March 16 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
There were some positives to be taken out of Saturday’s visit to Stoke.
At least this time we didn’t lose 5-0, see the likes of Darren Huckerby talk themselves into a red card or get our goalkeeper sent off.
And at £25 it was also one of the cheaper away ticket prices of the season.
And at least we won’t have to see a game quite as bad until… the next time we take on Stoke, probably.
In entertainment terms it was like the last 22 months hadn’t happened and we were still making 400-mile round trips to see some pretty dreadful League One fare.
The last time we faced Stoke back in August it was something of a rude awakening to life in the Premier League and the gamesmanship involved.
Stoke’s approach was certainly the same second time around: time wasting, niggling fouls and general whingeing – best demonstrated when Tony Pulis did his impression of a spoiled toddler when he didn’t get the penalty he felt his side deserved.
And it’s true that the Canaries were better prepared this time around – quite apart from his general all-round excellence Zak Whitbread’s display against Peter Crouch was right out of the Stoke textbook on how to keep the opposition quiet.
But we still just weren’t in it on Saturday. Was trying to out-Stoke Stoke our downfall? I spent much of the first 70 minutes counting down the time because I felt that a 0-0 draw was as good as it was going to get for us.
The away wins we’ve managed this season were all against teams who gave us a bit more space – and I’m not referring to the fact that the domestic pitch at the Britannia Stadium looks rather smaller than the Europa League one if the scrubbed-out lines are anything to go by.
On Saturday our passing was poor, lumping long balls in the general direction of Grant Holt just didn’t work, and the afternoon had a stop-start feel due to the constant sound of Michael Oliver’s whistle.
We did start putting things together in the last 10 minutes, but by then the game had gone.
It was an odd afternoon. What might have happened if we’d started trying to play our own game like that earlier on? Or if you’re going to try to front up to Stoke’s physical style surely you’re going to bring on an ‘in your face’-type player like Steve Morison? What are we to make of him not being preferred to Aaron Wilbraham in instances like this?
Wilbraham certainly put himself about, but by then the game was lost and you just couldn’t see us ever scoring or being given a helping hand by the opposition defence.
I don’t really buy the excuses about a throw-in being given the wrong way. That rather smacked of Glenn Roeder complaining about a disputed injury-time free-kick at Bristol City four years ago. Officials make wrong decisions – you have to remain alert. We conceded a goal because of lax defending, not because the home side won a throw-in.
Maybe in four years’ time we can be in Stoke’s position. You weren’t exactly comparing like with like in squad terms on Saturday.
They start with Crouch and Jonathan Walters up front and then bring on Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones.
This is, after all, a club who spent £20m on Crouch and Wilson Palacios last summer.
Given that we only lost five of our first 13 away league fixtures our earlier triumphs made up for Saturday’s defeat.
Perhaps we’re just destined never to do anything at the Britannia Stadium in the same way that we’ve been simply unable to lose to Barnsley in recent years.
No, all in all it’s one of those games to forget, reflect on the fact that another week has gone by with none of the bottom five winning and move on. Well, forget until the next time we face Stoke and then try to use the experience to our advantage.
Although I can’t help but think that next time we visit the Britannia Stadium there won’t be such a sizeable away following. The main thing I’ve taken out of seeing Stoke twice this season is a mental note to maybe not waste so much time, money, energy and worry doing it again.
• POTTERS’ FANS DON’T HAVE MUCH TO SING ABOUT
There are some away grounds which can be a daunting prospect: Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge.. all the regular suspects.
The big stadia, or ones we might not have visited for some time.
But not, on either count, the Britannia Stadium.
As mentioned last week, it was a novel experience to go to Stoke and see a full ground, but other than that the ground itself had the feel of a well-attended Championship venue which had borrowed the Premier League’s logo and ‘theme music’ for the day.
It’s surprising that this was the biggest attendance for any Stoke versus Norwich match, but then you look at their season-ticket advert in Saturday’s programme and apart from one premium category all the prices quoted were less than the renewal amount I’ve just paid at Carrow Road.
Are Stoke’s prices subsidised as a result of four years’ presence in the Premier League or just as a result of ensuring that the ground remains filled, unlike their time in the Championship?
Either way Saturday’s atmosphere failed to live up to its popular billing.
On the field it was certainly uncompromising.
Around the stands, though, it wasn’t exactly the wall of sound that certain elements of the media might have you believe. Maybe the commentators, pundits and reporters who have made great play of the supposed buzz around the Britannia Stadium are simply too used to the general sterile matchday experience of the Premier League.
But I think it was best summed up by the chant which emerged from the away end on Saturday within the first 10 minutes: “Where’s your famous atmosphere?”
• LET’S GO OUT AND MAKE STATEMENT TO THE LEAGUE
Still can’t believe that this weekend’s City v Wigan clash deserves the ’blue-riband’ status afforded it by Sky.
Are fans across the land going to be glued to their screens come Sunday at 4pm? Hardly. It smacks of contractual obligation, frankly.
But when Dion Dublin or whoever gets wheeled out as a pundit is asked their views about City I hope they will say that we need the points as much as Wigan.
Perhaps we’ve been unlucky with how the fixtures have fallen over the last couple of weekends, but a victory would not only stop our current slide down midtable but also get us out of the slight tailspin which began against Leicester.
You can’t help but think that losing is an easy habit to get into when you’re all but safe in the Premier League. Just ask Charlton.
A good victory on Sunday along the lines of defeating Bolton will remind the likes of Newcastle, Wolves and Fulham that we haven’t declared on 30-odd points and still want to push on.
A repeat of last season’s draw at home to Preston and we might fall further places down the table on top of this weekend’s slight slide.
Come the end of this week and we’ll doubtless hear a lot along the lines of “no easy games in the Premier League”, “beware the wounded beast” or “Roberto Martinez will be looking to put things right again”.
But we’re at home to a team who are in some disarray and have scored far fewer away goals than us. If ever there was a fixture in which we should be looking to make a statement it’s this one.
• GIVE AND TAKE
I realise that I may be in a minority over this, but….
If, having been taunted throughout his time on the field about his Ipswich connections, Jonathan Walters then wants to respond in kind to opposition fans after the final whistle then I can live with it, frankly.