Alex Neil made five changes and played two strikers, switching to a 3-5-2 for the trip to Brentford after being seemingly inflexible with his previous formations.
The manager has always played 4-2-3-1 or a variation of that in the previous 18 months, unless of course it was a late change of formation while in the position of chasing a game.
Cameron Jerome started alongside Nelson Oliveira up front with Ryan Bennett, Russell Martin and Timm Klose (Hallelujah!) as the three centre backs. Youssouf Mulumbu partnered Alex Tettey in the middle, in what might be his last game before the African Cup of Nations and Alex Pritchard was given the role of creator.
Pinto and Brady were the wing backs and both were influential throughout, in a system that proved a decent option as City dominated the game play and created all the chances. In fact Brentford didn’t have a single shot on target in the whole game.
It’s difficult to judge how effective this formation really was because the opposition were so poor. Brentford’s Scott Hogan, a rumoured target for plenty of clubs this January didn’t have a kick and was less of a threat than he was in the 5-0 drubbing at Carrow Road.
By contrast, Cameron Jerome missed at least three golden opportunities to score. In the first half he headed Brady’s lovely cross against his own shoulder and then straight at the Brentford keeper from 8 yards out in a central position. Then he out sprinted a defender while chasing a long ball only to lash his shot (with his shin) weakly at the keeper.
‘I could’ve done better than Jerome there’ I cried.
‘Yes, but you wouldn’t have got there, would you darling?’ replied my wife.
In the second half though, Jerome missed an absolute sitter that was reminiscent of his miss at Carrow Road against Everton last season.
Ivo Pinto burst forward on the right flank and surged into the box. His intelligent cut back found Jerome unmarked and ten yards out.
He smashed his first time, right footed shot over the bar.
The Sky camera flicked onto Jez Moxey and the Chief Executive had his head in his hands.
It was a terrible miss for a striker at any level, never mind playing for a club like Norwich City. When he was finally replaced late on, Jerome went to the dug out, sat down and put his training top over his head, slumped in his seat.
A few fans tried to suggest he was a bit rusty, later on Twitter. No, he’s just not very good.
The game looked to be petering out as a draw without much in the way of incident, when suddenly, with ten minutes to go, Robbie Brady was shown a red card for a challenge on Richard Woods.
Both men slid in towards the ball simultaneously and both were arguably out of control as they slid. Neither man had a straight leg and as they connected with the ball in between them, Woods rolled away in pain.
Brady came out with the ball but the referee blew his whistle, marched over and brandished the red card. It was a pathetic decision, not the first that the referee got wrong on the night and Brady was off.
Even with a man advantage though, Brentford still didn’t offer much and the game finished as a scoreless draw.
It was great to see big Timm Klose back in the side and after a nervy start, he grew into the game and showed he’s a class act. Playing on the left of the defensive three, with Martin in the middle and Bennett on the right, he did well, as did the other two.
As I said though, it’s difficult to judge it too much due to Brentford’s lack of attacking teeth. I don’t think we should get too carried away, as despite being the better side, we still couldn’t win the game and god knows, Alex Neil needed a win.
Cameron Jerome couldn’t finish a good breakfast yesterday and I’m sure he’d tell you that himself, this morning.
The red card shown to Brady was an appalling decision and no more than a fifty fifty challenge. Yes, Woods had some stud scrapes on his leg but he made a meal of it and I think it was his reaction that caused the ref to reach for the red.
I’m sure the club will appeal the card but on New Year’s Day I’m not sure if there is an appeal process in place, considering we play again tomorrow. If it doesn’t get overturned it will be a three match ban and could be the last time we see Brady in a Norwich shirt. Not the best way to end your Norwich career.
So, on to Monday and the return to Carrow Road of an ex hero.
Who put the ball in the Norwich net? Super Bradley Johnson.