City boss Paul Lambert always figured that Lady Luck would even itself out over the course of the season.
For Rovers chief Steve Kean, it was cruel Miss Fortune that was pushing him ever nearer towards the exit door at Ewood Park.
Such were the swings and roundabouts of footballing fortune at Carrow Road this weekend as the Canaries conjured up two, late goals to haul a respectable 3-3 draw out of the jaws of a disappointing 3-1 home defeat.
For one manager, yet further evidence that he has instilled a never-say-die attitude in his players that runs from one season, one squad and one league to the next; for the other, merely more fuel for his critics in that his side could not simply see out a 3-1 success.
In fairness to Kean, his players put in a big shift for a man living on a knife edge; ‘You’re going to get sacked in the morning, sacked in the morning!’ sang the gleeful Barclay come the final whistle – all-too well-versed in what such turnarounds can mean for the manager on the receiving end.
“To have the game in the palm of your hand and have it taken away from you it’s a really tough blow. It feels like a defeat,” said the Rovers chief afterwards, after watching Bradley Johnson’s wickedly deflected shot loop over Paul Robinson for Norwich’s all-important second – a goal that merely set the stage for Grant Holt’s latest heroics.
The club skipper was at his foul-inducing best as he won the initial free-kick on the edge of the Rovers box deep into the five minutes of stoppage time. He was there or thereabouts again when Steven Nzonzi lost the flight of the ball as he raised his arm to appeal for a foul.
It duly rolled down his out-stretched arm and was diverted away from a lurking Canary shirt. ‘Penalty!’ ruled the referee. And Holt duly completed the punishment with his second leveller of the week.
“I’ve looked at it from six or seven angles and we feel Steven was fouled and what he’s doing is appealing for a free-kick,” the Rovers chief bemoaned afterwards. “Then the ball hit his arm. There was obviously no intent.”
Nor is there any justice when you are fighting for your life at the foot of any table; nor was there much justice as the Canaries managed to concede five penalties in their opening five games of the season this summer.
Hence Lambert could be found afterwards suggesting that the Norfolk side were over-due a rub of the green.
“I think the way that the first five games of the season went with all the penalty decisions, we got a break from that with one being given,” said Lambert. “So I’m delighted to get it because we’ve had five against us.”
Getting a penalty and converting it, of course, are two different things – particularly against a keeper of Robinson’s repute. No surprise to find the Canary chief offering his thanks to Holt for another demonstration of the depth of his steely character.
The 30-year-old continues to make the headlines – even from the bench.
“I don’t mind who hits the penalty as long as it hits the net, but you’ve got to be brave enough to get up there and hit it,” said Lambert, well aware of the impact that Holt has now had in City’s last two games.
“To be fair to him [Holt], I thought his goal at Liverpool last week was brilliant and I think that one – for different reasons – was probably bigger than the Liverpool one.”
Goals No2 and No3 for Rovers weren’t for the City scrap-book – particularly after Steve Morison’s excellent strike from the edge of the box had put Norwich back in the ascendancy. Concentration was lacking as Blackburn took command of the contest again.
“That was a fabulous strike from Steve,” said Lambert, with two ‘No9s’ delivering the goods right now. “But their second strike was a bad goal for us and not long after that there was a third one which was disappointing.
“From my point of view, we were the best team in the first half and got caught with the classic sucker punch – and that’s what happens when you’re playing against top level players.”
Worse was to initially follow after Morison’s leveller; all-too soft and all-too easy were Rovers’ goals.
But the Canary faithful never wavered in their support; in Lambert they have long grown to trust and the arrival of Holt, Simeon Jackson and Andrew Crofts duly turned the contest round.
“The crowd never turned – which we need here. And I think people who have been coming here for the last few years tend never to leave because something can happen…”
Nicholas Mead says
I wouldn’t have much sympathy with Kean anyway because if you send your team out with instructions to spend their afternoon appealing for non-existent fouls you don’t actually deserve anything. But his claim that he watched the incident 10 times is risible – because either he is lying (surely not?) or he managed to miss the Sky replay that showed Nzonzi (sp?) looking straight at the ball just prior to moving it away from danger with his arm. A clear penalty. Kean’s team had us on toast until HE changed the line-up and tactics. HIS fault.
Keith B says
Reading the letter of the law Steve Kean is right to be incensed – nobody could say that was a deliberate handball. But the truth is it is the law that is an ass, and some referees appear to recognise that.
Last season we had one awarded aginst us that was very similar – at Cardiff – and the referee that day did not book the unfortunate culprit (Darren Ward). Similarly Nzonzi wasn’t cautioned on Saturday. In both cases the referee is effectively acknowledging there’s no intent whilst applying common sense.
Why this need for “intent” was ever introduced baffles me. If you block the ball or alter its course with your hand, whether you mean to or not, it should be a free kick or penalty. And if it is clearly deliberate then it’s a yellow card (or red if preventing a certain goal). As it stands defenders can spread themselves as they jump to block the ball and claim “no intent”; Jamie Carragher is an expert at it.
Two other observations about Saturday. Their second goal just showed the difference between having an established Premiership striker (on appropriate megabucks no doubt) as opposed to an inexperienced newbie. Disappointed as Ruddy may be to be done at his near post Yakubu’s strike was hard and true. Bennett’s snatched effort from a similar position in the fisrt half was never under control.
And similarly the ball in for Samba from Pedersen was top class, and somthing we never quite achieved. Even the best defence can struggle against that sort of delivery.
Blackburn have some very good players; if they had our manager they wouldn’t be where they are now.