The Tuckster reviews City’s 2-1 loss to West Brom.
That run couldn’t go on for ever…
With 22 points from the last 30 available, Norwich City`s recent fine run of form has seen them close to within four points of a Champions League slot. High times indeed, and while I don`t really think we`ll trouble the European places, it`s a nice stat to tell your mates.
Chris Hughton made only one change to the side for the trip to West Brom and it was forced on him after last week`s hamstring trouble for Grant Holt – Steve Morison replaced him up front.
Arguably, Norwich had the best of the first half, playing some very nice possession football. At times, the West Brom players just couldn`t get the ball but they were always dangerous on the break and Lukaku in particular was a real threat.
Mark Bunn had to be on his toes to save one fierce shot and watched as another header from the big Belgian went over the bar.
On 23 minutes, Odemwingie clumsily bundled Robert Snodgrass over 25 yards from goal. It was another chance for the City winger to enhance his reputation as a free kick taker – he duly obliged and sent his shot into Foster`s top left hand corner.
The Baggies` keeper got a hand to it and shook his head afterwards, clearly thinking he should`ve saved it, he was probably right. But make no mistake, this was a powerful strike and that was what did for Foster, as much as a little ring rust as he started for the first time for several months.
Going one nil down spurred Albion on, and from a corner McAuley threw himself at the ball. Bunn stuck out a right foot and although he didn`t know much about it, cleared the ball off the line.
With half time looming, Albion scored in somewhat controversial circumstances.
Gera and Tettey challenged for a high ball and despite a clash of heads, the ball clearly went out off of Gera`s head – inexplicably the ref gave a corner!
The ball came in and Bunn was arguably blocked by Odemwingie but still managed to get a touch to Olsson`s header to tip the ball onto the bar. Gera reacted quickest to score from close range.
It was tough on City as they were good value for their lead up till that point. If you ignore the perceived wrongs in the run up to the goal, the yellow shirts should`ve done more to keep this one out.
By contrast, the second half saw neither keeper threatened anywhere near as much. Turner put a header wide and Odemwingie fluffed a free kick but the game bogged down a little in midfield after the half time introduction of Fortune.
This brought an extra threat for Norwich to think about and seemed a decent tactical change from Steve Clarke.
With just eight minutes remaining, the winner came from West Brom.
A long ball in towards the giant Lukaku saw Garrido isolated against him. Javier Garrido`s game is not heading balls away from the likes of Lukaku.
The Chelsea loan player duly thumped his header past Bunn, who had very little chance.
It was tough on Norwich who will feel this was a game that they deserved at least a point from. In the remaining minutes, West Brom did everything they could to slow it down while the City players tried to keep the tempo up.
The late(ish) introductions of Jackson and Howson helped with this – Hughton was forced into an earlier substitution when Martin replaced Whittaker who the manager later revealed had felt his hip again.
In the dying seconds, Bradley Johnson headed just wide from a Snodgrass free kick but that was it. All good things must come to an end.
The key now for Chris Hughton will be to pick the team up for a Boxing Day visit from Chelsea. Obviously this will be a tough one with City having to play at 100% and hoping that the Blues have a little bit of an off day.
Steve Morison did okay here today but we obviously missed Holt today. Media reports as well as comment from Hughton and Bassong suggest that Holt is not too badly injured and won`t be out for long – I hope that`s true and he could play on Boxing Day. He is a massive influence on the team, even when he doesn`t score.
It does lead me to wonder if Hughton will feel the need to dip into the January market for a striker (never the best time to buy players).
This though, was a good game of football between two decent teams who have both surprised in most quarters outside their own fan base.
We`re still in good shape though and it`s now up to Chrissy Hughton to get another run going.
Merry Christmas and OTBC