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Familiar story as Norwich City fail to build on big win

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 December 2016

Sebastien Bassong of Norwich clears the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Oakwell, Barnsley. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Sebastien Bassong of Norwich clears the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Oakwell, Barnsley. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

If the trip to Oakwell was a perfect opportunity to prove the thumping win over Brentford was a catalyst for change after a dreadful couple of months, Alex Neil’s side delivered a first-half performance that instead signalled it must have been a false dawn.

Yet again the frailties of this Norwich team were exposed as they were outfought by a team who simply wanted it more. Unfortunately the skill, talent and cumulative worth of this squad count for little when the 11 players on the pitch fail to apply the very basics. Neil’s admission that City just hadn’t competed physically in the first 45 minutes was the latest in a long line of comments in recent weeks that have infuriated and condemned in equal measure.

In fairness to Neil, he would have been a brave man to make unenforced changes to a side that scored five and kept a first clean sheet since August. The decision to field Josh Murphy for the unavailable Steven Naismith was an attacking-minded one, but the Scot’s battling qualities were sorely missed as the midfield were continually over-run and harangued by a Barnsley team buoyed by a 3-0 win at Birmingham seven days previous.

That doesn’t legislate though for the kind of capitulation fans have become used to witnessing, or the half-hearted attempts to win the ball that have so often been lost and led to the conceding of goals. Sebastien Bassong’s flailing leg while Tom Bradshaw nipped in ahead of him to sweep home from a low cross for Barnsley’s opener was the latest embarrassing example.

Bassong’s place in the team has to be in serious doubt going forward, with Timm Klose warming the bench on Saturday and having to settle for a place in the under-23 side that lost against Swansea midweek.

While some fans are of the opinion that the Swiss international will be the saviour of a struggling defensive unit, let’s not forget Klose was at the heart of the defence that surrendered twice at Fulham, lost 1-0 to Preston at home and conceded five at Brighton – a worrying reminder that City’s inability to prevent the opposition from scoring extends beyond the form of the current starting XI.

Aston Villa visit Carrow Road tomorrow knowing that victory would see them overtake Norwich in the table. The fortunes of both clubs could hardly have been more contrasting since Steve Bruce took over the reins. At that time, City were second while Villa were languishing in 19th, 16 points behind. While Villa have won 18 points in the nine games since, Norwich have won just seven.

With two televised home games in the space of four days, this week is surely make or break for Neil who simply must avoid a seventh defeat in eight Championship matches tomorrow night.

With that record in mind, as the festive party season hits full-swing and Christmas spending for many of us hits its peak, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if casual supporters vote with their feet given the cost of an adult match ticket starts at £38.

With high-flying Huddersfield to come on Friday, the desire and determination shown in a much improved second half at Oakwell may not be enough to secure maximum points in these fixtures, but it should be the bare minimum of what City fans can expect. Anything less and the players, management and board watching on will no doubt be made aware.

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