Norwich City this afternoon stopped the rot results-wise and welcomed back skipper Grant Holt to the Premier League fray amidst a 0-0 draw with Newcastle United.
Which is about as much as you can say on the back of a game that failed to deliver anything much of note. Bar a point. And a clean sheet.
In other seasons, Holt’s appearance as a 67th minute substitute for Simeon Jackson would have yielded a dramatic, 94th minute winner for the 30-year-old City hero.
Today, however, Holt’s scriptwriters had other ideas with chances proving few and far between for both player and team. Either team, in fairness, as Newcastle likewise happily hung on to a point in a game barren of any real dramas. On the pitch. Or off it.
For with the Canaries coming into the game on the back of that four-game losing sequence, simply steadying the ship with a home point can be viewed as a positive as the Norfolk side kept themselves in 12th spot – well away from the trouble brewing down below.
Not least at Villa Park where Paul Lambert’s tenure as manager will be back under the spotlight again this evening after their 1-0 home defeat by fellow relegation rivals Southampton.
Russell Martin came closest to breaking the deadlock with a 67th minute effort that hit the woodwork, but thereafter it was all scratchy stuff and will – no doubt – raise the demands for the current transfer window to yield fresh reinforcements in that strike department.
Hughton – after last weekend’s wholesale changes for the FA Cup trip to Peterborough – had earlier reverted back to his tried and tested league formula team-wise; Michael Turner and Sebastien Bassong holding the fort at the heart of the Norwich defence; Bradley Johnson and Alexander Tettey offering that solid, midfield base; Wes Hoolahan operating in his usual ‘hole’ just off Jackson.
Wherein will lie the question marks as the Canaries failed to overly test Tim Krul.
Jackson merited his chance post-Peterborough where he had partnered Elliott Bennett, but in a sense there was little or no alternative given Holt’s gentle return to frontline duty after his hamstring troubles, Steve Morison’s on-going absence with that thigh problem and teenage Harry Kane’s lack of experience at this level.
As bright a prospect as the on-loan Spurs striker might remain, you still sense that to lead the line all on his own is asking a boy to do a man’s job right now – particularly against a stubborn Newcastle side determined not to slip into the danger zone.
Now minus Demba Ba following his big money move to Chelsea, they too offered little of note up front.
Four minutes of added-on time gave the home faithful reason to hope that a late, late winner might still be on the cards – particularly via the in-form Anthony Pilkington.
In the end, however, it was not to be as Krul saved well to deny a 15-yard effort from the Canary winger with Pilkington then just failing to direct a last-gasp Holt header goalward.
Life will not get any easier next week as the Canaries travel to Anfield, though the sense remains that that glorious, ten-game unbeaten run through the back end of the autumn will prove enough – in the long run – to secure their place in the top flight for another season.
But, right now, there is still a sense of the club being all a bit becalmed in 12th and that momentum needs to be regained from somewhere.
For many of the punters, momentum may come via a cheque book and the arrival of a fresh face or two before the month is out.
Either that or Holt’s hamstrings surviving through the spring and the Big Man firing back into goal-scoring life following his festive R&R. He does, after all, love a good trip to Merseyside.
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