When you’re made to feel guilty for celebrating a win it must be time to stop watching football.
Yes, it was a bit scruffy at times. Yes, it papered over some cracks. And yes, our £13million forward-line failed to deliver in front of goal. But, with ‘must-win’ having pipped #hughtonout as Norfolk’s most over-used mantra in the last few days, City did just that.
And so it took an 87th minute header from a defender to settle it. So what. If I had been offered a 94th minute deflection of Howard Webb’s buffed pate to seal the win I would have taken it.
Despite the best efforts of a few Canary Callers, yesterday was a good day for City and goodness knows there have not been too many of those lately.
The cliché kings (I’m thinking mainly of Messrs Hansen and Townsend, but take your pick) are forever telling us that to win titles you have to occasionally ‘win ugly’. Logic would suggest that knack to be doubly valuable when you’re embroiled in a relegation scrap.
In fairness to City there were spells when the football was pleasing on the eye and even in those nerve-shredding closing stages they resisted the urge to launch long hopefuls balls into the Hull penalty box.
It was not perfect of course – often the build-up was too slow and laboured – but no-one hid and no-one shirked. And that, in itself, tells us something about the appetite and desire of those in yellow.
In the aftermath of the Fulham debacle I questioned the technical ability of a few to deliver at the highest level and, while the question marks remain, there was no questioning the grit and determination on display yesterday from one to eleven when the chips were down.
It was a day for guts and on that score none were found wanting.
From a tactical perspective few could challenge Chris Hughton’s decision to go 4-4-2 – with Ricky sometimes dropping off to bolster the midfield – and it was pleasing to see City enjoy more than their fair share of possession throughout.
All too often, when up against a five-man midfield, we get swamped in the middle of the pitch and with one of Hull’s five being a certain Tom Huddlestone my own fear was that he would be the dominant figure in the centre of the pitch.
In the end he made his mark for all the wrong reasons and credit should be afforded to Leroy Fer and Bradley Johnson for making him, Jake Livermore and Robert Koren peripheral figures throughout.
The ball may have been shifted a little slowly at time – for my liking at least – and there was still a tendency to give it away when under pressure, but there was a level of control and comfort to City’s play for the most part.
While Allan McGregor, Hull’s keeper, was not as busy as we would have liked, John Ruddy was a virtual spectator and – those fraught opening few minutes aside – the visitors never looked likely to score. If anyone was going to win it was going to be Norwich; the only question being could they force a breakthrough.
That the goal came from a corner was as surprising as the scorer himself – set pieces this season have been merely a way of getting the ball back in play – but Ryan Bennett’s overall contribution made him a worthy match-winner; the match sponsors for once also making a decent call in their award of man-of-the-match.
And there were other individual performances worthy of note. Jonas Gutierrez, on debut, turned in a promising hour before the legs started to tire and, after a tentative opening, linked well with Martin Olsson down the City left. His ability to know when and where to go pop inside in search of the ball also smacked of someone who is going to offer City something a little different.
Olsson too, who has now made the left-back slot his own, turned in another decent display and proved again he’s equally at home in the attacking half of the pitch.
He and a match-fit Gutierrez could prove a useful combination in the coming weeks.
Of course, a scruffy 1-0 win doesn’t mean everything in the garden is suddenly rosy and the issues that concerned so many at 2:55 still remained at 4:55, but a win is a win and should be applauded. There will be plenty of time between now and the end of the season for said concerns to be resurrected and dissected, but hopefully – for a few days at least – normal service can be resumed.
While there were indeed a few worthy performances on the pitch yesterday the real heroes were in the stands. As mentioned earlier, the pre-match talk was almost exclusively around Team Hughton and its ability or otherwise to take the club forward and there was even talk of banners and protests.
In the event, neither materialised and instead Carrow Road was at its united best from minute one in a collective effort that contributed massively to the win. Even in the darker moments the derision was stifled and the moans were muted; something that won’t have been lost on those on the pitch and who may have feared the worst.
