Substance over style could once again be the order of the day at Carrow Road tomorrow as the refreshed Canaries return to Premier League action following last week’s Middle East break.
But with a debate raging over the merits – or otherwise – of digging point after dour point in the quest for Premier League survival, so it was interesting to find one of David Moyes’ main men extolling the virtues of winning ugly.
If that’s what it takes to lever themselves into fourth spot, that’s what the Toffees will do said England full-back Leighton Baines ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Norfolk.
“If we want to achieve something draws aren’t going to cut it,” Baines told the Liverpool Echo.
“And we have to find ways to get games won. Sometimes it may not be pretty, but it is about getting games won.”
Norwich aren’t quite in the same position; they could still – theoretically – draw every game between now and the end of the season and stay up; mission accomplished after that extraordinary autumn run gave them a certain cushion going into the final third of the season.
But digging in and simply grinding it out may well test the patience of the faithful entertainment-wise. Few would want the nerves to be still jangling in the first couple of weeks of May. Far better to get the job done ASAP – something that will require Norwich to get their scoring boots on.
Defensively, City have reacted well since getting torn open again away at Liverpool; it’s at the other end of the pitch that the frustrations have come – the low point being the inability of that ‘Cup XI’ to open up non-league Luton Town.
City boss Chris Hughton is well aware of the delicate balancing act required; all very well to shut up shop at one end, but if you can’t prise your way through to goal at the other, then spring becomes a real slog in entertainment-wise.
“We’ve looked solid as a unit and I can’t fault the lads work ethic,” Hughton told the club’s official website ahead of this weekend’s clash. One that has 0-0 written all over it, as the Canaries deliver all the graft the Gaffer might ever want – without that one moment of real ‘craft’ required to unlock a Premier League defence.
Especially one as traditionally well-drilled as Everton’s.
“Everybody is putting in a real shift for the team and from that aspect I’ve been delighted,” added the City chief.
“But we perhaps just need to be that little bit more creative, we certainly need to be taking our chances and perhaps need to be a bit more of a threat in the final third,” he added.
With Chris Martin heading out on another loan spell – this time with Derby County – Hughton’s attacking options will now revolve around skipper Grant Holt and the two new-boys, Luciano Becchio and Kei Kamara.
But for a back spasm, Holt would have finally found himself an out-and-out strike partner for the Fulham game; instead the Argentine was asked to play the lone role with Wes Hoolahan in the hole.
Whether Hughton will revert back to Plan A now that Holt is ‘well and truly available’ again is the big question; that and whether Kamara will be handed a start.
Either way Mr Baines is not expecting an easy afternoon.
“They are a good side, Norwich,” said Baines. “We have found it tough against them and we had a tough game against them down there last season.
“They are strong at home. We have got to keep clean sheets and get people scoring.”
Haven’t we all…