It’s officially December, a month where most people look forward to the festive period and relish spending time with their families without a care in the world.
But for us Norwich fans, we know December signals our biggest month of Championship football of the season with games coming thick and fast!
This month also sees us renew our rivalry with that lot down the road, a game that many of the City faithful are dreading given the current circumstances and positions of the teams.
But first, we need to focus on the present and turn our thoughts to Ashton Gate for what’s already our second trip to the South West of England this season.
Our first trip to Brizzle was a 0-1 victory in the Carabao Cup second round in August, with Polish winger Przemyslaw Placheta netting the only goal to help the Canaries advance.
You’d like to think we can replicate that result at the weekend, but it’s always difficult to gage how a team will play after losing to you in cup competition.
Based on this season so far both sides couldn’t be more evenly matched if they tried. Bristol City come into the fixture sitting 12th in the table and we’re two points and places behind in 14th.
Even when you analyse the form table over the last 10 games, the Robins sit just above us with 13 points from ten games, with us returning 10 from 10.
If those readings are anything to go by, we’re in for a slogfest from two teams fighting in vain to try and keep unrealistic aims of challenging for the play-offs alive whilst also looking over their shoulder anxiously.
The annoying thing is that we would have come into this fixture with real confidence around the team had we seen our lead against Watford extend to a win on Tuesday night. That would have seen us claim three wins from three with momentum on our side, with rumbles of a playoff push perhaps being taken seriously.
Instead, the predictable capitulation at Vicarage Road has provided us fans with a harsh reality check that, whichever way we spin it, nothing has changed and we’re just not that good at the moment, especially against the teams around us.
Spare a thought for the fans making the long trip this weekend. We fans have been through the wringer recently as the fallout from the AGM rages on and has been analysed meticulously. If we lose to the Bristolians on Sunday you need to remember that that’s fine and that any concerns and issues you have against the ownership structure against our beloved club is wrong.
We need to be part of the 80 percent and take a leaf out of Portsmouth’s book. How dare we boo once we inevitably concede a goal of our shortcomings.
I do expect this to be the beginning of constant hostilities towards the board, especially if Delia and Michael are in attendance, with their comments this week turning the fence-sitters into passionate members of the Delia Out brigade.
One of the main gripes has been the decision to stick with David Wagner (for whatever reason), something that Delia has “no idea” about anyway. In a similar position to us, our hosts on Sunday decided to twist last month, replacing the Championship veteran Nigel Pearson with Oxford United’s promising coach Liam Manning.
A prodigy to Russell Martin, Manning earned his first senior managerial role by taking over at MK Dons after the former Norwich captain left to manage Swansea.
He steered the Dons to a highly impressive third-place finish in League One during the 2021-22 season and helped Oxford United avoid the drop from the third-tier last season, leaving the Kassam Stadium with the side in the automatic promotion places this term.
Since being appointed at Ashton Gate, Bristol City have earned all three outcomes from his three games in charge, with an impressive 3-2 home win against Middlesbrough sandwiched between a 0-0 draw at QPR and a narrow 1-0 defeat to Southampton.
The coach also knows East Anglia well, having been born in the fine city and was in the Norwich academy before briefly signing a pro contract at Ipswich Town in the mid-2000s.
Dare I say he’d make a good fit in the Carrow Road hot seat in the future?
Unlike Norwich, the Robins have found it difficult to score goals rather than conceding. Their identical goals for and against a record of 19 have them as the sixth-lowest scorers in the division, but only West Brom, Leeds, and Leicester have conceded fewer goals.
Their highest scorer is Sam Bell with four goals, which says all you need to know about their form in front of goal.
I’m also worried about our goal output now. I’ve never really rated Hwang Ui-Jo, but after scoring two in two, to come off injured and be out until the new year is deeply concerning.
Even if Ashley Barnes links up well with Adam Idah and gets the best out of the Irishman, we’re still down to the bare bones on the bench. All our creativity will be on the pitch in the first minute, so the longer the game goes on without a goal, the greater the chance the hosts have of claiming all three points.
You must feel that with our abysmal defensive and injury record, this month may be one of the bleakest times for supporting Norwich City.
The silver lining is that Angus Gunn and Jonathan Rowe are both options for the fixture. I was made up for George Long for keeping a clean sheet against QPR, but there’s no denying that the number of goals he’s conceded during his short spell in the team has been disgraceful.
I know all of those goals weren’t his fault, but it will definitely be refreshing seeing our number 1 back between the sticks.
Playing Rowe could also give us that creative edge back through the youngster’s raw talent. Although Gabriel Sara is perhaps seen as the poster boy for the Canaries, I’m under the illusion that Rowe is our most important player when he’s on his game, so having him back in contention is huge.
Yes, injuries have caught up with us, especially with Hwang now joining Sargent on the treatment table, but the players we have returning may balance out the ability we’ve lost to injury.
Although you may get the impression that I’m rubbing my hands together with delight every time City lose just so I can rant, I do want and hope for us to win every single game, although playing a well-structured and organised team like Bristol City (which we’ve been anything but in recent games), I can’t look past a dull draw on the road.
I’m predicting a 1-1 draw, with City taking an early lead in the first half before the hosts dominate and eventually find a late goal.