Norwich City are doing well but sloppy moments need to be eradicated
06:30 27 September 2014
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Sometimes in football it’s more important to give less attention to where you are and more to how you got there.
While a return of over two points per game and second place in the table is a highly satisfactory state of affairs at this stage of the season, I suspect that Neil Adams will be increasingly concerned by the sloppy periods which seem to punctuate every City performance.
City started like a runaway train on Saturday and, had Lewis Grabban gone for accuracy rather than power when faced with an empty net, could well have blown Birmingham away.
However, while the visitors’ first goal had more than a hint of fortune about it, the space afforded to Callum Reilly to line up a shot was inexcusable.
Even then I suspect that most of us thought that City would simply move up a gear, but in fact they started to lose their way, with passes going astray on a regular basis.
The second Birmingham goal gave an indication of the uncertainty in the centre of City’s defence engendered by the impressive Clayton Donaldson, who caused problems throughout.
Whilst a 2-0 half-time scoreline (and let’s not forgot the strong penalty shout which was turned down and could have made it three) flattered Brum, it highlighted how error prone City had been.
The starting formation looked rather unbalanced, with Wes Hoolahan lined up on the left but constantly drifting infield in search of possession. Consequently Martin Olsson was regularly pushing high up the pitch to provide a wide outlet, and that in turn left a lot of inviting space behind him for Birmingham to exploit on the counter.
With the mobile Donaldson constantly working across the back line there was clearly some confusion as to who should pick him up and at no point did City look totally comfortable defensively when Birmingham broke forward.
However, the half time change was a courageous piece of brinksmanship from Adams. By withdrawing Hoolahan and putting on another winger he was effectively gambling on Bradley Johnson and Alex Tettey being able to cope with three opponents in the centre of midfield.
While that was a major factor in City’s re-emergence as an attacking force it also provided some edge-of-the-seat moments when Birmingham counter-attacked.
Overall it was a great comeback but they’re being required rather too regularly at the moment.
Before moving on from last week’s game, however, I should mention referee Darren Sheldrake, 6ft 2ins of preening self-importance and surely a Premier League official in the making. He has all the attributes; a tendency to brandish cards for innocuous offences, the ability to experience a completely different reality to everyone else in the stadium and a burning desire to put himself in the spotlight. He’ll go far, sadly.
It’s probably as well not to dwell on Tuesday’s disappointing no show, but the lack of sharpness of fringe players does underline the dangers of the lack of competitive reserve team football. At some point those players will be needed and expected to hit the ground running. Let’s hope they’ll be ready.
Today its back to the league treadmill – and anyone who thinks that this afternoon will be easy is living in cloud cuckoo land.
While Blackpool are only being kept off the bottom of the table by the parlous state of Fulham they have become increasingly defensively obdurate in recent weeks, even if goals have been hard to come by, and they have already held Wolves at home.
Certainly City cannot afford the profligacy of recent weeks as this is a classic example of a potential banana skin, and having dropped points against a limited side last week they will be desperate not to do so again.