For once there was no debate to be had over whether it was a point gained or two points dropped.
Yesterday was all about the result, the quality of performance almost an irrelevance, and when faced with what many labelled a ‘must win’ City came up just short. And not for the first time.
Had it been a boxing match it would have been stopped. If football matches were decided by stats City would have romped home. But as goals still remain the EFL’s determiner of choice it was another moment of iffy defending and a mistake from the otherwise imperious Bartosz Bialkowski that decreed the latest leg of the East Anglian derby a draw.
But it felt like a win for them and a defeat for us. And if confirmation were needed I understand Mick the Moaner greeted the 57,678th and final blast of Oliver Langford’s whistle with a fist pump.
Okay, so the unbeaten record for City goes on and there only briefly looked to be a prospect of Town doing to us what they did way back in April 2009 but derby bragging rights aside it could end up being a really costly afternoon (and I’m not just referring to the season ticket status of the premature flare thrower).
Sheffield Wednesday’s defeat at Elland Road had opened up a sliver of opportunity, one that simply had to be seized, but while that sliver remains it’s one that’s diminished slightly as a result of City’s failure to convert more than one opportunity on an afternoon that produced several.
Alex Neil’s customary post-match positivity deemed the away trip to Hillsborough as must-win regardless of yesterday’s outcome, and he wouldn’t be expected to say anything else, but spin it however you like, City suffered a blow and the old enemy’s plan to throw a spanner in the works of our proposed late charge for sixth worked just as Big Mick had planned it.
Town’s ambitions were limited from the word go and the midweek noises emanating from down south about a draw being a good result were proven to be factual rather mind games. Five at the back, albeit with the full-backs given licence to convert to wing-backs, was designed with one thing in mind and one thing alone: to keep it very tight.
That City scored just the once equated to job done for our Suffolk brethren. To have sneaked a win would have been one huge, gigantic bonus – and but for City getting level so quickly it wasn’t beyond the realms.
Those five glorious minutes will of course go down in Town folklore alongside the shorts worn by Paul Anderson when he equalised in the first leg of the play-off semi-final, but once level if anyone was going to muster a late winner he would have been wearing yellow.
But it didn’t happen, largely down to the fine reflexes of Bialkowski, and at a time when we are supposed to be cranking up the pressure on those in our sights we have won just once in our last five games. And, as pointed out by a respected #NCFC tweeter, in those games City have played teams who are 15th, 18th, 19th, and 22nd.
Hardly a side on the cusp of a late charge.
Yet behind the disappointment it was noteworthy that moans and groans were few and far between at the final whistle and while the high fives and fist pumps were confined to those in blue – who celebrated as if another star above the badge had been earned – there was warmth and appreciation in evidence from the faithful.
Fears that the frailty and preciousness often in evidence on the road would reappear in the face of a physical onslaught were unfounded and having matched a side whose raison d’etre is to scrap, a platform on which to perform was delivered.
Where it fell down was the inability to find enough quality in the final third to really hurt the massed ranks of blue and when half-chances arrived they were either snatched at or Town’s keeper was up to the task, and in a game of fine margins City’s cutting edge, on the day, went AWOL.
As a spectacle, I don’t expect there to have been too many purring purists outside of the respective Yellow and Blue Armies but for those of us inside the bubble it delivered the usual levels of tension and nervousness interrupted with sporadic bursts of excitement; mental exhaustion levels in the stands being right up there with physical exertion levels on the pitch.
That Jacob Murphy was able to atone for his marking blunder was appropriate, and it was interesting to hear post-match how they had identified Bialkowski’s weakness on his near-post; so too his, and presumably his brother’s, acute understanding of precisely how much the derby means to the fans – a by-product of their long association with the club.
And it showed. For all of their pace and attacking flair, the lightweight label is one the boys have found hard to shake off, particularly when defensive duties are focused upon, but Jacob displayed an appetite yesterday that’s not always been evident. His goal was a just reward.
Star of the City show was again Mitchell Dijks who with every gigantic stride edges himself closer to a Premier League deal next season and we really do have to make the most of what seems certain to be the Dutchman’s short spell at our club.
For Town, David McGoldrick showed what a thoroughly decent player he is when fully fit and is one, possibly the only one, who would force his way into City’s starting XI.
Typically McCarthy was unable to speak of the derby without mentioning financial disparity, as ever ignoring how City initially dipped their noses in the Premier League trough under Paul Lambert without the proverbial pot to pee in, but it was hard to deny Town their moment in the sun. They’d done a number on us.
For City however hope springs eternal (for now), and while there’s still a mathematical chance of the play-offs every sinew will be strained to make that happen – but it’s clearly a riddle that will only be solved by a massive improvement in the form away from Carrow Road.
Hillsborough next Saturday represents a massive opportunity but an even greater challenge. A failure to win there – and there’s precious little evidence to suggest a win is achievable – and the plans can begin for the Championship 2017/18.