In my Friday piece I wrote of my fear of a Burnley 2006 type atmosphere, but I need not have worried. When the chips were really down Carrow Road delivered and so did the players.
And that can be no coincidence.
David Bowen says
Thanks Gary, reading that was almost as exciting as watching our win, you are, as always, spectacularly on the money!
The most pleasing aspect of yesterday was the proof positive that CH has NOT lost the dressing room, he CAN inspire the team to perform, and they can ALL put in a good shift on his behalf!
Now we just need a bit of consistency then all in the garden WILL be rosy!
There was though a spell when the crowd were chanting for Wes. I was curious as to how that could happen. If he’d have taken a striker off to bring Wes on there would have been uproar. But to take a midfielder off would have left us way too lightweight in the middle. The game was too tight and congested for Wes I think, Hull certainly set their stall out to be hard to break down and so it proved. They were extremely negative. Zero shots on target?
Douglas Millar says
Having seen Hull twice, I am convinced that they are likely to finish below City.We must continue to battle to beat the teams around us. If we get a decent share of points in those games City will survive. There are always one or two teams who go on a losing run at this time of year – Reading last year for example and Wolves the year before. Provided City can rediscover fortress Carrow Road AND get points away at West Ham Cardiff and Fulham, safety in the PL will be assured.
Scraping a win at home for first time since November and everything’s rosy again! Well, it was against the mighty Hull.
Andrew hall says
I think you have missed the point ,the fans frustrations are based the last 18 months not this season or the last few games .although you said it papered over the cracks, we did control the game for long periods , at that point we were lucky to be in the game , another day , better team would have been out of site. Still we limp on to the next game an the the next defeat and the disgruntles will peak again.
A. Titchmarsh says
Big credit to the boys and the boss for stemming the poor run of results and to the fans for staying behind them to the end.
Would have bean all too easy for the boos to start and plant the seeds of rebellion. They had to dig deep and graft hard but with willing runners, Chris Hughton is slowly nurturing a crop of prize specimens rather than a sack of spuds.
Some of the stuff on offer has been mulch and there are one or two dead-heads who need weeding out of the squad but let’s hope this win propagates some confidence for the rest of the season and we can all enjoy the fruits of the summer.
Roses are over-rated.
Gary Gowers says
Michael (4) – May be best to read the whole piece before commenting…
Andrew (5) – With respect, I think *you* have missed the point. Hull had two shots, both in the opening few minutes, neither of which troubled Ruddy. Hardly the stuff of a side who could have been “out of site”.
I made a specific point of it not being a cure for the ills. But surely we’re allowed to rejoice in a victory whatever the circumstances?! Otherwise what’s the point…
It must be awful for some of you when City win.
John Lovejoy says
Personally, I was disappointed with the crowd yesterday, especially during the first half. It felt to me as though there was little encouragement and that the majority of people were waiting for things to go wrong. Also, incredibly there were still a few boos at half time and even more remarkably when RVW was subbed for Becchio. Probably the same people who were greeting Becchio as a new messiah only a few weeks ago.
Dave B says
A great result and a good performance. The formation worked for the most part and a lot of players had a good game. Most importantly, the team looked more confident.
That’s not to say we’re anywhere near a finished product. Our defence in the opening 15 looked shaky and one of those chances being scored would have changed everything, but they came through. Our midfield we probably the stars, giving us a fighting chance. Jonas running his socks off. Our attack, sadly, still looked poor. We never look clinical and haven’t done for over a year.
What I found particularly interesting was that, apart from Jonas, the old guard were vastly superior in effort and quality than the new players. Martin, Snodgrass, Bennett, and Johnson (for effort) all had fantastic games.
I don’t mean to single out Ricky, but Becchio looked more of a handful in 10 mins than Ricky in 80. I can’t help but think such an influx of talent from foreign leagues has given us a lack of experience of the English game. Perhaps a more gradual transfer policy may have been in order.
