Date: 7th October 2018 at 8:50am
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Having returned home from the first big signal that autumn is here and that winter is on it’s way as I sat shivering at Carrow Road, watching Norwich lose to Stoke, I’ve now reflected on what I watched.

The possession stats show that Norwich had 68% of the ball, which by any team’s standards is a lot and yet, they couldn’t beat a solid but quite disappointing Stoke side.

Stoke are full of former Premier League players, who I expect are earning a large number of small fortunes between them and yet, they were comprehensively outplayed for long periods by a Norwich team assembled for a fraction of the price.

I think I’m right in saying that Tom Ince cost Stoke £12m and yet he looked far from that price tag today. It is though, a reminder of what Norwich are up against in some quarters of English football.

The Canaries’ ball retention and passing was mostly very good, which is why that possession stat is what it is. The problem for Norwich here came at the sharp end of the pitch and they didn’t really have an outlet up top. Teemu Pukki looked like he’d played a game too many, which is no slight on him because he’s been leading the Norwich line and scoring goals throughout this eight game unbeaten run. It just looked like a better choice here would’ve been Jordan Rhodes.

Rhodes ended up getting 20 odd minutes at the end and by that time, Stoke were manning their trenches and dodging the kitchen sinks that were being hurled at them.

When the Potters did score, it was via a Martina cross that was diverted past Tim Krul via Timm Klose’s outstretched boot. A huge slice of luck is the best way to describe the game’s only goal.

Norwich were unfortunate, to say the least, to be behind at the break and looked confident with smart, slick passing. Stoke struggled at times to stay in the game but once they had taken the lead, they settled and in the second half they dropped deeper and deeper, only really being a threat on the odd counter, with clear cut chances being at a premium at both ends.

The best chances of the game for Norwich came in the first half, when Jamal Lewis’ good effort from a tight angle was parried over by Butland and then in the second, when Pukki fired straight at the Stoke keeper from distance and when Stiepermann stung his hands from 20 yards. None of those efforts gave the England keeper much trouble and all were regulation saves.

At the other end, Tim Krul only had a couple of regulation saves to make and was never in trouble, although Joe Allen did fire over from 12 yards out at the end of a rare Stoke second half counter.

I don’t think I can really moan too much about the performance other than not scoring a goal, something that fans of any team are always disappointed about. The Canaries were dominant but didn’t win, that’s all you can say really. Keep playing like this though and the points will rack up.

The Championship table is still ridiculously close, with eight sides below Norwich within 3 points of them and to emphasise that, QPR are 18th and only 4 points off Norwich – it’s nuts, even by this league’s standards.

One thing that really was noticeable about the day, was the reaction of the Carrow Road crowd who were invited by Daniel Farke before the game to keep making the noise, now that we’re playing back in “our living room” and boy, did they do that. The stadium was as noisy as it’s been for a long time and never mind the ideas of banging a drum and getting a band together, the simple facts are that performances on the pitch correspond to the reaction in the stands and vice versa.

Despite losing, Norwich were applauded and cheered off the pitch both at half and full time. You sense that the bond between the team and the supporters is as strong as it’s been for a long time and long may that continue.

What now follows is a dull international break. I say “dull” because it is for football fans but for the players and coaches, it’s a chance to regroup and get some rest, for those that aren’t travelling with their countries, and get ready to go again against Nottingham Forest in two weeks’ time.

After the last international break, the Canaries came out of the blocks at speed and went on an eight-game unbeaten run. The way the league is, they will need to perform at those levels again if they really want to become a fixture in the top six.

OTBC

 

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