Norwich City gave a confident performance with a touch of style and class as they crushed Watford 3-0 to give Neil Adams his first competitive victory as City boss.
After a disappointing first game at Wolves last week, Adams was under a little bit of pressure and duly made some changes.
Javier Garrido had to replace the suspended Martin Olsson and Alex Tettey joined Johnson in the centre of midfield. Kyle Lafferty started on the left wing as Adams clearly didn’t want to lose Hoolahan from the line up. Andrew Surman incidentally didn’t make the squad, presumably some sort of injury.
The result was never in doubt after Hornets’ defender, Joel Ekstrand was given a straight red card in only the second minute after a tussle with Nathan Redmond as they both chased a ball over the top.
It looked like Ekstrand swung an elbow and Redmond fell to the floor clutching his face. The linesman gave the decision and after a quick consultation, referee Paul Tierney brandished the red card.
Redmond had blood from his nose on his shirt which had to be changed and played for several minutes with padding stuffed up his nose to stem the blood. After that, every time he touched the ball he was booed by the visiting fans, who presumably had rose tinted spectacles on.
Norwich controlled the play from that point on and it always looked like a goal would only be a matter of time. After a number of chances came and went with Grabban and Lafferty linking up well along with Hoolahan, the deadlock was finally broken on 32 minutes by Bradley Johnson.
Wes Hoolahan received the ball on the edge of the Watford area and then twisted and turned – he actually left one of the defenders on his backside before he slid the ball to Johnson.
Johnno looked up and chipped a perfect shot over Gomes into the top corner from 20 odd yards – it was a terrific finish and summed up Johnson’s contribution today. His passing was also right on the money, time and again he played perfect cross field passes to the likes of Lafferty and Redmond. He was strong in the tackle, as usual but his range of passing was a joy to behold.
I criticised his passing last week but couldn’t fault much that he did today, well done fella.
Watford struggled to impose themselves on the game as an attacking threat too much and Ruddy had little to do in that first half. Parades, the tormentor in chief of Bolton last week had to fill in at right back in the re-shuffle after the sending off and was therefore unable to dictate play. Deeney and Vydra were fed scraps much of the time and were well shackled by Turner and Martin – if Deeney is worth £12m then I’m a Dutchman.
The second half saw no changes for City but Lloyd Dyer came on for the visitors and immediately provided a pacey outlet, forcing Ruddy into a sharp save early in the half.
Lafferty was a threat throughout and cut an imposing presence both going forwards and defending. He’s also ‘got quick feet for a big man’ as he showed his dribbling skills on a number of occasions. He came closest to opening his account when he just failed to connect with a terrific low cross from Whittaker as he slid in.
On 59 minutes, the second vital goal game with another lovely effort from Lewis Grabban. He received the ball 25 yards from goal and twisted and turned before aiming a chip goal wards. It got a slight deflection that took it over the diving Gomes and into the net.
Gomes was often off his line in the game and chipped twice for goals, reminding me that Harry Redknapp didn’t think he was up to much and neither do I.
Whilst I was just texting my boss Nigel, who bet me a pound that City would lose, Norwich got a third goal courtesy of a 25 yarder from Alex Tettey, low to Gomes’ right – game over.
Neil Adams then took the chance to make some changes, no doubt with Tuesday night’s visit of Blackburn in mind.
Gary O’Neil, Elliot Bennett and Leroy Fer replaced Hoolahan, Lafferty and Tettey to standing ovations.
O’Neil looked tidy in possession and played some sensible passes as he moved the ball neatly around. Leroy Fer meanwhile showed his class and strength as he proved another threat for the visitor’s defence.
When the final whistle came, Fer seemed to make a point of applauding all four corners of the ground. Is he on his way? A good bye maybe?
Neil Adams says not, in his after match interview with Chris Goreham, stating that there’s nothing doing at the moment and he intends to keep Leroy – I hope he’s right as he would be a big asset.
Of course the red card changed the game, which Watford boss, Beepe Sannino was quick to point out. Watford were right up against it from the second minute onwards and did well to hold out for as long as they did.
But City were composed and cool in possession as they stroked the ball around the park. Grabban was lively and showed good movement and he linked up well with Lafferty and Hoolahan. The formation was a little odd with Lafferty starting on the left but I get the impression that Adams wants Wes in his side, whatever happens.
That proved a good decision as Hoolahan dictated and probed and as I mentioned earlier, on one occasion he was so tricky that he literally put one of Watford’s defenders on his backside before passing to Johnson, who scored.
Norwich ended up with 63% possession and had 30 shots with 10 being on target. We also had 12 corners.
Watford had 37% possession and had 10 shots with 3 being on target and managed to force just 1 corner.
It was a thoroughly professional performance from a side that were roundly criticised last week.
With regard to that, I read a few personal blogs as well as various forum comments this week suggesting that we are doomed in The Championship because Neil Adams doesn’t know what he’s doing and that unless he’s sacked immediately then we’ve had it.
After just one game, ONE GAME!
Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve only won one game and against ten men at that. Our season will not be defined by either single result but the point being that it’s way too early for the doomsayers to start all that nonsense.
I definitely detect an undercurrent of discontent over Adams’ appointment. It’s the same undercurrent that wanted Hughton out for such a long time. By the way, I’m not suggesting Hughton should’ve stayed!
An example of this is a season ticket holder that my wife works with – on Friday, he said to her ‘I hope we lose 4 nil tomorrow, so that they sack Adams.’
I just cannot understand that mentality – I want my team to do well and win football matches, I don’t care who’s in charge as long as that is happening. I think that’s what support is.
Anyway, here’s the first win and 3 points on the board and here’s to many more!
Didn’t have much to do but made a great save from Dyer in the second half, confident and handled well – 6/10
A much better performance than last week. Decent defending and a constant threat and attacking option on the right – 7/10
Looked up to speed and didn’t look rusty. Always an attacking option going forward on the left – 7/10
Solid and handled Deeney well, not giving the supposed £12m man a sniff of goal – 7/10
Partnered Martin again and was as just as solid, not troubled by either Vydra or Deeney – 7/10
Ballistic pace and carried the ball forwards well. However, shooting and crossing was not good or clinical enough. In spite of that, he terrified the Watford defence whenever he entered their half – 7/10
Tirelessly worked alongside Johnson in midfield and also had a very good game. The pair of them bossed the midfield and he scored a very good goal – 8/10
The formation today showed that Adams rates Wes and wants him to be a crucial first team player. Tricky, creative and influential – 8/10
So close to scoring on his full debut. Linked up well with Grabban and will be a handful for whoever he faces, tireless running and physicality as well as quick feet, likes a dribble too – 8/10
Made decent runs and linked play up well with Hoolahan and Lafferty, scored on his home debut, a good day all round – 8/10
Given 25 minutes at the end and showed he can tackle and is comfortable in possession. Gets the ball and moves it on, promising stuff from the new man – 6/10
Replaced Lafferty and gave some natural width to the side. Decent late cameo appearance – 6/10
Showed in his 20 min appearance that he is a class act ‘He scored in Brazil’ chanted the crowd as he did a few step overs and sprayed the ball around. His last appearance in a City shirt? I desperately hope not – 6/10
Neil Adams – played an attacking line up and got a little bit of luck to play against ten men for so long. Managed things well and encouraged his charges from the side before making three changes with Tuesday night in mind – 7/10