Norwich City failed to win for the seventh game in a row as they huffed and puffed to a 1-1 draw with Alex Neil`s Preston North End on Saturday.
Other than a spectacular free kick from James Maddison, it was another forgettable performance from the Canaries against a Preston side that for all their hard work looked pretty mediocre.
Don`t get me wrong, they are far from a bad side and on balance of chances and play, should have won the game. It`s just they`re nothing special and neither are Norwich.
Yet again, City failed to create enough chances and Nelson Oliveira was feeding off scraps. I don`t think he got a half chance, let alone a clear cut one, all afternoon.
Preston, like every other side in the Championship, did their homework and pinned Norwich in, denying them the space and time to play. Whenever we had a goal kick, the Preston forwards were pushed up against our defenders around the box, meaning Angus Gunn had to invariably kick it long, thus creating a 50/50.
There were quite a few more long balls than usual early on, enough to make me think it was a tactic, not that it bothered the Preston defence too much.
Josh Murphy frustrates me on a weekly basis at the moment. He is so weak on the ball and brushed off it as easily as a fly is brushed off your arm on a hot summer`s day. Here he had a terrific chance to open the scoring when he beat Maxwell to the ball after a text book Wes Hoolahan ball over the top, in the first half.
Maxwell was out of his goal and it seemed Murphy was certain to score but he hesitated and his shot at the empty goal was blocked.
“He`s only young,” said the bloke behind me at half time when we discussed it but he`s not that young, is he? He, and his brother for that matter, remind me of Nathan Redmond. Clearly a talent but far too inconsistent to effect games on a weekly basis.
Will we still be describing him as “a young player” in one, two or three year`s time?
The stand out attacking player was yet again, James Maddison.
He scored an exceptional free kick here. Literally in the top right of the goal, a postage stamp finish in the top bin. It really was special but brilliant though it was, how long before a Premier League side submits a £15m+ bid for him?
I think we`ll be lucky if he stays with us for the rest of the season because as we have seen, the club are not in a position to withstand any sort of big bid at all.
The most bizarre thing about this game though and the reason it will stick long in the memory for one man in particular, was the appointment of City fan Dave “Spud” Thornhill as the fourth official after a linesman was unable to continue, late on.
It seems that Spud sits near the dugouts and as the referee pondered what to do without a fourth official, Spud made himself known to Alex Neil, offering to step in as a qualified local referee.
Neil made this known to the ref and suddenly Spud is putting on the EA Sports sponsored tracksuit top.
You couldn`t make it up.
Even though the second half lasted 59 minutes, neither side could force a winner and the long break in the action contributed massively to breaking up play and stopping the momentum that City had when the Lino started limping.
A real plus for City was the return to action of Alex Pritchard, who ended up playing around 28 minutes, showing a few flashes of class but also a little ring rust, which is only to be expected.
He starts for the U23s tomorrow at Carrow Road against Aston Villa when he will hopefully get at least another 45 minutes of football under his belt.
City have a long injury list at the moment and when everyone is fit, we surely have a first XI that can compete with almost anyone in the league – on paper at least. I say that because we still have a struggle creating chances and testing the opposition goal keeper regularly enough. Did Maxwell have a really serious shot to save other than Maddison`s free kick? I can`t remember one.
Next up is a Friday night trip to high flying Cardiff and Sky TV exposure, it could be a problem.
I`m generally a positive chap but my resolve is being tested to the limit at the moment and Preston`s small away following not withstanding, I suspect a few people decided not to bother at all and stay at home or go Christmas shopping instead of watching the cold afternoon`s “entertainment”.
I`m not being entertained though, are you? Other than Maddison`s free kick and a couple of moves involving Maddison and Wesley Hoolahan, it was boring and despite digging out my North Face Parka for it`s first outing of the season, it could do nothing for my frozen feet.
There was nothing to warm me up happening on the pitch and that is the biggest worry at the moment.