City new-boy Wes Hoolahan merely confirmed what everyone else was thinking after yesterday's 2-0 opening day defeat at Coventry City – that but for some oh-so familiar failings in front of goal Norwich could have walked away with the opening day spoils.
It might also have helped if referee Colin Webster had been a bit less generous with his penalty decisions at one end; rather more generous at the other.
In fairness to Andy D'Urso's sudden replacement he did, at least, do the visitors a very large favour when it came to Dejan Stefanovic's late tackle on Jay Tabb; most had that down a straight red as the Coventry winger sprang free in on goal.
Nevertheless there was an air of injustice about the final scoreline – something that has haunted the Norfolk side for more seasons than most care to remember.
“We created a lot of chances in the first-half – and I think the pen was a bit dubious,” said the 26-year-old City midfielder, invariably to be found at the centre of Norwich's brighter attacking moments at the Ricoh.
“But I thought we played well overall today and created a lot of chances…”
Too many to probably mention; the point being that none came close to being converted.
The best probably belonged to Omar Koroma as David Marshall's quick punt upfield found Elliott Ward for once out of position. But as the teenage Gambian burst through alone into the penalty area, so he could do no better than force Sky Blues keeper Keiren Westwood into a decent save high to his left.
'OJ' had only been on the pitch for little more than two minutes, but it remained one of those big moments that came and went without Norwich taking full advantage of their opportunity. Another came when Hoolahan's nimble feet took him deep inside the Sky Blues box where Danny Fox looked to have whipped his standing leg away from him as the free-roaming Dubliner prepared to shoot.
“I was through, but I don't know whether I got pushed or what,” said the City creator-in-chief, fast winning over the Canary support with his ability to see the bigger pictures – and then deliver the pass to match.
“I think we had four one-on-ones – or something like that,” said Hoolahan, with Arturo Lupoli and Lee Croft both seeing the whites of Westwood's eyes – without seeing the back of the net.
Ward would twice deliver big, last-ditch tackles as Hoolahan, Jamie Cureton and Lupoli looked to pick their way through the host's defence.
If there was one charge you could lay at the Canaries door, it was that they tended to over-elaborate – all too easy when you now have four or five players who are very comfortable playing one-touch football.
Time to be a bit less subtle and a bit more brutal as Norwich open their Carling Cup campaign with a tricky looking trip to MK Dons on Tuesday night.
“It is going to take a while for the players to gel,” said Hoolahan, with six of Saturday's starters making their full, competitive debuts. “But I thought we played well together today; passed the ball well – and created a lot of chances.
“And it bodes well for the future,” he added.
“I thought the front two linked well with me and Crofty [Lee Croft] – well, with us all really. Hopefully we can have more of that – and, probably, score goals.”
It is the way that Glenn Roeder has set his side up to play – to entertain, to delight, to pass and to play. But that still needs an end product. A goal. Without that missing ingredient and the Canaries will be back wandering down some oh-so familar paths this season.
“He [Roeder] says that he wants us to pass the ball around because without a big target man up front, we have to play off eachother and try and pass the ball.”
Which they did to considerable effect; Sky Blues boss Chris Coleman was gracious enough to admit as much afterwards saying his team had been beaten by the better side. It's something managers invariably say – when they already have the three points banged above their door.
“I thought we deserved a point today – at least,” said Hoolahan. “But the manager said afterwards that there was plenty of positives we could take out of the game.
“And even though we've got beaten 2-0, he's said that he wants to pat us on the back. But he can't really…” Without a point or a goal, that is.
At least Hoolahan's protracted switch from Blackpool looks to have been worth both the money and the wait. He will take some working out by the opposition as he drops inside from that nominal left-wing berth and drifts instinctively into the most awkward little hole that he can find. From where he can deliver the most telling of threaded passes.
Certainly the player himself appears to have no regrets about making the switch.
“Norwich is a big club; it's a big city – and they have promotion ambitions. So, hopefully, by the end of the year we'll be up there.
“And I'm at a big club now; there's a lot of responsibility [on me] now and I've just got to take it and prove myself.”
Leave a Reply