Gary Field says
Hugely disappointing result yesterday against a typically poor Championship team.
With 12 games to go, there’s certainly plenty of points to play for, but that Achilles heel, the away form, plus the regular ability to switch off defensively, means, to me, this season is over.
Time to start planning for next season.
Shame that Nelson was injured yesterday as AN may have risked two upfront against Ipswich’s defensive strategy. But then its perhaps his fault for having secured no other decent backup.
Yes, yesterday was not really good enough. Which is probably what we will also think when we come to look at the end of season league table.
With Sheffield Wednesday to come next, then an absolutely hellish April, with Huddersfield, Leeds, Preston away, and Reading, Fulham and Brighton at home, we have literally no chance of making the play-offs. Mathematically, yes, realistically, no. All of the above are six-pointers for us, but with the exception of Preston, for the others they are only one-pointers, make sure they draw ( and I´m sure they´ll manage at least that), and we´re still kept out of things.
As Gary Field says, start planning for the next Championship year.
A poor performance for me. Ipswich set up to defend and we didn’t do enough to break them down. Their keeper made a couple of good saves, but really none of the saves were truly amazing, just decent keeping that should have been saved at this level.
For me the reason we got relegated last year was constant individual errors. It is typical of a failure of mental application, both concentration and attitude. It was the same here and broadly has been the same all year. For reasons I can’t fathom the players cannot apply themselves, can’t concentrate, won’t roll their sleeves up long enough and force themselves in teams we should beat. The roll call of failure is long, Rotherham, Burton etc etc. Points dropped here.
I think a clear out is long overdue. I have seen some evidence that the recruitment can get it right, Pinto, Dijks, Oliveira, to an extent Pritchard bring cases for the positive. Naismith leading the charge for the failures in my mind. I was so excited when he signed, so very let down by him far too often.
So much needs to be changed and improved to fight for promotion next year. This squad has talent, there are very good young players. This squad does not have pride or guts or drive (it possibly does have arrogance). At least nothing like enough to gain promotion from this league.
I’m not suggesting throwing the baby out with the bathwater, there are many positives. But the negatives are very glaring, any good result matched by at least one bad result (usually away). Right now the playoffs are possible, for sure, but they look a long way off.
1 win in 5 is not a team on a playoff charge. Our manager has overseen an underachieving squad throughout this season and failing to make the playoffs (which I fully expect is to do) a year after relegation is a terrible waste of resources.
The minute our chances are gone AN should pay with his job, sadly I fear this is the beginning of a long stint in the EFL for us and questions will once again rightly be asked of our owners, the board, their vision and competence.
Don Harold says
Agree with Pab and Gary on all points.
Little 1p5wich fans’ forums are celebrating the draw like it is a major achievement, even though they were ahead. What a state of inertia they’re in, absolutely nothing impressive about them at all.
1 Gary – Re: Away form and switching off defensively. Both problems ever since the Play Off final. And problems I don’t think AN is ever capable of improving.
Would be so interesting to know where Norwich and Ipswich would stand in table this season if AN was Ipswich’s manager and MM was ours. Bet we would easily be in top 6 and they would be in bottom 3 …..
A disappointing and all too predictable result. Players generally have a lack of believe and yet again that stops with the manager.
This season is finished and we should plan for next season, but what exactly does that mean? New manager, new players, new owners?
Neil should of gone a long time ago and Balls’ was absolutely right in his assumption that he wanted him gone in the summer, but our hapless and naive majority shareholders would not have it so we are where we are. A wasted season with LOTS of wasted money.
Many talk about a summer clear out, but less money will mean sticking with mediocrity and for my money AN will be hear to at least November unless there is significant pressure placed on the owners from fans, staff and most importantly our Chairman.
Delia’s ‘My way or the highway’ cannot go on forever and Balls could hold the key – Can he put up with another season of a manager he doesn’t want? If the CEO job goes to Stone which is odds on I’d say, so don’t expect any pressure there.
A lady on Canary Call yesterday said she would rather we stay in The Championship. That call could of been made by a certain D.Smith of Stowmarket because that is exactly what is going to happen unless there are very significant changes of events at CR and Colney.
I’m not betting on it.
Dorset Canary says
We are not going to make the playoffs for the simple reason we are not good enough.
Stewart Lewis says
If some of the commenters here are right, Delia certainly does deserve criticism for incompetence.
If she’s happy to Norwich to be a Championship club, she’s really screwed up with decisions meaning our last two stays in the Champ lasted just one season with promotion to the PL.
We may or not make it a (virtually unprecedented) three in a row, but it seems she and her fellow directors have tried.
Bob in Diss says
I still get a sense of entitlement out there from some Canaries as reflected in these comments. There are no mugs in this league – Bristol C. took a point at Newcastle, Brentford 3 at Sheff. Wed. and Cardiff 3 at Leeds – all within the last week – all by teams we’ve beaten.