I’m still far from convinced about Hughton. My memory goes further back than 4:45 yesterday. I remember Fulham, our capitulation, and it was’t from the lack of support. I would like it not to take headlines about Hughton’s dismissal to be a pre-requisite for a performance.
I would liken my situation with Chris to a G/f who has mistreated me. She may have bought me Predator on Blu-Ray yesterday out of guilt, but it doesn’t make up for screaming at me on Tuesday… and for the last 18 months. Chris, you better start thinking box sets and backrubs! Because any more of your nonsense and we’re through.
Dave B says
On a slightly different note. I watched the Sunderland game yesterday too and they look to have a fighting spirit. I don’t see them going down.
Heartening to see a Norwich side throwing in all to get a winner at the end with defenders up too, rather than sitting back inviting attack, settling for a point, hopefully! Well done Ryan Bennett and team … oh yes, and Hughton!
Michael D says
One note on yesterday amongst Dave B’s bigger points – Becchio’s small cameo. Does this point to the start of his rehabilitation – or not? Thoughts and comments all?
For all their lack of scoring, our three strikers looked sharp, willing to run, link up, and (most importantly) attack the ball. Let’s not forget that between them they scored 70+ goals last season. So it’s there somewhere. Those who haven’t written them off could see yesterday that they are desperately close to coming good. Hooper and RVW are beginning to form a partnership and how nice would it be to have a fit and firing Becchio given at least 20 mins every game? Build them up, get them confident, then we’ll have three strikers who are part of a scoring unit rather than a trio of individuals with too much weight on each of their shoulders. OTBC
Jim Davies says
Having just watched Barcelona trying to break down a side who parked the bus, and failing apart from a goal scored from a corner by a defender to get through, perhaps some of those criticising our strikers might realise just how hard it can be when the opposition have little or no ambition other than to get a draw, which Hull plainly did yesterday. (Not that I am actually comparing City with Barca, but it does go to show how difficult it is, and anyway, who says that all goals have to be scored by strikers? It’s a team game.)
I’d also point out that van Wolfswinkle had worked his socks off for 80 minutes, so of course Becchio looked lively and sharp when he came on – that’s why you bring the subs on, to give you fresh legs. I think Becchio’s role is to be the man who comes on to replace either a tiring or injured striker, but I can’t see him being the starting choice ahead of either Ricky or Hooper.
As I said earlier, it’s a team game, and everyone in the squad has to get use to either being a substitute or being substituted, at some stage.
Becchio looked sharp when he came on and it was refreshing to see him and Hooper prepared to run directly at their centre backs, rather than the usual obsession with attacking only down the flanks. More of the same please.
P. Thrower says
Bloomin’ marvelous effort. We’ve nipped that poor run in the bud. Don’t mean to rake over old ground but there is still a long way to travel from our rather agricultural style of present. However, as long we we make the hallowed soil of Carrow Road an infertile one for bottom half clubs, I’m convinced the green shoots of progress will come and the squad will blossom and eventually, the goals will come in spades. Roll on Springtime.
Thank you Gary for sticking with level headed, constructive criticism alongside the cheerful support of a proper fan. I came away from Saturday’s game feeling GREAT because the result was so necessary and yet our team had overcome clear nervousness, and a tense atmosphere, by working their socks off. Alongside the players that Gary has highlighted there were plenty of signs that Ricky will come good, Johnson is becoming the reliable stalwart that he was last season and Ryan Bennett is developing into a top class centre back. There is, of course, plenty of room for improvement in our pace and variety of attacks but is what we are watching much different to the post Christmas section of our first season back in this league? Part of the build up of hysteria over the last few weeks is down to an unrealistically rosy view of that season once the promotion bounce had gone from us. Constant carping and grudging support will drag our club down and continue to lead to over cautious decision making. Players like Johnson showed on Saturday what a difference it makes when they become less frightened of making mistakes. Nobody ever got better at anything under constant disapproval. That is especially true when playing football. Now really looking forward to the Newcastle game after really worrying what I would be listening to against Hull.