A double dismissal for Newcastle United’s Loïc Remy and City’s Bradley Johnson provided a rare moment of entertainment for the long-suffering City faithful tonight as the Canaries ground out a 0-0 draw with their visitors.
Grind being the operative word with Gary Hooper’s first-half effort proving to be Norwich’s lone strike of any note on target – until the 90th minute when Tim Krul denied Robert Snodgrass’ diving header at his near post as City almost sneaked a late winner in the Ryan Bennett mould.
Hooper’s exit in the game’s dying moments for the more defensive minded Alex Tettey will have done little to endear the hard-pressed Chris Hughton to growing sections of the Canary support.
For while a point against a side of Newcastle’s ilk – who would clip the woodwork three times in the course of the evening – is hardly to be sniffed at and still left City a good six points clear of the danger zone, it is the entertainment value that the punters are coming to question.
Are they getting their money’s worth?
For too many teams in the wrong half of the Premier League, it is a grind. For players and supporters alike. This becomes the nature of the beast.
Hughton’s cause was not helped, however, by another anonymous night for his record strike buy Ricky van Wolfswinkel. The Dutchman’s joyless season is coming to mirror that of his employer.
Gone were the days of two, teenage wingers strutting their youthful stuff; for in came Anthony Pilkington for an all-too rare start to complement Snodgrass away on the opposing flank with van Wolfswinkel and Hooper slung somewhere vaguely in-between.
Read whatever into it you want, but there was no place for Wes Hoolahan in Hughton’s thinking this evening. Not even on the bench. That will merely fuel the exit rumours. That he is Villa-bound.
There is a certain irony to the fact that Norwich tonight find themselves stuck in mid-table on the same points as both Paul Lambert’s Villa and Swansea City – both of whom are regularly cited in the case against the current manager. Be it terms of forceful personalities or footballing philosophies.
The big absentee for Newcastle, of course, was Yohan Cabaye whose £19m switch to PSG might have knocked the Magpies cout of their creative stride ahead of this evening’s clash. Or, at least, that’s what the home faithful could fondly hope.
It proved to be something of an untidy opening spell – not helped by the squally conditions.
Remy fired wide early on. Thereafter, chances were all-too few and far between – at either end.
The punters wanted something to sink their teeth into and get behind. Not for the first time this season, the fare wasn’t thrill-a-minute. Cagey and constrained appeared to be the early order of the day as City looked to build on that late win over Hull City in their last home game.
As it was, it was the visitors who started to turn up the heat – twice clipping the post before John Ruddy had to fling himself sharply to his right to palm away a deflected shot from Hatem Ben Arfa.
There was no doubt as to who were the slicker side; United’s smarter movement being matched by the angle of their passing; forward with menace.
Hooper did manage to whip an inviting cross onto the edge of the six-yard box on the half-hour mark only for his strike partner to be some five-yards distant as the chance was comfortably cleared. The two have yet to click together. All-too often there is all-too much distance between them.
City simply weren’t posing much of a threat. Pilkington, in fairness, looked like a player making his way back to match fitness. The timing and the touch would elude him.
As it did Ben Arfa three minutes from the interval when he spooned the clearest chance of the game thus far over Ruddy’s bar after Ameobi Jnr had first made the far by-line and then pulled a wonderfully inviting ball back.
It did, at least, spark a response as Hooper drilled a low, stinging effort goalward from some 22-yards distant which Krul could only palm out hastily.
It wasn’t enough to stem a round chorus of boos at the break. Not wholly undeserved; City were pretty sparkless and largely bereft of ideas. Not an ideal position to be in if Hoolahan was, indeed, about to exit stage left.
Van Wolfswinkel’s foul on the edge of his own box presented Newcastle with their next chance on the hour mark; Remy again finding the woodwork in his way off a dipping 20-yard free-kick as the Canaries continued to play second fiddle to their sharper visitors.
With 65 minutes gone, Hooper’s 43rd minute effort remained Norwich’s lone shot on target.
Given the whole tenor of the argument re Hughton’s managerial philosophy, it was not a statistic likely to do him any favours.
Van Wolfswinkel’s night finished 20 minutes early as Johan Elamnder arrived in search of his first goal of the season. At least Nathan Redmond’s appearance in the place of a tiring Pilkington promised pace and directness – something City had sorely lacked thus far.
The game did deliver some entertainment in the 80th minute when Remy and Johnson went head-to-head – literally. And all right under the nose of referee Chris Foy. Who let the dust settle before issuing both with a red card.
Alexander Tettey’s arrival for Hooper irked. With Newcastle rattled by Remy’s red, some might have felt now was not the time to withdraw your top scorer. It looked like another case of settling for what you had too early.
On such decisions are managers judged. Particularly those under such scrutiny as the luckless Hughton.
james d says
Hooper had been holding his leg for a while and his running was starting to be restricted. It made far more sense to take him off with a big game against Cardiff to come on Saturday.