As poor as Ipswich look on paper, they will always be well organised under McCarthy and are no mugs. They’ve been on a good run including taking points off Brighton. As painful as it is to say, let’s give some credit to them for not allowing the time and space for us to play our A game.
That said, we created a shed load of chances and their keeper played a blinder. A point was disappointing and probably that is the end of our PO chances.
We have no divine right to bounce back every time and so let’s try to enjoy the challenge ahead.
Good summing up Gary, and some excellent comments.
Yes; we dominated possession yesterday, but surely (and I cannot believe I’m saying this), Town should have had an early penalty for Martin’s and Dijks’ assault on McGoldrick?
Why is it that at this stage of the season we are still persisting with our failing one up front system – which has proved so unfit for purpose to many of us for so long? Why do we not change it? If nothing else any different sort of set up would confuse our opponents for 10 minutes or so!
I’m not a fan of MM’s style, but at least (probably because of their financial situation) they do blood and use their younger players. We still keep hearing so much about our “young lads” such as the Murphy’s but they had their 22nd birthday last week. In today’s footballing terms that makes them pretty experienced if they are given the chance – at a similar age Wayne Rooney had played more than 150 games in the Premier League.
Shame that yesterday’s game was televised as it showcased what a player Mr. Dijks will be under a decent coach. We need to appreciate him while we can.
If Saturday brings us anything less than a win, then surely the remainder of the season has to be used to blood those who will be with us in the Championship next season!
What an opportunity we have missed this time around.
O T B C
Gary Field says
8 ) Darren – why would they want another season in the Championship? Surely, it’s all about the PL cash – whether we like it or not!
martin penney says
#10 Stewart: A fair viewpoint, but if they really have tried that hard, I’m struggling to see the evidence right now.
My major concern is that it isn’t really a Board of Directors, just one person who is set in her own ways, knows precious little about football and will not be contradicted. By anybody.
#12 John: You’re on the money imo. Great post.
#8 Gary: Delia has already said the PL and its cash is not for her. And if it’s not for her, it’s not for us. Because she says so. She knows better than us, for good or ill.
Logically, no Club of our stature should be happy with the Championship, agreed. But in this case I have severe doubts.
Cyprus Canary says
Whilst Neill is in charge the malaise will continue! I suppose the problem with a change now is that there needs to be a good available candidate. I agree totally with the summariser on Sky who said if the managers were in the opposite dugouts then we would be up at the top. Surely if Delia has the future of the club at heart she must act now?
Gary Field says
14 – Martin, there’s a huge difference between not personally liking the Premier League – because of the disparities it causes with the rest of the EFL through its huge TV cash deals – and not actually wanting to be in it. The first is a morality issue; the second is a practical issue because the Football Club can become a very different beast with the benefits of PL cash in contrast to one without!
#12 John: Some interesting and valid points although I disagree with your assessment of the Murphy’s, particularly as Jacob is usually in the starting eleven for most matches now, and Josh on the bench.
It isn’t the first time AN’s preference towards a lone striker has been questioned and/or criticized. However, with an attacking midfield unit that contains players that are all capable of contributing to the goal tally I suspect AN doesn’t feel the need to play two up front. This is all well and good, but I do feel that there have been games that could have been turned and points secured if formations were changed during a game to provide a double attacking threat rather than witness Jerome or Oliviera run themselves in to the ground. Having said that it hasn’t been the lack of goals that has contributed towards derailing our promotion push but the lack of defensive metal in front of John Ruddy.
#13 Gary – Logic would dictate that the PL is the place to be, but everyone would be well to remember the vast majority of Delia’s tenure has been spent in the second tier and least we forget, League One.
I’m convinced that if the club had had a much more knowledgable, business like board with no majority shareholders, then the club would of featured much more heavily in the top tier than they have over the last 20 years.
Stewart Lewis says
Darren #18: It’s a fascinating discussion as to what Norwich’s ‘natural’ position is.
Those who look only at recent decades might believe we have a natural place, with decent leadership, in the Premier League. But the longer term paints a different picture. City’s most common place is in the second tier, but we’ve actually spent more time in the third (29 seasons) than in the top tier (23).
It’s the other way round in Delia & Michael’s time as owners, of course. The five PL seasons are less than we’d have liked, but clearly outweigh the one season in the third tier.
Given what we’d built, of course, we should never have gone down to League 1. The recovery was impressive, though.
Gary Field says
18 & 19 – Darren & Stewart. All I’d add to the “natural position” debate is that looking back is the domain of those of blue and white persuasion!
All I’m really focused upon is how does this Club become the best it possibly can be. To my mind, given the self funding model, this can only be done with the benefits of PL cash.
Stewart Lewis says
Gary #20: Quite right (on all counts!)