I’ll say one thing for the dour goal-less draws in which we currently specialise… they provoke a Canary Call reaction far more entertaining than any win can.
On an afternoon that produced few smiles, the bloke who phoned in to lambast poor old Paul McVeigh for being a ‘smiley’ Norwich ‘yes man’ took the award for producing the day’s magic moment.
It could have been different of course – if Kei Kamara had been able to contort his body sufficiently to turn that late half-chance goalward instead of wide, we would already be lauding a new hero. As it stands, the reputation he’s already carved for himself is quite something for someone who’s played precisely seven minutes in a City shirt.
That he is a ‘top bloke’ is not in doubt; let’s just hope that the promise provided by those seven minutes manifests itself into a few vital goals in the run-in. Then even this grumpy old River-ender will join in with #heartshapedhands.
Credit again is due the Match of the Day production team who – not for the first time – excelled themselves in finding five minutes worth of highlights, although showing a Luciano Becchio that flew ten yards wide from four different angles is cheating bit. No complaints either that we found ourselves last in the schedule again, with one Twitter wag suggesting that we are ‘last on MoTD so often, we are now actually first on The Football League Show’.
On the subject of Becchio, it was hard not to feel a little sorry for him yesterday. I’m not sure how familiar he is with the lone striker role but, even if he is, I’m not sure there are too many Championship central-defensive pairings akin to Hangeland and Senderos. To plough than lone furrow on a good day is difficult enough, but to do so against two big old ‘lumps’…
In fairness to him he battled gamely, showed some neat touches and – as it happened – had the best chance of the match with that early effort from Javier Garrido’s cross. His 86th minute ovation, when replaced by Kamara, was deserved – but he’ll go on to have more productive days in the yellow shirt.
Chris Hughton confessed to BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham afterwards that it had been his intention to play two up-front, with the idea to ‘play off the front’; the suggestion being the plan was to go a little more direct than of late and to use Grant Holt and Becchio’s prowess back to goal to link up with the midfield.
It was therefore an even greater shame that Holt’s back chose to go into spasm on Saturday morning, but these things unfortunately do happen when you’re shifting wardrobes and heavy furniture… (joke).
So the game plan that had been finely tuned across the fields of Colney in the week had to change and, instead, City found themselves dragged into one of those ‘tippy tappy’ performances that we’ve proved we’re not particularly adept at. We’re at our best when the ball is being zipped around and the game is played on the front foot; easier said than done of course but when confronted by a team more comfortable at the slow build-up it becomes a game of chess that we rarely look like winning.
With Dimitar Berbatov providing us all with a first-hand view of what money can buy – his class put him head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch – we should all take comfort that we competed with a side who are on an altogether different financial plane to City. Yes, they are still perceived as ‘little Fulham’, but with the backing afforded originally by Mohamed Al-Fayed and latterly by a decade’s worth of Sky TV money their annual budget contains zeroes that David McNally and co can currently only dream about.
So while we all sit there getting a tad tetchy and frustrated at the ability of our central midfielders to execute a ten yard pass (me more than most) it’s worth a gentle reminder to ourselves that money does indeed buy quality. Fulham are shopping in M&S (not Harrods unfortunately for this analogy) and we’re still looking at Tesco’s own brands.
All in all – the performance aside – it was a valuable point and with most sides below us losing we maintained our eight point gap with the bottom three. With only twelve games remaining that particular cushion looks more comfortable by the week, but we do need to find a winning way before too long.
Let’s hope a few days in Abu Dhabi will refresh the limbs and the minds, and the players and staff will return reinvigorated for the run-in.
A little bit of sun will do Holty’s back the world of good…