Whist it may have been one of those games that will not remain long in the memory, the visit of the geezers from Green Street did throw up a few talking points for the post-match pint.
A couple of penalty shouts; the goalmouth scramble of all goalmouth scrambles; a clean sheet; a first Carrow Road outing for Harry Kane; and a style of play normally reserved locally for the rugby fields of Scottow.
The penalty shouts first: Robert Snodgrass undoubtedly felt he had been clipped by Mark Noble, midway through the first half, but from my limited River End view it did look a little as if our new favourite Scot had gone to ground a little easily. My own Sky+ analysis suggested that this one just about fell in the seen ‘em given category. No real complaints.
The second one was much less conclusive. That James Collins clattered into Andrew Surman about five minutes late was not in doubt, but whether the clattering took place inside or outside the box was far more difficult to define. Given that the Sky Sports experts were unable to be certain – even when using replays from 115 different angles – it suggests that Chris Foy called it just about right.
It was no surprise that the resultant free-kick was smashed into the wall. (1) We don’t really ‘do’ goals from free-kicks, and (2) when the ball is quite literally on the edge of the box, even Robin Van Persie struggles to get it ‘up and over’ the wall.
The goalmouth scramble at least produced some smiles on an afternoon otherwise dominated by sighs and frowns. In fact it transported me back to the Bungay High School playground of the early Eighties, when scrambles of that kind were usually reserved for lunchtime 16-a-side games.
Except back then there was no Jussi Jääskeläinen in goal to produce top-level shot stopping… more’s the pity. Those were the days…
The clean sheet shouldn’t be underestimated and represents the first tangible change from a Lambert to a Hughton ethos. We all know how difficult they were to come by last season and to achieve one in game four represents a seismic shift. You can bet John Ruddy slept well on Saturday night.
As ever, the trick is to find a system that gives us defensive solidity, while still retaining a cutting edge going forward. Finding the net presented us with few problems last season and it has been well documented that outside of the top six we were the top scorers.
If we are to achieve the same this season we soon need to start converting the chances created, and for that to happen we naturally look to our leader, talisman and top goal-scorer.
Now, I may be alone here, but Grant Holt’s lack of goals so far bothers me very little.
Yes, of course, I’d like to have seen him notch as we may now have more than three meagre points – but in the overall scheme of things I see no reason to hit the panic button.
In each of his three previous seasons here, he’s taken a while to find his feet (and the net) and I see no reason why this one should be any different. I certainly don’t concur with the Sunday tabloid that virtually wrote him off for the season and mocked City for giving him an improved contract.
Holt will come good… trust me. Besides, if he doesn’t, there’s a new young buck in town ready to steal his thunder.
Kane’s debut didn’t quite provide the London based media with the headline they’d have liked, but he did show enough in his late cameo to suggest he has goals in his locker. In his post-match chat with BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham, Hughton commented, ‘If there was one person I wanted that chance to fall to, it was him…’
Praise indeed for a lad who has yet to start a Premiership match.
I’m sure Holty would have taken note.
The other abiding memory of the game was the amount of time the ball spent in the air.
Seldom can I recall a game that included so many bouts of head tennis, so many ‘up and unders’ and so little flair. In other words… a typical game involving a Sam Allardyce team.
Quite how the West Ham faithful really feel about this is unlikely to fully emerge while their team is enjoying a relative level of success; but woe betide Messrs Gold and Sullivan if, or when, things start to go wrong at Upton Park.
With Premiership football being a results business I’m guessing Allardyce is currently being afforded some slack, but if things go belly up he will then be judged less gently than a manager who favours the West Ham way.
In fairness to City, they did pass the ball well early on and, with Andrew Surman in particular looking lively, contained the bombardment fairly well. If one of the penalty shouts had gone their way, I’ve no doubt they would have gone on and secured the three points. As it happened, Allardyce’s brand of ‘Crash, bang, wallop!’ football eventually stifled the life out of the game as a spectacle.
Only on odd occasions, when West Ham permitted us the luxury of playing the ball on the grass, did we look likely to grab a winner. Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson will both have better days ahead, against footballing sides who will allow them to play.
On this occasion, Match of the Day were probably right to award us the honour of the ‘And finally…’ game. No complaints, and credit also to Alan Shearer for varying his in-depth Norwich critique this week.
Instead of the usual, ‘Norwich are going to find it difficult…’, we were presented with a brand new, ‘It’s going to be a long, hard season for Norwich…’ version.