Chris Hughton’s team selection was unusually brave for this trip to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium. After a comprehensive defeat of Sunderland last Saturday, in which Wes Hoolahan played a nominal left sided role, the City manager played the same team – apart from the inclusion of Ryan Bennett in place of the injured Joseph Yobo.
Very unlike Hughton, you might say, especially away from home when faced with a team that would play 5 in midfield, leaving us numerically outnumbered straight away.
As has become the norm for away trips, we were poor. We have lost the last six away games in a row and not won away from home since that uncharacteristic away win at WBA in December.
Norwich were outpassed as Swansea kept most of the possession early on. Every time we got the ball, we couldn’t seem to hold on to it as the Swansea forwards squeezed the play and regained the ball way too easily.
The opening goal came on the half hour mark but not from the returning Michu or ‘The Beast’ Wilfried Bony – a player that Hughton admitted this week, he had kept an eye on before his move to Wales.
Routledge and Michu both had chances with Ruddy saving well from Routledge, Swansea’s offensive play was ominous.
On 30 minutes, a Jonjo Shelvey cross was cleared only as far as the edge of the area and fell to Jonathan De Guzman who smashed the ball home.
Sensing blood, The Swans drove forward looking for a second and they got their reward just before half time. De Guzman passed the ball to Bony who then back heeled it through the bamboozled Norwich defence to De Guzman who clipped the ball over Ruddy for a two nil half time lead.
It was no more than the home side deserved but the sight of Bony showboating moments later to the sound of ‘Ole’ from the crowd tells you all you need to know about the first half.
Hughton’s reaction was to replace Hoolahan and Howson with Johnson and Gutierrez – you’re looking to get back in the game and bring on Bradley Johnson!?
It almost paid off though as within minutes of the re-start Snodgrass almost pulled one back. The ball fell to the City winger in the area and his first time half volley was spectacularly blocked on the line by Ashley Williams – if that went in things may have been different, but it didn’t.
City huffed and puffed but created little before, as usual, RvW was replaced by Hooper just after 70 minutes – the Dutchman’s only significant effort being a header that was well saved by Vorm.
On 75 minutes though, the game was done as Bony shrugged away Bennett to put Shelvey through. He marched forward, waited for Routledge, who jogged past Martin and then played him in on goal. He scored with a well placed shot and the game was up.
Another away day thumping from a dismal effort all round.
The annoying thing is that three points here would’ve seen us almost safe. Swansea hadn’t won in nine prior to this and yet they roll us over easily.
Shelvey had far too much mobility for our side to deal with and De Guzman and Routledge pressed us high up the field, pushing us back in support of Bony. Bony didn’t score this time but he has twenty to his name this season and has shown that he is a Premier League striker after a stellar season in the Dutch league last year.
We have a ‘striker’ that used to be a hit there – on this form though, there’s only one that you’d want in your side and he doesn’t wear a yellow shirt.
Norwich were so far away from being a match for Swansea here today that it looks a surprise on paper that the two teams are so close in the table.
Norwich again put in an awful performance for the longest away trip of the season, the sense that the players couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort was unpalatable but seemingly true enough. The travelling fans had another desperate afternoon of turgid football to watch.
People pay their hard earned money to support their team and a trip like this will have cost hundreds of pounds – Gary Gowers makes a good point in his Metro blog when he notes that the likes of Russell Martin and Bradley Johnson most likely earn in one week, more than most of us earn in a year (that’s each).
Football fans will put up with a lot from their players but one thing they will never put up with is a lack of effort.