THE TUCKSTER on yesterday’s Premier League victory against Queens Park Rangers.
Football, as we know is all about opinions. I took a little bit of stick last week when I said that I enjoy watching the best players in the league and enjoy watching them perform. Of course I want Norwich to win above all things but seeing the cream of the crop is part of the enjoyment of being in the Premier league.
This is why I`m looking forward to watching the Liverpool versus Manchester City game on Sunday afternoon – I`m a Norwich City fan and also a football fan generally, I make no apologies for that.
Anyway, on to this crunch game against QPR. I call it a crunch game because both teams were nicely placed in mid-table before kick-off and both want to stay in the league. If we want to stay up we will need to beat the likes of QPR at home.
Paul Lambert shuffled his pack again and brought in a few faces that hadn`t seen much game time of late. There was a surprise start at right back for Ritchie De Laet with Naughton dropping to the bench and also starts for Andrew Surman on the left of midfield and Simeon Jackson up front. A more conventional 4-4-2, which surely surprised Neil Warnock.
The game started with a decent spell of pressure from Norwich and it was immediately obvious that with all due respect to them, QPR would be a different prospect to Arsenal last week. “We`ll be able to get at them” I thought.
On 15 minutes the deadlock was broken when a left footed corner was sent in by Andrew Surman from in front of the Snake Pit.The ball broke loose in the six yard box and Russell Martin lashed the ball past Radek Cerny into the QPR goal. It was a deserved lead and one that City still had intact at the half time break.
I can`t say that the rest of the first half was great because it was a little short of goalmouth action. Jackson had a shot comfortably saved by Cerny and Morison had a splendid curling effort fly just over the bar. John Ruddy didn`t have much to do either and only had one serious save to make from the lively Wright-Phillips. He made the save at his near post and although the ball didn`t stick to him he was up quickly enough to put Mackie off with the rebound, which he smashed into the side netting from a tight angle.
There was a heart in mouth moment earlier when Wright-Phillips and Ruddy both went for the ball at speed in the area. Ruddy dived and SWP went over – referee, Mark Clattenburg pointed only for a goal kick and Warnock was incensed.
In an after match interview, Russell Martin said that Warnock had shouted words to the effect of “I bet Holt would`ve got a penalty if he`d gone down there!” This harks back to last season`s meeting at Carrow Rd when City won 1-0 and Neil Warnock was very generous about our Grant in his after match comments.
He was similarly generous about Kevin Davies after Bolton thumped QPR on the first day of the season – he clearly isn`t a fan of the good old fashioned English centre forward.
The second half started and QPR had obviously had a rocket from their manager. They were more committed and looked up for it, but still didn`t cause too much trouble for us – until the 59th minute when Leon Barnett had a chance to clear but fluffed it. Jamie Mackie struck the ball against the inside of the post from distance and it rebounded out to Luke Young, who hit a low hard shot into the City net.
At 1-1 the crowd was clearly nervous and every misplaced pass was greeted with howls of derision from those around me. QPR kept up the pressure as I was thinking “we need a change”. Lambert obviously thought the same and it was a welcome sight to see Hoolahan and Holt waiting to come on with twenty minutes to go.
Just before QPR scored, De Laet had to be replaced by Naughton and left the field with a back injury, so this double substitution had to be right. Wes and Grant had only been on the field for three minutes when Holt scored the winner, set up by Hoolahan. Steve Morison did brilliantly to jink past a couple of defenders and get to the by-line.
He chipped his cross to the back post over a stranded Cerny for the waiting Holt who headed with power at goal from close range. Sean Derry was there to clear off the line and the QPR defence seemed to think that their work was done and stood still as Hoolahan got the ball and crossed for Holt to score from inside the six yard box.
The rest of the match passed without too much more incident and although QPR pressed and had a few more shots, they came to nothing. Morison had a great opportunity to play Holt clear late on but fluffed a simple pass. And that was that. A great win and much needed three points in light of next week`s visit to Eastlands.
I spoke about opinions at the start and just want to finish by talking about a couple I heard after the match about this particular game. On Canary Call I heard “Disco” Dale Gordon talking about Jackson`s performance and that he thought that he had a great game.
I didn`t think he had a great game. He did okay but Holt`s impact in 20 minutes was much better than Simeon`s in the previous 70. A minor difference of opinion there but not terrible, that was left for Neil Warnock.
In his after match interview he actually said that he felt his team had been “mugged” and were much the better team and that City “got out of jail.” My thought is “What game were you watching, Neil?” It doesn`t matter who he manages, he has created a persona for himself amongst football fans that not many appreciate. You can`t help respect what he has achieved in the game with many different clubs but he never seems to be gracious in defeat.
I`ve already spoken about his comments last season about Holt and again this season about Kevin Davies. There is no doubt in my mind that we deserved to win this game but if you only listened to him you`d think this was somehow a complete travesty of a result.
Another couple of opinions for you were that Andrew Crofts was superb in the centre of midfield and should`ve been man of the match – that went to Morison, incidentally. Also, Andrew Surman had a great game, although he was better in the second half than the first. He hasn`t played for the first team since September but did himself no harm at all and showed what a good footballer he can be.
Next week we go to Manchester City and you`ve got to accept the enormity of the task facing our team, but having said that, we`ve been to Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool and played without fear. The three points we got here will give us a cushion in a game you have to think of as a free hit – any point there would be massive.
So, yesterday was a great win and we`ve now got maximum points at home against Swansea and QPR and are sitting in ninth after thirteen games played – so far so good.
One word of warning though to anyone visiting Carrow Road this season – make sure you keep your hand on your wallet, I wouldn`t want anyone else to get mugged…
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