The big mistake was starting 2 up top. As expected Newcastle had more men and more of the ball in midfield. Johnsons suspension and howsons injury now make 5 in the middle harder to do.
The game had nil nil written all over it before kick off. Newcastle don’t score many away and we don’t score. It’s easy to see why. They could only manage 3 on target in the whole game. We don’t create chances and had 2 on target.
Glad wes wasnt in the squad. Makes more sense to leave him out until the window is closed and the saga is over. No point having a disrupting influence in the squad when enough fit and committed players to select from.
I don’t feel that this piece really tells the story of the match. First half Newcastle were excellent, probably the most fluent team seen at Carrow Road this season. We found it hard to compete as the visitors hounded us and then moved the ball sweetly once they’d won it. That’s not completely unexpected. The lower 11 of the Premier League do find it very hard against a top 8 team with their tails up. To our credit, and hugely to the managers credit, we rallied loads in the second half. We stopped them higher up the pitch and forced ourselves back into the game to the extent that, in the last quarter, we were the side more likely to score. Given how good Newcastle were, can we really be critical that, after the sending off, a substitution was used to make sure that we kept them in their half? Why not, instead, praise our manager for rescuing what seemed a lost cause at half time with tactical changes and, clearly, a call to arms. There are still worries about whether we can move the ball comfortably through our midfield to our strikers, in the way that a team like Newcastle can, but that is a worry shared with each of our fellow residents of the lower half of the table. At least our players braved the sickening sound of booing and played for their pride, won back the fans and responded to their manager
Dave B says
When the final whistle blew I was happy to get a point. Happy in the same way as after a car crash you’re happy to still be alive, despite numerous scars and bumps.
Only two people covered themselves in glory today. Martin and Ruddy (although Ruddy was lucky to escape a major error and get Newcastle a yellow card in the process). Martin needs to be given more authority and presented to the press more often. A truly honest and likable guy with a fantastic work ethic.
RVW is a lost cause. He is physically too weak. He gave up chasing balls he lost. He doesn’t get into shooting positions and he doesn’t score.
Snodgrass couldn’t cross.
Our midfield couldn’t string a couple of passes together.
Johnson should be ashamed. He tried to act the man but ended up looking like a boy. Very embarrassing.
Hooper started to look dangerous just as he was taken off.
We were just rolled over in almost every position.
Andy W says
How is Hughton luckless? I think he should have bought a lottery ticket today?
I feel that this latest performance is the cue for another of the website writer’s to quickly cut and paste an article stressing the following points:
a) Hughton is a tactical genius and we the average supporter just can’t see it.
b)Avoiding relegation is all that matters and the club’s business model is a great success
c) Most supporters just don’t understand the realities of Premiership football, and in fact we should be grateful to watch a team who have scored 18 goals in 23 games.
d) The team just needs time to gel and we have had a lot of injuries.
Am I missing anything?
I think we will probably stay up, which will set the champagne corks popping in the boardroom. However the style in which that is achieved will have alienated a large section of the club’s loyal supporters and someone someday should try to measure the cost of that.
james d says
Martin had a shocker. Constantly being beaten and didn’t do much right with the ball when he had it. I thought Bennett was easily our best player. Didn’t think Elmander, Tettey or Redmond did badly when they came on either. Ruddy only had 3 saves to Make, one was a simple catch and another nearly went in as he pushed the ball against a city defender.
It is quite clear supporters are slowly, but certainly dividing into two major camps, those that expect more (of?) and those that take the more pragmatic – realistic – view, of life in the PL. I also believe the division would be somewhat age related?
Dave B says
“It is quite clear supporters are slowly, but certainly dividing into two major camps, those that expect more (of?)”
Goals for a start.
Derek Piercey says
Dave B (3):
Normally agree with all you say, and I do mostly this time, but Russell Martin last night?? Are you sure?
I was shocked to see just how many of our players are seriously underperforming. And unlike Fulham, this was just about our best XI.
Only things positive about last night was that we somehow got a point and that Johnson is now suspended for 3 matches.
Roger Mellie says
Viz: last night’s game. Decent point off ‘Les Geordies’ in the end but still little to excite the masses other than the comical exchange of handbags by Remy and Johnson. Another clean sheet is a plus although the woodwork played a 12th man there.
Under performers for me were Johnson,Fer,Snoddy and RVW (all 4/10) which explains why we created so little until late on. We just seem to be so slow out of the starting blocks at home.
Hopefully the instructions for the big game in Wales on Sat. will be more positive from the off like we were at Stoke and West Brom.
Newcastle gave us a footballing lesson, especially in the first half, in relation to the basic arts of passing and movement.
