A defeat on Tyneside is hardly a rarity. The history book tells us that it’s been 25 years since City chalked up a win at St James’ Park, so an odd goal defeat in front of the Toon is sadly par for the course. It’s happened in each of the last three seasons, even when you-know-who was in charge.
Those hardy yellow-clad souls who travel to the northern extremities of England to watch a game of ‘Subbuteo’ from the edge of space do so in hope rather than expectation, but always with a lingering hope of ‘perhaps this will be the year’.
So imagine their sinking feeling when Loic Remy nodded in that second minute opener unchallenged. Given City’s away form, those who tweeted – with a hint of irony *I think* – ‘game over’ were unfortunately bang on the money. At least that’s how it felt.
Live ‘in-game’ betting is not my thing but those that way inclined would, I’m sure, have been offered more than generous odds for a City win just two minutes into the game. Two minutes.
The less said about the nature of said goal the better, suffice to say neither Messrs Ruddy or Johnson covered themselves in glory; Russell Martin may also look back on the concession of the corner and think he could have done a little better.
Soft goals are the least City can afford right now but they don’t come any softer than Remy’s; the Frenchman in the type of form where gift horses of that ilk are gobbled up without a second thought.
Those with the yellow tinted specs will argue that City enjoyed a decent chunk of possession throughout but only in the last ten minutes did the ball get zipped around with any real purpose. For the most part the build up was slow, laboured and just a little too deliberate.
Newcastle, by contrast, passed the ball at pace – particularly in the first half – and as a result looked a constant threat in the final third.
The second goal, when it arrived, also had ‘soft’ written all over it and will again have done little to enhance Ruddy’s England credentials, although the Big Man was done few favours by those in front him.
It’s of course easy to pick holes from the comfort of a desk, but if I were to be picky I’d say the initial cross was delivered until little pressure, Martin was all too easily beaten in the air and Gouffran reacted infinitely quicker to Ruddy’s handling error than anyone in yellow.
Again, just a little too easy.
The second period was better in terms of performance of course, and there was a definite reaction to whatever was said at half-time, but the mountain left to climb was always going to be too steep.
Unsurprisingly in the circumstances the Toon did take their foot off the pedal and, assisted by some World Cup qualifier induced jet-lag, City did fare better as the game went on.
Leroy Fer’s thumping header was the trigger for a late flurry but by then there was already an underlying feeling that a trick had been missed.
When the luckless Anthony Pilkington was stretchered off just four minutes into the second-half we were greeted with the sight of Johan Elmander chatting jovially to the fourth official in readiness to enter the fray.
Nothing wrong with that per se and for a brief fleeting moment I expected the Swede to join Gary Hooper in attack and for City to revert to an attacking 4-4-2 in an attempt to get something out of the game.
But no. And I can’t have been alone in experiencing that sinking feeling (again) when instead of joining Hooper up front he positioned himself just in front of Martin on the City right in a like-for-like swap; Redmond just switching flanks.
Sadly it speaks volumes for the management’s current mindset that with the attacking talents of Wes Hoolahan and Josh Murphy on the bench an old-fashioned centre-forward with little turn of pace was preferred.
Given the choice of looking horns with Elmander, Murphy or Hoolahan, who would Newcastle left-back Santon have chosen?
At 2-0 down, and seemingly dead and buried, it appeared a perfect opportunity to unleash Murphy’s pace on a fatigued Magpies back line. But instead of sending out a message of ‘giving it a go’, it said ‘damage limitation’. That it took until the 89th minute for the two aforementioned attackers to get on the pitch also speaks volumes.
Tentativeness alas was not restricted to the the technical area and some of Hughton’s men again did him few favours; the ability to pass the ball under pressure at the highest level still appearing a step too far for a few. I remain unconvinced that some of the current crop will ever consistently deliver to a level that’s needed.
The root and branch overhaul that occurred to the squad in the summer now looks in need of a further tweak or two and with each passing defeat the January window looks ever more critical.
So… another one that got away. Another point that has slipped through the fingers. The win at Stoke looking horribly akin to last season’s Swansea ‘one-off’.
I’m not expecting the board to react – as some have suggested – off the back of a single goal defeat in the north-east, but the overt caution on display in yesterday’s second forty-five won’t have gone unnoticed.
A win next week against Crystal Palace would at least indicate the home form to be back on track but you have to feel for the travelling Yellow Army. Their faith is being tested to the limit right now.
Michael D says
I think we all wish we could insert an imaginative streak inside Chris’ head, but we can’t and he ain’t got it. I was already depressed to see Johnson back in the starting line up, and that was even before the first two minutes were up. And as for Becchio, you can only feel for him and no, I don’t think anyone can fathom what goes on in CH’s mind regards him.
I think it was Michael Bailey said earlier this week that the manager had said, no, he didn’t think he needed another coach, this to all the suggestions that he add an offensive coach to his team. He lacks imagination even here to realise that his team DOES need a shake up, one way or another. I agree with you that I don’t think any immediate board reaction is likely, but by now I think we all believe that CH is living on borrowed time, and the board must feel that too.
This failure of imagination is his main weakness – if anyone has done the Myers-Briggs personality profiling, he is a very strong S (Sensing) type, with very limited iNtuition ability – and those personalities are often good people who mean well, but struggle to see a bigger picture, are not good decision makers, and also tend not to be strong motivators. And they don’t change.
