Norwich City’s pre-season preparations this afternoon ended on something of a low note as Borussia Monchengladbach inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Chris Hughton’s men.
Defensively in terms of keeping a clean sheet and attacking-wise in relation to City’s recent goal-shy efforts against the Peterboroughs and Hulls of this world, today’s result will have done little to calm the niggling doubts that can surface at this stage of the season.
In fairness, the visitors were no mugs; you finish fourth in the German Bundesliga for a reason. And half a dozen of them were on show at Carrow Road this afternoon.
“That was a tough test – but we knew it would be,” Hughton said afterwards, after goals either side of the interval delivered only City’s second defeat of the summer.
“They showed some real quality at times and when you looked at them, you could see why they finished fourth. But we knew that – and I would much rather have played against that type of opposition than a more comfortable game.”
Hughton’s bigger disappointment was the all-too soft manner in which Norwich conceded said goal; neither saw the hosts cover themselves in glory.
“The area that disappointed me was that I thought we conceded two relatively soft goals,” he admitted. “The second one we could possibly put it down towards the end of the game and we were pushing a little bit – and we’d made a couple of substitutions and you lose your shape a little bit.
“But we wanted to threaten their box a little bit more.”
The match itself lived up to the standard, summer pre-season fare; the gloves rarely came off as both sides gently fenced their way towards an opening. The best of the early exchanges came for Borussia in the 15th minute when Luuk de Jong side-footed a simple, six-yarder up against the underside of John Ruddy’s bar.
It was a warning of what was about to come as the Canaries failed horribly to deal with a regulation, low cross and enabled Igor de Camargo to squeeze a nasty, soft opener beneath a luckless Ruddy.
It did, at least, give everyone a fair idea of what Hughton’s favoured starting line-up might be at Fulham next weekend with Holt and Robert Snodgrass the preferred strike pairing; Ryan Bennett and Michael Turner offering the starting two at centre-half.
It was Snodgrass who almost conjured an equaliser; his perfect little flick around the corner releasing ex-Leeds team-mate Bradley Johnson, only for his low cross to skip just away from Elliott Bennett on the far post.
Johnson’s next delivery was even better as it curled around the last defender and reared up invitingly for Holt to head – straight into the arms of a waiting Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
After the break Snodgrass seized on a mistake by Havard Nordtveit to burst into the opposition box and round keeper Ter Stegen. With the angle against him, his cross back into the area found the fast-arriving Jonny Howson only for the last defender to block the eventual drive.
That was the chance.
“They’re the defining moments,” said Hughton. Borussia took their’s; Norwich didn’t.
For a side that has occasionally wanted for a cutting edge this summer, it was not what the gathered faithful had come to see.
Before the end Steve Morison would replace Anthony Pilkington; Andrew Surman come on for Howson; Leon Barnett replace Turner. Not that it particularly changed the tone or the direction of events.
Indeed, a minute before the end and the visiting Germans doubled their advantage as substitute Branimir Hrgota calmly rounded Ruddy in the inside-left channel and slotted a second home.
What the watching Fulham scouts would have made of it all is anyone’s guess; most have long given up reading anything into such occasions.
City emerged with no new injury worries – that remains the biggest plus of this afternoon’s contest.