City boss Chris Hughton couldn’t hide his frustrations at this weekend’s 2-2 home draw with Swansea City as the Canaries painful progress towards Premier League safety continued.
It was Norwich fifth draw in their last six home games; they are getting there – but more by way of a crawl than a canter.
And at the end of the day, the point still left the Norfolk side four clear of the relegation zone; this evening’s 1-1 draw between Wigan and QPR in every likelihood condemning the latter to the drop. Wigan, as is their wont, will fight to the bitter end.
Newcastle’s crucial win over Fulham allowed them to leap-frog over City; of greater significance, however, was Sunderland’s latest defeat – this time 2-1 away at Chelsea.
The new manager ‘bounce’ has yet to impact on their slide down the table; nor are Stoke a particularly happy ship.
And in coming back from a goal-down as the Swans turned on the footballing style yesterday, so the Canaries once again demonstrated character and commitment to the cause.
Hughton’s frustrations were, therefore, two-fold – in that Norwich couldn’t kill the game completely with Kei Kamara squandering the chance of the match and that Swansea were allowed to grab a leveller and a share of the spoils via Luke Moore’s 75th minute strike.
“The players couldn’t have shown any more determination to get back in the game – and they showed just how much they wanted to win this football match here,” said the City chief, after Norwich failed to get close to their ever-footballing visitors in the game’s early exchanges.
In the end, salvation first came in the form of Robert Snodgrass’ free header off an Elliott Bennett delivery; it was the Scot’s sixth Premier League goal of the season. Now City’s leading scorer, it also makes the 25-year-old winger a genuine contender for the club’s Player of the Season vote.
By the time Michael Turner drove home a second, hopes were high that – finally – Norwich’s survival campaign could gain that extra little bit of momentum that comes with three, prized points.
“I felt comfortable at 2-1 – even if these have got good, offensive players who can open you up,” added Hughton.
“We had the best chance of the game with Kei Kamara – it looked certain that he was going to score – and that would have been enough to see us win the game.
“And we have found it difficult to score goals of late; today we scored two – and could have had more. But, today, we conceded soft goals.”
Norwich’s defensive resolve wasn’t wholly helped by the 15th minute exit of keeper Mark Bunn through injury; a groin strain found Lee Camp being recalled to the frontline fray.
But in amidst all such frustrations and Hughton’s on-going decision to favour Kamara over skipper Grant Holt, the faithful stood firm and were willing their heroes over the finishing line – as they will need to do again next week when a near-doomed Reading arrive in Norfolk.
Victory would put City on 38 points; just two shy of the famed 40-point mark. It would all-but seal the Royals’ fate too. Their 2-0 home defeat by Southampton left them eight points away from safety – form and fortune having long deserted them.
“We know that we have to give them something,” said Hughton, well aware that they supporters will do so much to set the mood next weekend.
“But having that support behind you – as they showed in real good patches today – it helps us,” he told the BBC. The visit of an improving Aston Villa will be another one to set the pulses racing; the nerves jangling.
“It’s going to be tight, I think, the last six games of the season,” added the Canary boss.
“And we need to make sure that we show as much determination in those final six games as we did today. If we do that, then we’ll be OK.”