The Tuckster reports on a vital win over Reading…
I`d been looking forward to this game all week, with equal amounts of optimism and trepidation. If we were to win it we would be almost safe, lose and the outlook would be unthinkable.
I was thinking this morning about the line up for the match and whether I would play one or two strikers if I was the manager. In the end, CH went for two and chose the big pairing of Holt and Kamara.
Snodgrass and Elliot Bennett were the wingers, with Howson and Johnson in the centre in a regular 4-4-2.
Prior to kick off the club had done everything they could think of to generate a rousing atmosphere from the supporters.
Every seat had a cardboard “clapper” attached which also doubled as a “YELLA ARMY” banner, the under 18`s cup run team came onto the pitch and did a lap of honour, and they rolled out fan favourites, Messers Eadie, Dublin and Huckerby to lift the fans.
I would say “Well done” to the club and my fellow supporters – the efforts worked and produced a huge amount of noise both before and during the game. I don`t think the few Reading fans that made the trip knew what to make of it all and the majority spent the match sitting on their seats. I honestly couldn`t hear them at all.
The match kicked off with City at full throttle and the visitors struggled to get out of their own half for the first 15 minutes or so. City didn`t produce much in the way of genuine chances though, other than Garrido`s low drive which was stopped on the line by Mccarthy.
The momentum changed a little on 18 minutes when Michael Turner sat down, injured. He couldn`t carry on and was quickly replaced by Ryan Bennett, the former Posh man`s first outing since the Luton Town debacle.
This short break seemed to allow Reading to change their ways and they started to press City back, winning several corners but not really troubling Bunn.
In injury time at the end of the half, Kamara had another good chance but hit his shot straight at McCarthy. It was goalless at the break and the half time scores from around the grounds only reinforced the fact that a win would definitely be needed.
Fortunately, the second half started for City like the first half and Kamara went close with two efforts early on which forced a couple of corners. On 50 minutes, Snodgrass` corner was powerfully headed goal wards by Holt. McCarthy could only parry the ball and it fell to Ryan Bennett who hit a volley into the roof of the net.
His celebration was Cantona like as he just stood there momentarily before being mobbed by his team mates. It was Ryan`s first goal since joining 13 months ago and his efforts in this match deserved it.
We were still celebrating the goal when just 90 seconds later McCarthy flapped at a cross and the ball fell to Elliot Bennett who took a touch and hit a shot which was deflected into the top corner to double the lead.
You could sense the relief as Bennett ran to the corner and punched the corner flag before he too was mobbed.
It now seemed a case of how many City would score. Reading were listless as City piled on the pressure, forcing a succession of corners that allowed Snodgrass to consistently produce great deliveries.
Holt got his head to three in succession, counting the first goal, and was unlucky with those efforts which went narrowly wide.
But 2 nil is a funny score – the next goal is all important for whichever side gets it and it typically went to Reading.
McCleary, who for me was their stand out player, was allowed to stride forward and just as I was thinking “Come on, close him down” he reached the edge of the box and thumped a powerful swerving shot past Bunn via his outstretched right hand.
Momentarily, the noise receded and I could almost hear the Reading fans before the home crowd got back on it.
With 20 minutes remaining this was a worry. Nerves started to creep in as the ball pin balled around with City failing to get control of it for any length of time.
Having said that though, Reading didn`t really pile forward as their predicament should`ve dictated, couple of close shaves aside the lads saw it out.
Kamara and Holt did brilliantly well right at the end as they kept the ball between them in the corner of the River End and Jarrold Stand. They won a couple of corners and the sight of Holt dribbling back and forth along the bye line before going down after a push in the back was a joy to behold as the five minutes of added on time ran out.
The cheer at the end was also deafening as everyone, players, staff and supporters alike knew what it meant. Holt and Kamara embraced as the rest of the players celebrated with their fans – a great day to be a Norwich supporter.
Now, you can say that we should`ve killed them off at two nil and got that third goal and it wasn`t through a lack of chances. McCarthy had a very good game, as he did in his Man of the match performance against Liverpool last week – City had 19 shots, 9 of which were on target.
The important thing was the result. At this stage nothing else matters, the time for testing tactics and changing formations is not now. This is the time for grinding out the points by doing whatever is required.
The bottom three all lost today and for Reading & QPR the game is up. The third spot is still up for grabs though and despite Wigan having a game in hand they look favourites to me, along with Villa. Wigan have to play six games, including the cup final in 22 days, which looks a tough ask to me and they play Villa at the DW on the last day of the season.
I am starting to breathe a little easier but CH is right when he says that we will need more points. A couple of draws or a win should do it for us and then RvW will be joining a Premier League side on July 1st.
On Canary Call on the way home, Rob Butler was a bit down on the “clappers” – I think he`s wrong, they gave the place a lift when we needed it and it helped create more noise from the less noisy parts of the ground. I know the Barclay don`t need it but the noise from the River End & Jarrold Stand justified it for me. Congratulations to all involved.
Butler & McVeigh also discussed whether Kamara is worth signing permanently. I think the jury is still out. He isn`t a winger, to my mind, which means he must be a striker. His aerial ability is not in question but I`m not 100% sure he has the technical ability.
The signing of RvW is a statement of intent. I will not be surprised if he is the first of several more, higher profile, more expensive players in the summer. I can also see CH going back for Gary Hooper and I reckon that with RvW confirmed as well as his contract running down, this could be an attractive move for both the player and Celtic.
If that is the plan then we may or may not sign KK – he could be a great impact player from the bench but I reckon Holty may have to settle for that role.
Anyway, regardless of that, next up is Stoke away. They also won today and as usual it will be a tough place to go, but if we could get a point or better than it may be enough, as I said last week, I don`t want to be too close to Villa, points wise, when they roll into town.