Date: 17th July 2011 at 11:08am
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ANDREW NICKERSON shares his thoughts on yesterday’s first pre-season friendly.

I`m sure you`ll read the plenty of proper match reports about today`s friendly at Emerald Park against Gorleston. So on that basis, I`m hoping to offer some alternative thoughts on what I saw at today`s match.

Lets start with some tactical considerations. The first half was pretty much business as usual with the diamond formation in action. In goal was Declan Rudd, in defence from right to left, George Francomb, Ritchie de Laet, Zak Whitbread and Mark Tierney.

In midfield in the hole was the ever dependable David Fox, occupying the middle was Korey Smith and Tom Adeyemi and the front three were Wes Hoolahan in the hole, Grant Holt and Chrissy Martin up front.

On the stroke of the 30th minute, Grant Holt and Chrissy Martin were replaced by new boy Steve Morison and Simeon Jackson.

At half time, the rest of the team changed, with a more flat 4-4-2 in force. In goal was John Ruddy, in defence again from left to right was Russell Martin, Leon Barnett, Elliot Ward and Richard Brindley, in midfield was Bennett, Crofts, Johnson and Surman. Bennett and Surman played the wings up and down and Crofts and Johnson linked well, working in tandem to get forward as the other stayed back.

Morison and Jackson were taken off around the 60th minute mark for Aaron Wilbraham and James Vaughan. Josh Dawkin also replaced Richard Brindley and Matt Ball replaces Crofts in the final substitutions of the game.

I thought the diamond seemed much more fluid than the 4-4-2. I don`t know what it was. Maybe it was the familiarity of the diamond, maybe it was just the surprise of seeing Norwich play a way they haven`t really played since pre-Huckerby days with proper wingers running up and down the wings pinging in balls and not cutting inside every opportunity they got. However, it was refreshing to see essentially two different styles.

We did have that problem last year, for example in the Swansea away match, that if the opposition shut out the diamond, they shut out us entirely. There was no real plan ‘B`. This year, that seems to have changed. It will, however, take time and patience to allow the team to adapt to the style of a traditional 4-4-2 once more, should that be the direction Lambert takes us down.

We can talk all day about who impressed and who didn`t. Ultimately, though, we have to remember the opposition were not of a great standard. This was not a great challenge for Norwich today. But it was a good, solid work out for a team embarking on what will be a tough season. I will, however, make a few comments on the new players.

Ritchie de Laet: Looks quick and capable on the ball. He seemed calm under pressure and passed the ball neatly around, as you would expect from someone who`s spent some time training at Manchester Utd.

Steve Morison: From where I was stood, it looked like he scored the fifth. Radio Norfolk seemed to agree, but it seems Jackson got the final touch. Still, he also looked menacing, taking up some good positions and contributed well to play.

Elliot Bennett: Hugged the right wing from the 45th to 90th minute and took on the full back every chance he got. Put a few decent balls in too. Didn`t get quite as involved as he could, he really needed to come inside to get more involved.

Bradley Johnson: Lived up to his reputation for hitting long, wayward shots. That will need to be curbed. But did well, I thought. Worked hard to get forward and put in a few tackles himself.

James Vaughan: Felt sorry for the lad. Got himself into some great positions and tried very hard to get on the scoresheet, but his team mates were just not working on the same page. When he wanted it in front of him, the ball went wide to be crossed in. It just didn`t fall for him. Nevertheless, he worked hard and showed some great ball skills running at defenders.

Of the other players, mention should be made of my Man of the Match, Wes Hoolahan. He was pulling the strings for every second he was on, and I counted on one occasion three Gorleston players who were trying to deal with him and still couldn`t.

Young George Francomb, Richard Brindley and Josh Dawkin did nothing to disgrace themselves either. Young Josh put in two or three very telling crosses, one which eluded the keeper, hit the post and bounced out.

Declan Rudd continues to look more assured every time I see him. Despite my opinions on us needing an experienced understudy keeper, I don`t think Rudd is not capable of doing the job. Far from it, in fact.

Tom Adeyemi looked a little out classed today. He worked hard, but compared to Korey Smith was not as assured, quick thinking or technically capable. He was caught in position on two or three occasions.

It was great to see Leon Barnett back again. He was a massive loss to us last season and I think has been criminally underrated at his previous clubs. I believe Barnett will show his class this season.

Gorleston weren`t bad for a non league team. They fielded two different teams and both teams had their strengths. Both goalkeepers did well, marshalled their defences well and made crucial saves. I was also impressed by the second half central defence. I really should go to a few Gorleston games. It was a friendly atmosphere and I think with their promotion last season, it could be quite good to see a few games there.

The weather held out, which was nice. I walked there in very heavy rain and thought I was going to get soaked. I was pleasantly surprised to find three and a half of Gorleston`s stands were under cover. I was even more surprised when the rain went away and the sun came out. In the end, it proved a nice, pleasant day for football.

Conspicuous by their absence today were Cody McDonald, Owain Tudor Jones, Stephen Hughes, Oli Johnson, Steven Smith, Luke Daley and Anthony MacNamee. Adam Drury had apparantly a knee injury, Anthony Pilkington was absent because of his injury recovery and Simon Lappin was absent because his wife was having a baby. All the best to them.

As for the rest? Well. I`m sure internet conspiracy theories will start a fresh. I imagine a big indicator will be who goes on the Germany trip. Given the suggestion that the trip is as much for bonding as it is for anything else, you can`t imagine those staying behind will have much of a future in yellow and green.

I read a tweet at half time asking what use was Norwich playing teams like Gorleston. For Norwich? Probably not a lot. It was a training exercise. But for Gorleston, this is a huge match for them. The players that played that match for Gorleston will have enjoyed playing against the likes of regional house hold names like Grant Holt, Wes Hoolahan and Russell Martin. It probably ranks amongst their most memorable matches as footballers.

Financially as well, it was huge for them. At £15 a ticket for adults and £10 concessions, it`s probably fair to say there were a good 300 there. That`s before you factor in the raffle, the food and program sales. That money will be such a boost for them.

And finally, it`s a great occasion for fans. Not everyone can get to see their team live at Norwich on Premiership gate prices or can afford season tickets. And seeing them up close is a unique experience you can only get from watching at grounds like Emerald Park.

I, for one, hope that these sort of friendlies continue. Next up for the team? Germany for a week, and then back for Crystal Palace, Southend and Coventry away fixtures. I`m going to Southend and hope to provide twitter updates during the match and a similar analysis to this at the end of the game.


This article was originally published on the offofonhere blog. You can also follow Andrew on Twitter via @andrewnickerson.

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