Liverpool this afternoon did the Canaries a huge favour in the fight to avoid relegation with a 2-1 away win at Aston Villa to keep Paul Lambert’s men locked in the bottom three.
Yesterday’s 1-0 defeat at Wigan left the Norfolk side with ever more reason to keep one eye over their shoulder; last night’s dismissal of Martin O’Neill by an even more nervy Sunderland board may also have helped City’s cause as they trust that the four remaining home games this season can yield the points they need to keep themselves in the top flight.
Boss Chris Hughton warned a while ago of ‘nervy’ times between now and the end of the season; everyone would appear to be feeling the strain as the powers that be at the Stadium of Light reach for the panic button as Villa see their early lead over-turned by an ever-improving Reds side.
Newcastle’s heavy defeat this weekend also bodes ill for the North-East. Norwich might not be pulling up any trees in terms of their own forward momentum, but there are other clubs in that bottom pack who appear to be stuck even faster in the mire.
“It’s fine margins,” was Hughton’s verdict after yesterday’s set-back with Arouna Kone’s 81st minute strike proving all the difference.
Even a point from another, hard-fought 0-0 draw would have done a job and given the 2,000-strong travelling Canary support something to cling to on the long journey home.
As it was, they left empty-handed – with more food for debate on the messageboards later; whether Hughton sets out his stall too deep, whether Grant Holt should be preferred up top, whether the manager is simply too negative in his approach…
There is little doubt that – at this stage of the season – no-one is taking any chances; no-one is opening up their game in the hope of coming out on top of a seven-goal thriller. The prize is too great; the punishment for failure too severe.
Norwich fans won’t be alone in crying out for something more pleasing on the eye. It is simply not the nature of the Premier League beast come the business end of the season.
City didn’t help themselves, however.
“I thought we were our only worst enemies,” admitted the manager. “We gave away possession just before the goal and we should have dealt with it a bit better.
“And we had a fair amount of ball in the final third, but just didn’t have that final bit of quality that we needed. But certainly on the balance of play it was not a game that we deserved to lose.”
City deserved something more from their trip to Sunderland too; fortune – rather than form – was in short supply there.
They are, in short, in need of a pick-me-up; something to fire them over the line with a little to spare – rather than hobbling over the 40-point mark with accusation and antagonism thick in the air.
“A point away from home in this division is always a good point,” Hughton told the BBC afterwards, as that first goal eluded him at the JJB.
He is well aware of the ‘fine margin’ that still separates those teams currently just out of the relegation fray and those slap, bang in it. Hence the importance of today’s defeat for Villa – it keeps them down in the mire.
“There’s a group of teams that could get pulled into it,” admitted Hughton. “But we’ve got to look after ourselves.
“We have got four home games out of the seven and our destiny was always going to be about the quality results we could get at home – plus what we could pick up away from home.
“So, yes, there’s a group of teams in there, but that’s something that we knew.”
Edwin Bailey says
Hughtons negativity will take city down
One win and a draw- even that might not be needed. It’s going to be tight but I think we’ll make it. Hughton will stick to his guns and he’s right to do so, we’ve seen so many sides change manager as an act of desperation. We’ll be ok (just) and next year? Well we’ve already seen one massive transfer, another two or three quality players in the Norwich team and we’ll look a lot stronger, OTBC
Ken Seager says
It was very clear that the lack of goal was our major problem in January, why or why did the club not make more effort to sign our new striker then. Surely we would now be safe, Rather than going into the last part of the season this concerned about our PL future!
Playing one up front, has caused many comments over this season, but truly has CH had much choice? Frankly everything was staked on Holt being able to re produce last season form, sadly for him he has failed. So we have been left with no POL quality strikers.
Keith B says
The reason we are struggling now is a collection of poor home results scattered across the season. Some have been unlucky – QPR’s penalty follow up for example should never have been allowed to stand. Others ave been self-inflicted – Holt’s penalty miss against the Saints an obvious example. Thank goodness for those stellar results against Arsenal and Man U….
We should be able to pick up home points from Swansea and/or Reading. And Villa? You’ld think so – until you remember Lambert’s record from the away dressing room at Carrow Road is none too shabby. Off the top of my head I think it is Played 2, Won 2, For 11, Against 2. He quite likes the place.
When we slid down the table in 1995 I remember looking at the clubs around us and noting in trepidation that nearly every one of them had one or two players who clearly belonged higher up the table. Looking back at the records I was presumably thinking of the likes of Ndlovu and a bloke called Dublin at Coventry, Townsend and Saunders at Villa, Niall Quinn at Man C, all teams whom we passed whilst we were in freefall. We had nobody in that class.
That’s what concerns me now too. Bassong and Snodgrass are probably the best currently available to us. Would they get past the bench for most clubs in the division, even those around us? I’m not so sure. Certainly our midfield is not strong enough to repel ball players even in teams like Wigan and Swansea. Nor have they the creativity to set up enough chances for others.
It’s all very tight and I think those priceless points earned in the autumn will, in the end, be just about enough. But for the second year in a row our form towards the back end of the season has dipped and I suspect our fingernails and the odds on our relegation will shorten for a while yet.
Some of the fans attitudes and negativity bother me far more than Hughtons negativity, i just wish some of them could hear their rants on canary call played back to them , i,m sure then they would think twice before bleating, week in week out we hear the same old rubbish, what do they expect? a top 4 finish? i dont listen to canary call anymore,mainly its cringeworthy to say the least!