The Beast of Deepdale and another 'classic' piece of Canary defending conspired to ruin Bryan Gunn's weekend as City lost 1-0 to play-off chasing Preston North end.
Jon Parkin – the man who once weighed in at 17-stone on his return to pre-season training at Hull City and nicknamed 'Beast' by the Preston faithful – did all the damage just before the interval; smashing the game's only game home just before the interval as yet another bulk-standard free-kick found the Canaries in 'Switch off!' mode as ex-City striker Chris Brown found himself free to have the first bite at the cherry, Parkin bagging the second.
The strapping Lilywhites striker had warned the visitors of what was to come moments earlier when he slammed a shot against the inside of the post. Granted a second opportunity deep in the Canary box, Parkin duly helped himself – and left the Canaries stuck precariously two points above the drop zone as old habits continue to bedevil the best intentions of the new regime.
City are simply too nice – in either box. They haven't got a beast in their midst.
“I think for 42 minutes of the first-half the lads were the best team,” said Gunn, as that early 'bounce' results-wise deserts him.
Robbed of at least a point by Andy D'Urso in last week's 2-1 home defeat by Bristol City, this week and it was Norwich's soft centre that once again undermined his efforts to haul the club away from the drop zone.
Not that it was wholly a case for the defence to answer; in the final third, Norwich lacked the kind of direct edge that Parkin gave Preston. Bull in a china shop he may be, but all too often that is it what it takes…
Gunn knew that a basic lack of concentration had again cost him dear.
“One moment of slackness in defence,” he said afterwards. “Everyone's got jobs to do picking people up – and we just didn't do our job on that occasion. And its cost us the points today.
“We huffed and puffed in the second-half without getting too much luck or end product, but at the same time we looked a good side. But when you're down the bottom of the league, things don't go right for you.”
As ever there was the odd, hard luck story – a penalty appeal for a foul on Wes Hoolahan; a ball that steadfastly refused to sit up nicely for someone to smash.
But making your own luck in this game is an old adage that is hard to avoid. What was equally hard to avoid was the sight of reported Canary loan signing Andrew Davies keeping a clean sheet less than 48-hours after his arrival at Deepdale on loan from Stoke City while the returning Jason Shackell – back partnering Gary Doherty at the heart of that City defence after his own loan-switch back to Norfolk this week – had the one-goal against his name.
Irrespective of the fact that both players would dig out big, defensive blocks in the course of the full, 90 minutes, the opposition always seem to have one goal in them; it is an impression and a perception that will prove difficult for even Gunn to dispel.
“I think we all got attracted to the ball,” Gunn told Radio Norfolk afterwards, as he replayed the game's decisive moment in his own mind.
“The free-kick comes into the box – and we knew their strengths,” he added. “Big, tall Jon Parkin. And equally as tall Chris Brown.
“So we knew what they were going to be doing. Long balls to their strikers; supporting the play. And I thought that we more than matched that in the first-half. I can't remember David Marshall having too much to do.
“But we were always chasing the game after that; trying to get back into it. So it is disappointing.
“We said we needed to defend in our penalty box – and we needed to try and create something in the other. And the Championship is like that – the concentration has got to be to the highest level. And if you've got a job to do, you've got to stick with it until the referee blows the whistle.”
At the other end, Norwich need to work the opposition keeper harder; the restored Mark Fotheringham saw one, deflected effort well-saved but there needs to be more.
“Goals change games – if that had gone in then maybe we would have been able to create more chances,” rued Gunn, as expected forced to go into battle minus the injured Sammy Clingan.
He did, however, give Alan Gow his first start alongside Carl Cort; gave Wes Hoolahan another run-out on the left. Whether the two players tend to drift into the same sort of spaces and offer the opposition defenders the same sort of problems will be just one of the nagging questions to occupy the Colney 'boot room' this week.
The Canaries cannot rely on the likes of Charlton, Watford and Southampton to keep them safe. No-one is too good to go down.
“We're just really trying to get across that we're in a dog-fight,” was Gunn's message to his troops afterwards. “And the sooner we realise that, the better.
“It's a massive game at home against Burnley now. This one has gone; we haven't got anything from it. So the focus is on Burnley – and getting ourselves right for that game.
“I knew it was going to be a massive job – right from the beginning. That's the reason that I took it on.”
Leave a Reply