Norwich City pulled off a win in Alan Irvine’s second and possibly last game in charge, against Barnsley at Carrow Road on Saturday and won for the first time in seven games.
Irvine didn’t make any big changes and fielded the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation that Alex Neil had implemented. Alex Pritchard got another start, Jacob Murphy returned and Whittaker replaced the suspended Mitchell Dijks, other than that it was a case of ‘as you were.’
It was the home side that started off on the front foot and Jacob Murphy carried the biggest threat early on with his pace. Howson and Pritchard both tested Adam Davies with regulation saves before Pritchard curled another shot fractionally wide on 22 minutes.
At the other end, Tom Bradshaw saw an effort ruled out for a clear offside, just as he was wheeling away in triumph, much to the relief of the Carrow Road faithful.
On 30 minutes, Wes Hoolahan limped off with a thigh injury that looks likely to rule him out of the Irish national side in the international break and he was replaced by Steven Naismith.
The opener arrived just a minute before the break when Jerome chased a lond ball on the left. He won the foot race with a Barnsley defender and then fired in a crisp low shot from 10 yards.
That seemed to lift the fans and we finally had something to cheer about as the half time whistle sounded.
The Tykes came mightily close to equalising twice inside the first minute of the second half as first, Hamill flicked the ball goalwards but it didn’t have the legs from six yards out. The resulting corner saw McGovern then parry MacDonald’s close range effort.
There then started a succession of missed efforts from Barnsley that went high wide and handsome. Had the visitors had a bit more composure, this could easily have been a defeat for Norwich.
Naismith was played in by Jerome on the hour but fired over Davies’ bar. The Scot was involved in the second goal on 70 minutes with a first time volley after a pass from Whittaker.
Davies got down very well to pull off a one handed save only to see the ball lofted back over him, across the area, Davies got up in time to save well again, this time from Murphy, only for the ball to fall to MacDonald who deflected the ball into his own net.
Jerome had a chance to make it 3-0 a few minutes later when Naismith put him one on one with Davies, only for the Tykes’ keeper to save well with his leg. MacDonald redeemed himself before the end when he threw his head in the way of a goal bound shot from Howson on the line, with Davies beaten.
There were late cameos from Oliveira and Dorrans and it’s good to have them both back.
City deserved to win but it could’ve been different against a team of better finishers than Barnsley. What happens next isn’t exactly known. We know that the club are interviewing candidates for Sporting Director and that after that, the new man will help hire a Head Coach (manager to you and I).
Whether they can sort that out in the next two weeks seems unlikely to me.
It’s worth noting that we’re now only 5 points off the play-offs – if only we could play all our remaining games at home…