defended his tenure throughout.