Cameron Jerome’s seventh goal of the season spared Neil Adams’ Canaries a second home defeat of the week with today’s 1-1 draw with lowly Rotherham.
The Yorkshire side were never going to make the league leaders’ lives easy – nor did they as they squeezed in a first-half penalty to leave the City chief with yet more talking to do at half-time.
Once more it was Wes Hoolahan who was the one to make way as Adams looked to get Norwich’s game together – the Dubliner departing just after the hour mark as the Canaries looked for a way back into the contest and to match their away form with their home efforts.
In the end it was Jerome that delivered the goods in terms of the leveller – a point enough to keep the Norfolk side top for at least another 24 hours before Forest play host to Ipswich tomorrow afternoon.
“We’ve missed an opportunity to be three, four, five points clear at the top of the table,” said Adams, as another chance to make home advantage count came and went. “But we still must be doing a lot of things right to be top.”
A little bit of luck – either in front of goal or when it comes to penalty decisions – wouldn’t go amiss. But, overall, Adams had few complaints with the level of his players’ performance; it’s just the points that elude them. That and a first-half goal.
“Thankfully we did get something for our efforts today,” he told BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
“And I can’t criticise the players at all for their application – you can see that they want to win. And we’ve got to be careful that we don’t have a knee-jerk reaction and think that it isn’t good enough.
“We can’t keep throwing points away at home – we can’t keep doing that, of course. But it is those fine margins again. Just before they score… how the ball stayed out I have no idea. The keeper has made a save on his back and all of a sudden you find yourself one-down.
“So I’m pleased with the performance but we’ve got to avoid this – where we are having to throw the kitchen sink at the opposition. To have to be coming from behind and not scoring in the first-half. That’s the main concern for me now.”
As it is for the great majority of the Canary Nation. Life should be easier than this.
But then not for the first time this season, Norwich found bank after bank of away player ranged against them as they looked to prove that the mid-week disappointments against Charlton were but a small bump in the road en route back to the Premier League.
Maybe it was the squally rain that dampened spirits or the Charlton hangover that found the Canaries struggling to find a way through their visitors. Rotherham will be par for the course this season; few clubs will travel to Carrow Road looking to be open and cavalier.
Either way – and despite late and concerted efforts by Messrs Jerome and Grabban to add to their recent heroics in front of goal – it was Rotherham who went into the break a goal to the good as Ruddy upended Matt Derbyshire in his own penalty
area and Paul Green calmly converted the spot-kick two minutes before the break.
Suffice to say the home faithful were less than amused.
A week ago and this Championship business looked all plain sailing. Relative to last season’s toils. By four o’clock the following Saturday and one pot-hole was in danger of morphing into an ugly rut.
One young man appears to have access to a little of the blue touch paper as Josh Murphy’s arrival found the Canaries finally breaking Rotherham’s resistance.
It was the tenor of the substitution that set the tone – positive-minded winger for a redundant centre-half as Jos Hooiveld made way for Adams’ former FA Youth Cup winger. It would win Adams message board plaudits as threw five forwards into the fray.
Bar taking off your goalkeeper, it was as positive as you could almost get as Michael Turner was left to mind the shop at the back.
Fellow sub Kyle Lafferty – on a tiring Hoolahan – had already struck on upright before Jerome enjoyed his latest moment in front of goal. Today’s leveller was his sixth in as many games with the 27-year-old swiftly rewarding his manager for his transfer faith.
Murphy would do his youthful best to try and wrest a win out of the contest, but with City’s range-finder being somewhat off-beam the second goal the home fans longed for failed to materialise.
A point from two home games, but still top of the table at Carrow Road.
No-one ever said this was going to be easy. Or, indeed, pretty.
But the old adage still holds true – that you judge a side ten games into a season. And not before. For all the gripes and groans, City are still on course for a swift return to the top flight.
Although Rotherham came with a game plan to defend in numbers, credit is due because at least they countered with numbers, unlike on Tuesday.
The tempo was better today, more shots than Tuesday, 27 verses 15, with more on target, albeit a disappointing 6 against 4.
Of course, what counts most is hitting the back of the net, and, I’m sure that will come and someone will get a hiding real soon, hopefully.
It was a very frustrating afternoon for me. We could easily have scored a couple goals before Rotherham got theirs, it just didn’t go in, chances were being made, for some reason not converted.
For weeks after it’s worth my view is we started the season playing 4-2-3-1 formation worth Grabban as the one as a fulcrum and a cutting edge. We seem to have reverted to more of a 4-4-2 in my view and we look a little less fluid and sharp for it. Today Grabban and Jerome north made lots of good runs but to often the same run, they seemed to both wasn’t the same space. With 3 behind a single forward joined by one of the defensive two at times we match the oppositions numbers in the middle of the park. Toa ay I felt Hoolahan and less so Redmond got swamped and ran out of room, if we had more strength the there I think we could have more passing options.
Problem is who to leave on the bench Jerome, Grabban or Lafferty. I think harsh as it may be on the last I’d ready Grabban, restore Lafferty and put Jerome up top on his own.