City boss Chris Hughton could not conceal his disappointment as the Canaries were held to a 0-0 draw at home to West Ham United this afternoon.
In a near re-run of the home clash with Queen’s Park Rangers, City more than shaded the performance and the possession but could not make their advantage tell in terms of points. Or, more particularly, that first win of the season.
Jussi Jaaskelainen in the Hammers goal played a big part in keeping the game scoreless.
But as well as the long-time Bolton hero performed to deny the likes of Simeon Jackson, Robert Snodgrass and Harry Kane, so there was a feeling that when opportunity did arise, Norwich failed to drive the advantage home.
Which was a shame – given the platform for success that the defensive pairing of Sabastien Bassong and Leon Barnett and the midfield duo of Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson are delivering. As ever, the icing on the cake comes in the shape of a goal or two.
“There were positives,” he told the BBC afterwards. “We kept a clean sheet against a very strong, powerful West Ham team that will cause any team problems. But we had the better chances.”
Which, of course, is the big ‘but’.
City could – should – have racked up two, big home wins against first Rangers and now the Hammers. Both got off lightly and disappeared back down the M11 with a point for their troubles; both Mark Hughes and Sam Allardyce coming away from Carrow Road the happier manager.
The level and tempo of the performance still delighted Hughton. He has built the basis of another good, solid Premier League outfit. It just needs fine tuning in the final third.
The fact that Anthony Pilkington was missing with a slight hamstring strain did not help the cause. He adds that much greater balance away on the left – and delivery that can be right out of the very top drawer.
“As long as we play with that kind of tempo and that kind of desire to create the chances, then they’ll come,” he said. “But it was disappointing today – it was a game where we felt that the three points should have been ours.”
But for a finish, those points would have stayed in Norfolk.
“It’s about quality, it’s about fortune and it’s about hitting the target,” said the Canary chief, as the lack of all three came to undermine his best-laid plans.
“We’ve not only got into good positions, but when we’ve run the ball then that final ball could have been a little bit more decisive and better. But those are the things that you want to be working on. If we weren’t creating the chances then I would be worried.”
To add to Hughton’s frustrations he almost delivered a story book entrance for young loan signing Kane. Handed 20 minutes to go and change the course of the game, the 19-year-old Spurs striker twice got himself within sight of the Hammers goal – only twice to miss his cue to grab all the back page headlines.
“He’s a very good finisher – and the one where he comes in on his right-foot is almost a classic finish for him,” said Hughton, as that chance skipped a yard past the far upright.
“But he’ll learn a lot from this game. And he will be a super, super player. But when he did come in on that right foot I did start thinking: ‘Goal!’”
Unlike the Rangers game, however, Hughton was not about to point fingers at the referee, Chris Foy, for the first-half challenge on Andrew Surman by James Collins right on the very edge of the Hammers box.
There was so little in it, but the City chief agreed that – on the replay – the official was right to award a free-kick and not point to the spot.
“It was the right decision – but it was right on the line,” said Hughton, who now travels back to his old club Newcastle United next weekend in search of those first three points.
“But I have to say that on other occasions, in front of home crowds, clubs might have got it. But I thought the referee had a very good game today. He got a couple of big decisions right today.”
Hughton needed to be more ambitious in the last twenty minutes. He was scared of losing a point, and at the end of the season that is likely to put us down. We will need to beat average teams like QPR and West Ham at home. Lambert’s best quality was ambition, he always tried to win games. Hughton needs to take more risks, or this is going to be a long, hard season.
Michael D says
I agree on Dave’s point. I found Hughton’s on remarks on why he didn’t bring on Hoolahan for the last 20 mins disappointing. Yes, his emphasis is on defensive solidity, and we certainly needed attention to that, but he really had nothing to lose by bringing Hoolahan on for Surman – that really wasn’t going to weaken us defensively – and it could only have helped us gain more penetration and control in their half, which we had been lacking in the second half. You don’t pick up 3 points in the Premier League without taking some chances.
It is still early days, and I do think Hughton will be a very good manager for City, but I wouldn’t like to see us wasting too many more opportunities to win games that we should be, because that is what may haunt us at the end of the season. This is a really critical season for Norwich, we are all aware of that – start in the Premier League again next year, and I believe we will be in a far stronger position as a team and a club.