Alex Neil won the battle of the two Scottish managers as his side scored three goals against Paul Lambert’s Wolverhampton Wanderers to grab all three points.
Neil made two changes to the side that lost late at Southampton in mid-week with Jonny Howson returning in the centre and Cameron Jerome the lone front man. The atmosphere was quiet and library like in the first 45, lifted only by a brief chanting of ‘We want Moxey out’ from the Barclay, early on.
The return of Howson turned out to be pivotal as he gave a terrific individual performance that started with a big role in the first goal.
Howson is easily the club’s best central midfielder and he let fly with his left foot on 13 minutes from fully 30 yards. His thunderbolt of a shot struck the bar and came back out with Carl Ikeme nowhere. The Wolves defence tried to nod it away but the ball fell to Naismith who struck a full volley, low into the far corner.
The rest of the first half was a rather forgettable, dull affair, although the Canaries fully deserved their lead and were much the better side.
Paul Lambert had previously never lost a game at Carrow Road as a visiting manager, having won with Colchester and three times with Villa but his side were outplayed for long periods and that continued at the start of the second half.
Jerome went close to doubling the lead when he curled a shot against the inside of the post, only to see the ball rebound off and along the goal line and away to safety. Alex Neil held his head in his hands as that happened because he knew we needed to score again.
On 55 minutes though, the visitors were given an unlikely way back into the game when Pinto was adjudged to have pushed Doherty in the area. It was soft but Mr Coote pointed to the spot and Costa fired the spot kick high into the net to equalise.
Wolves were arguably in the ascendancy after that and the game hung in the balance. The chap I sit next to had brought his season ticket renewal with him because he was undecided about renewing for next year and was thinking of handing it in after the game. I suggested that he’d be cancelling it after that Costa penalty and he laughed and agreed.
It was just so typical of the way that Norwich have played this season and I was expecting either a draw or a loss to be honest but City got their own slice of luck on 73 minutes.
A Howson cross into the box fell to Hoolahan and he was bundled and barged as he twisted and turned in the area before being taken down by Carl Ikeme.
Wes bounced up but was quickly pushed to the floor again by Ikeme as Mr Coote pointed to the penalty spot.
There was then an unseemly melee as three players surrounded Hoolahan including Doherty, who squared up to him. Ikeme was shown a straight red with Doherty getting a yellow, which could easily have been another red due to his behaviour. Bizarrely, Wes was also booked, maybe for something he said because he didn’t seem to do anything physical.
Paul Lambert, always so proactive with his substitutes, had gone for broke and used all three by the 66th minute, meaning that an outfield player would have to go into goal. Doherty got the gloves and shirt of reserve keeper Burgoyne thrown at him.
Robbie Brady then fired a decent penalty home to make it 2-1 and that was basically game over for the Wolves.
In the 90th minute, Jonny Howson scored via a deflection from a Pritchard corner with another great shot from his left foot to make the points safe.
This was a strange game for the first 45 because it was so quiet inside Carrow Road. There was what seemed to me like a level of apathy among the home crowd with most seeming to have a negative outlook. The chap I mentioned earlier, who I sit next to said that it was almost ‘a chore’ having to come to Carrow Road these days.
He told me that he used to love an afternoon at the football but that the way things have been lately he’s starting to fall out of love with it. It’s not just the team performances, he said but the general decision making from the board and some of the baffling decisions they have made. The biggest of course, being how is Alex Neil still the manager of Norwich City?
We both agreed as we chatted that the team has plenty of talent in it but for whatever reason, Neil just can’t get a tune out of them. I’ll let you know if he renews.
At 1-1, the game was finely balanced and despite being second best for long periods, it could’ve gone either way before Ikeme saw red.
To my mind, this result doesn’t prove much. Yes, Norwich won most of their individual battles on the pitch and I’m pleased we won and are now five points off the play-offs but it doesn’t show any me that any corners have been turned.
Next week is another home game and a great chance to get three more points against a mis-firing Birmingham City. There is a long way to go yet before I’ll be convinced that a promotion push is back on and even if it does turn out that way, Alex Neil still isn’t up to the Premier League.