Sadly, our midfield and defence were too often too distant from each other to nullify the extra man Newcastle had in midfield. That, combined with the fact the combination of midfielders returning from injury and loss of form, meant we were found desperately wanting.
Ruddy, Bennett, Ollson and Hooper were the only players who looked the part against classy opponents, although, for once, the substitutions also had a positive impact upon arrival.
For some, it was clearly a bad night at the office, for others, you have to question whether they’re capable of living and regularly delivering this level. In some cases, that’s looking like a “no”.
Frank Watson says
For me it was as dismal a performance as I can remember. In the first half there was nothing, and I mean nothing, positive. From the kick-off we were overrun. Newcastle looked good but why wouldn’t they when they were not closed down, not pressured, not tackled? It was as gutless, spineless and disorganised as Fulham away in the Cup.
Second half a bit better but still no cohesion, few passing ‘moves’ and really little goal threat.
We were desperately lucky to get a point. Snodgrass’s dead-ball delivery was woeful and though he perhaps doesn’t deserve all the stick he gets remember he’s on tens of thousands a week to play football; when you can’t cross a dead ball then perhaps you deserve to be reminded of that.
Pilkington looked off the pace. Van Wolfswinkel is turning into an embarrassment. Olsson looks as weak as Garrido. bassong was again very casual.
These are Hughton’s players. He has no idea how to get the best out of them.
Dave B says
Ok. I’ll admit, he was run ragged. I was more responding to his determination (lacked by many) and his completely refreshing interview after that match.
There’s an annoying spambot on Twitter that keeps repeating “Norwich are signing well this summer, the future’s bright for them #ncfc”. Annoying on so many levels.
@7 Dave B
Of course I take your point – goes without saying. However, I’m somewhat grateful for small mercies, inasmuch we kept a clean sheet – fortunate as that may be.
Our league position doesn’t lie, there are 8 other teams with greater headaches than ours.
We are, relative to population, the smallest club in the league – by some margin. The great Bill Shankly was once quoted as saying, “Success goes where the chimneypots grow.” Big crowds!That’s where the serious money is, and at this level it finds you out.
Of course we could replace CH, but for whom? First find the ‘animal’, that won’t be easy, then . . . then you have to persuade him to work away from the metropolitan areas – on a limited budget. That’s some task fella!!**
We are not in ‘serious trouble’ as some without much perspective keep saying; we are six points clear of the bottom three, not six points behind everyone else. That would be serious trouble. But somehow we are playing without any cohesion, much creativity or end purpose and still grinding results. We won’t go down but let’s hope we get this season over with quickly so we can appoint a creative manager/coach during the relative calm of close season.
Dave Backham says
If revenues at City were dependent on supporters being entertained (otherwise they’d be able to vote with their feet/cash and boycott the current offering which has been truly dismal of late) then we’d see more action from the board in removing the manager and coaching team. But revenues only depend on PL status, and so far we’re just about still on course for staying up. Since that is all that’s been asked for (17th or better) this is likely to be enough to keep me from Carrow Road for the forseeable future. Are you not entertained? For me – a resounding No.
Stewart Lewis says
Any substitution other than Tettey for Hooper would have been madness. Not only was Hooper (our best player, I thought) feeling an injury, but we’d been struggling to match Newcastle’s packed midfield with Johnson + Fer – did fans want to take more out of that area, after BJ had gone?
Dave B – we know your determination to see everything in a negative light, but thankfully the FA has seen what you didn’t want to. Remy butted BJ (who didn’t go down, as many would have done); BJ’s contribution did not warrant a red, let alone being ’embarrassing’.
I don’t know RvW’s future. One small hope is your comments are exactly what Arsenal fans said during RvP’s first season here.
PS I’m not a ‘happy clapper’, whatever that is. We were really poor in the first half (in contrast to the Hull performance) and extremely fortunate to reach half-time on level terms. Judging from the greater urgency and commitment of the second half, I suspect CH fully recognised that we weren’t good enough and made the players aware of it.
Dave B says
@16. Stewart Lewis
You clearly didn’t see the event. Johnson kicks out at him, pushes him, then does a “i’ve been headbutted” back-off holding his head, which lasts two seconds and then he’s all better.
Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UvLh5Q3GBY
I suggest going to HD and watching Remy’s head and you tell me it moves. My cats headbutt with more force. I admire Johnson’s work rate in games, but recently he’s been more focused at whining at refs than doing his job.
If BJ’s actions in that video make you proud to be a supporter of NCFC then you will back nearly anything.
Arnold Layne says
Dave B – are you an insomniac? Or maybe your cats are keeping you awake with the sound of their headbutting?
FA review called it exactly right and so Bradley will be in there scrapping at Cardiff. Sounds like you’re siding with the Frenchman – always a dangerous position to take.
What’s the opposite of a ‘happy clapper’? Whatever it is, you are it!