This makes a change.
Whenever the men’s team have put in abysmal performances on a Saturday and it feels like the club is going stale, at least we could rely on the women’s team for victories and show us how to actually play well in matches.
I don’t know how to process both teams losing on the same weekend. But I have to.
Martin Herdman’s side knew this fixture would be the biggest challenge his City squad has faced yet, with London Bees sitting bottom of the Women’s National League Southern Premier Division – a league above the Canaries.
The Bees’ league position looked perfect for this current crop of City women to test themselves against if they have serious promotion credentials, with the result showing the gap between tiers 3 and 4.
Despite this, Norwich’s priorities were on full display, with Herdman making seven changes from last weekend’s FA Cup victory over London Seaward, with prolific goal scorer Natasha Snelling still nursing an injury, and other key performers such as Katie Knights, Rachel Lawrence, Eloise Morran, and Alice Parker all dropping to the substitutes bench.
Rotation is essential for a squad looking to compete in three competitions, however, with the changes and our current league position it’s clear that a successful league campaign is the be-all and end-all for this side.
What certainly didn’t help was the weather. After arriving at The Hive, the fixture was moved to a 3G pitch next to the stadium due to the main pitch being waterlogged, which delayed the kick-off by 15 minutes.
After the game finally kicked off in North London, both sides saw a relatively lively start, with London Bees having the first of the chances in the game.
Norwich then grew into the game and created more opportunities, with both Shannon Shaw and Olivia Cook seeing their efforts squandered.
Despite enjoying the best of the chances in the first half, City’s ‘keeper Sarah Quantrill was caught out by a long-range strike on 41 minutes, with Kayla Potter giving the hosts a half-time lead.
Sensing that the tie was slipping away, Herdman made a double substitution at halftime in order to inject more energy into the side, turning to two familiar faces in the form of Katie Knights and Rachel Lawrence.
Sunday’s game also marked the long-awaited return from injury for City defender Ceri Flye, who has been out of action for the last month. There was certainly no rust in her performance, springing into life in the second half to block two Bees’ opportunities and provide extra support to Quantrill in goal.
Norwich’s perseverance came undone five minutes from time, with Abbie Benstead scoring yet another chipped finish past Quantrill, in what was almost a carbon copy of the first goal, to send London Bees into the third round of the League Cup with a 2-0 victory.
Despite both goals coming in a similar fashion, Herdman gave his full backing to Quantrill this week, with previous number one Bryony Williams signing for Wroxham on a dual contract in order to get more minutes. His backing in Quantrill is unwavering, and rightly so after her recent performances.
The fact that both goals came from long-range, chipped strikes could be spun in a positive light by the management team and was something that Herdman highlighted in his post-match interview, as the Canaries were able to limit a team from a higher division into only taking long shots, dealing with all the other clear cut chances that came their way.
Yes, Norwich’s unbeaten start to the season is over, but the manner in which they lost certainly isn’t a cause for concern, and taking into account that the team would prioritise promotion over a cup run, I’m sure we’re in for more good times from the women this season.
So, both the men’s and women’s teams registered defeat this weekend, but that’s where the comparisons between the two sides end. It feels like the men’s team is in turmoil currently both on and off the pitch, with fans’ tensions reaching boiling point after the most recent display (if you can call it that) against Sunderland.
The poor squad, poor management, and poor performances have left the Canary fans to witness three successive defeats, in a season that has seen the lowest points return at this stage in the Championship by Norwich since our relegation in 2008-09.
With reports surfacing that David Wagner will be in charge for next weekend’s fixture against Blackburn Rovers at Carrow Road, you have to feel sorry for him at this stage, as it almost feels like he’s a pig being left for slaughter by the club.
A victory would paper over the cracks, and anything else would turn Carrow Road into a toxic cesspit that we haven’t seen since the days of Chris Hughton’s stewardship a decade ago.
With Herdman’s side, however, this defeat can be chalked as a one-off. The women are still unbeaten in the league, and the camaraderie and determination to deliver the league title this term is the driving force surrounding the side at the moment, with every opponent fearing coming to the Nest this season.
After what seems like an age, City are back at The Nest next weekend as they host Ashford Town (KO 14:00) in what promises to be a tight game, as the visitors can draw level on points with Norwich with a win, with the Canaries going into the fixture in second place in the division, four points behind AFC Wimbledon but with a game in hand over the Dons.
Nerves will be tested, but a victory next weekend will cement Norwich as THE team to beat in the National League Division One South East.
The fixture will have a bittersweet tone to it, however, as both the men’s and women’s games will clash due to Sky Sports’ decision to broadcast Norwich vs Blackburn as the Sunday Championship live game.
It’s typical that Norwich have gone so long without a home game, and then when they are welcomed back at the Nest, the attendance will undoubtedly be impacted by the match at Carrow Road.
How long do we have to wait for both men’s and women’s sides to have double-matchdays at the same stadium?
I know the popularity of the women’s game has increased tenfold in the last five years, but a move to play all fixtures at Carrow Road, and doing double fixtures if the men’s squad are also playing, will only increase attendances as more supporters are likely to stay and support the women.
Having clashes like this at two different venues, however, is a recipe for disaster and could actively halt the increase in attendances the club has seen at The Nest this season.
So, a choice must be made by City supporters.
If you want to see a team full of passion, spirit, and a never-say-die attitude, you know where to go on Sunday.