Sadly a win at home over Palace next Saturday will just prolong the agony for the team and supporters. Excellent players have been brought in and are being wasted under the current regime. With no sign of change in tactics and no relief from the pressure, cracks have started to appear in the performances of hitherto City stalwarts, such as Ruddy & Martin. Whittaker & Hooper have made understandable, disquieting comments. We desperately need a new manager & staff who have some fire in their bellies who will breathe some life into our players and get them playing as a team before the situation becomes terminal.
*Insert similar comment to previous weeks here*
Jon Dunn says
I saw it mentioned somewhere else today, but we have arguably the best squad we’ve ever had, but the team is playing shocking football.
Immense credit to Hughton for getting this squad of players together – but if he can’t get them to play for the shirt / yellow army / each other (which he clearly can’t – witness the first 80 minutes yesterdayday) then sorry, we need someone in control who can.
Should have changed manager in the summer. Nothing I have seen this season has changed my mind. The 2 late subs says everything about the ineptitude of CH and his coaches. Sack them. Now.
Russell S. says
I’m a Hughton backer (still – up to year end) but it is getting harder to put up a convincing argument I accept. We’re not cut adrift and there are teams playing worse (Fulham, West Ham, Stoke..) – we’re still only 4 points off 10th but it is getting harder to see where our points are coming from.
Individual errors on the pitch are not CH’s fault and losing Snoddy was cruel, but I agree that the substitutions were..curious. What’s the point of bringing anyone on in the 89th minute? Give them 10-15 mins to have a chance of effecting the game. We may as well send Becchio to Coventry in reality, because that seems to be where he’s been sent in the squad.
Palace was always a biggie but now we have the new manager-1st game effect to contend with and their win at Hull was no mean feat.
Liverpool away after that is not a pleasant prospect and one more hammering, albeit by an in form top 5 team, might just be the tipping point.
It’s about time the board acted. We can’t go on like this.
Kevin Gathergood says
The problem now is that everyone, CH, fans, the board all know that something is wrong. 7 wins in 33 suggests this to even the hardy supporter. If we are not careful then another few games will drip by seemingly relying on the hope that there are worse teams than us and relying on hope that we will turn it around by working harder.
There is a lot of hope and luck involved here, if that is what is being relyed upon then we may as well change now. People say “replace with who?” – my response ” 7 wins in 33, and you are worried about the ability of the person coming in?”. We are (currently anyway) a premier club, i am positive we can attract good quality of young, forward thinking and brave coaches. I’d rather be relegated trying to win than relegated trying not to lose. I like CH but i’m afraid it’s time, for your sake Chris, for my sake (i am fed up with this) and for my great club’s sake.
Andrew Gillie says
Yesterday? Insipid dross! This might, just might, keep us in Premiership, but will anyone want to watch? RVW and Hooper are goal scorers. What a waste. Subs yesterday? What a joke! 89 minutes. Too little, too late. Noted how we sang “Delia’s Barmy Army” yesterday — vast majority of us.Very, very few were singing “Hughton’s Green Army”. Told us a lot, in my opinion.
Yet another pointless away day, albeit not quite another horror show. Beat palace and we smile at 3 points for a weewk but let me guess what West Brom away will be like ! We cannot afford a manager who can only motivate players when 90 mins away from the sack ! On current form we are relegation foder and an easy 3 points for every home team….put it off no longer Mr McNally, we have to have a change of manager !
Wire canary says
Your article sums it up perfectly .. We didn’t play that badly albeit conceded soft goals .. But again not to change it up and try something different just beggars . I went to both Newcastle and Manchester utd games both cried out for change system and tactics. . . Why elmander on the wing yesterday just left me angry !! Was crying out for someone with pace . I am convinced becchio would solve our goal scoring problem .. He a goal scorer and link player .. If I was him would be asking for a transfer his treatment shocking. As for no plan b hughton I have lost faith . I am norwich through and through season ticket too and live in warrington but I won’t be taking in any more away games .. Just throwing my money down the drain. If they not going to have a real good go what’s the point ???
If you’re looking for positives, there are two teams worse than us, Palace and Sunderland, whilst Fulham, West Ham, Cardiff, Stoke and Hull are much the same as us, usually poor. However, it shouldn’t be like this. When was the last time we gave a full on 90 minute performance? Palace is now a huge game and CH is yet again “just 90 minutes away from the sack” if it goes horribly wrong. Liverpool and West Brom have the potential to get horribly messy too. It’s really getting beyond the “Stick or Twist” stage with the January transfer window looming.
City fan says
We have three strikers in RVW, Hooper and Becchio who between them scored 70 goals last season. Becchio was on a great run, having scored 17 already by the time we bought him and effectively cut off his legs.
Now we don’t play him and we don’t look like scoring. Do they practise passing to the strikers in training?
General Norwich says
Blimey this is frustrating isn’t it? The away performances have been abject for too long, and nobody really knows why. Everyone has been focused on Chris Hughton, but I would like to see a change with the other coaches before that. Colin Calderwood does not inspire me. We are lacking leadership both on and off the field at the moment & I would like to see us make inquiries to see if Mike Phelan is available. He has vast experience at the top level and must be itching to get back into management once again. He already has form with us Canaries after all. I feel for Chris Hughton, I really do, but as everyone knows this is a results business and McNally knows that better than anyone.
i think all the ills seem to be thrown squarely at the dood of CH but to be honest Bradley johnson would not be in the team if Tettey or Snodgrass had been fit and he cause the first goal. On top of that John Ruddy has cost us at least 4 points this season, maybe even more, so you cant really legislate for the loss in form of someone who was a mainstay and stallwart in recent seasons. We have a decent run of games coming up and i am hopeful that they will be fruitful. The only thing I really fear is the mounting injury list now and these are the sort of games that you really need to RVW fit for