If City were to win this game then they would be 7 points clear of Sunderland.
Lose it and they would be just 1 point ahead with a game less to play than the visitors.
As is the Norwich way in these type of situations, we failed to turn up and conceded 3 goals to boot.
Timm Klose didn’t make the squad but I don’t think that realistically many of us ever thought he would. Remember when Matt Jarvis was out for a month? I seem to remember he hyper extended his knee, which is how Alex Neil described Klose’s injury on Friday.
In his place we had the hesitant Seb Bassong. Big Seb always has a mistake in him and that was true here. Other than that, it was the same team that had beaten Newcastle and lost at Palace last week.
Norwich had the better of the early exchanges with Mannone having to save from Naismith and a heck of a shot from Olsson but the game really changed late on in the half when Andre Wisdom tackled Borini in the area. It was seemingly innocuous but suddenly Mr Marriner is pointing to the spot and brandishing a yellow card. Borini, who later claimed that Wisdom nearly broke his leg, managed to get up and send Ruddy the wrong way.
He then proceeded to slide on his knees in front of the City stand as though he’d just won the World Cup.
Nathan Redmond replaced an out of sorts Robbie Brady at the start of the second half. Brady’s only real contribution was to put Andre Yedlin into the advertising hoardings right in front of the Sunderland bench in the first ten minutes. They all leapt off the bench and charged at Brady, Sam Allardyce included and a huge melee ensued as the Norwich bench joined in. Jerome went toe to toe with Allardyce who clearly shoved Cameron. Handbags.
Anyway, that was that from Brady and Redmond immediately livened things up, hitting a post and generally looking up for it.
With just 53 minutes on the clock though it was Sunderland who got the game’s all important second goal. Throughout the game their one and only tactic was to look for Jermain Defoe over the top, it was completely effective though and it was Defoe who scored after a pass across goal from Borini. Bassong was dispossessed in the build up after dithering with the ball.
This jarred Norwich into life and they threatened a comeback for a while, forcing a succession of corners and having two weak Mbokani efforts cleared off Mannone’s line but ultimately it came to nothing.
As the game wore on, Hoolahan and Jerome entered the fray but neither made much impact, although Wes is surely more effective at home in the number 10 role than Naismith, isn’t he?
The Scot spent the game throwing himself to the floor and generally doing nothing – again. He had a good debut but has flattered to deceive ever since. He’s just not produced enough for me but I guess Neil feels that after paying £8m for him that he has to play him.
There were a few penalty shouts for Norwich, two in particular when Mbokani was pulled down by Kaboul and another when Bassong suffered a push in the back as a corner was taken – both were waved away in a very poor display of officiating by Andre Marriner.
With injury time announced as being 4 minutes, Wisdom went down in a tackle and couldn’t continue. There were gaps all over the field as City were now desperate and they avoided conceding a third on two occasions by the skin of their teeth as Sunderland looked to counter.
Eventually the third goal came from substitute Duncan Watmore, who looks a very good player, in the 91st minute. A counter attack saw him one on one with Ruddy and JR had no chance. He had no chance with any of the goals and didn’t have a save to make in the game.
Sunderland weren’t that much better than us and the score line flatters them.
The difference was that they were clinical and we weren’t. Defoe was a constant thorn in our side and it strikes me as odd that Neil selected Bassong instead of Martin.
Against Liverpool, Martin was selected to deal with small and pacey, Roberto Firmino and yet here, Martin wasn’t even in the squad. Is he fit? Fallen out with Neil? Anybody know?
With Newcastle winning as well, we will now only stay up by relying on the results of others and putting together some big results in our last four games. I reckon we will have to win two and get a draw to manage it.
I’m angry and annoyed by what I saw in this game, it simply wasn’t good enough. I’ll write more when I’ve calmed down in the next day or so…