Norwich City’s record is down to resilience, not luck

Wes Hoolahan battles with Steven Pienaar at Goodison Park. Wes Hoolahan battles with Steven Pienaar at Goodison Park.

Monday, November 26, 2012
3:32 PM

For a long, long time Saturday‘s visit to Goodison Park had all the hallmarks of our FA Cup trip there nine seasons ago.

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A City side on a bit of a roll in the league, seeing the game as a chance to measure their forthcoming prospects and eventually being put firmly in their place by a clinical home side after conceding early on.

It was at that point in 2004 you began to wonder about City’s Premier League chances. But not this time.

Yes, there’s still two thirds of the season to go and the small matter of 25 points still to be secured, but three words spring to mind here; consistency, consistency, consistency.

It doesn’t matter where or against whom, but we are steadily picking up points. Fail to win against QPR? Never mind, we’ll see off Manchester United instead.

Given our current unpredictable record we might struggle in our next five games, but then beat Chelsea and Manchester City after Christmas.

Who knows? But with this amount of determination we’ll certainly visit West Ham on January 1 having long since broken the 20-point mark.

Because if you can go to the team fifth in the table, not play at all well and still come away with a point, anything is possible.

Another week and we still remain five points clear of the bottom three.

That would be success enough, but to come from behind for the third time to claim an away point shows rather more resilience than just plain luck.

At the moment we can dig in and get something out of games, whereas teams such as Reading continue to throw away leads.

Yes we might have fallen two behind at Everton – as was the case in the 2004 FA Cup – but we didn’t and you always fancied we might get something out of it as long as we were able to hang in there at 1-0 down. One good ball into the box is all we were waiting for – whether it came after 19 or 90 minutes.

In the process we probably didn’t win many new friends on Merseyside, and there will certainly be a lot of griping about the free-kick which led to Sébastien Bassong’s goal, but I don’t care. At the moment we are making ourselves very hard to beat and all the attention on potential strugglers is being directed elsewhere.

The less attention we get this season the better, quite frankly. It’s like we have sneaked almost un-noticed into the Premier League now – well, I would say like Stoke, except Chris Hughton picks up far fewer brickbats for his team’s style of play than ever Tony Pulis did.

No, the focus can be on QPR’s new manager, or Paul Lambert’s continuing woes at Aston Villa, or Martin O’Neill’s “offer to resign”.

As long as we fall under the radar by continuing to steadily amass points we will reach the 40 mark with time to spare.

Considering that we’ve only one point less from our first 13 games than a year ago – when we didn’t have such defensive disasters as Fulham away and Liverpool at home – we can be very optimistic about our Premier League prospects.

Such is the manner of our displays since being taken apart at Stamford Bridge – and how unfortunate does it look now to have been given that fixture so early? – you suspect that if we could play Liverpool and Fulham again now we’d comfortably take a point off both of them.

So if we can take four points from this week’s two games – it doesn’t matter which way – we can almost be in a position where we could “throw” the Swansea match to concentrate fully on beating Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup the following Tuesday.

Premier League survival and a cup semi-final? Who said this season was going to be a struggle to merely consolidate?

• TICKET PRICE GUESSING GAME

It’s time to play guess the price increase – to which of the following figures do we think the rise in 2013/14 Norwich City season-ticket prices, as alluded to at Thursday’s annual meeting, will be closest?

• 1.4pc: the average rise in earnings in the year to April 2012, as calculated by the Office for National Statistics

• 1.8pc: this year’s increase in the national minimum wage

• 2.7pc: the current rate of inflation, as calculated via the consumer prices index in October

• 10pc: the approximate extra the likes of me paid out at the start of this year for a 2012/13 season ticket

• 70.2pc: the difference in domestic television rights for the Premier League between the 2010-13 deal and the new 2013-16 agreement, which will begin with the first game – City hope – covered by next year’s season tickets.

• ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS AT ST MARY’S

It doesn’t take much to be a record breaker these days – witness ‘achievements’ such as the largest amount of Smurfs in one place – so Wednesday ought to be pretty special.

When City go to Southampton for a Premier League game it will be a mere two years and 347 days since the two clubs met at St Mary’s in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie.

Never can a fixture have changed status so much in such a short space of time from also-ran affair to meeting of international appeal. It’s surely a first and last in Premier League history.

Let’s face it, back on December 15, 2009 the Press box would surely have been filled by only interested parties from Hampshire and Norfolk.

No international reporters or significant UK rights holders would have had the slightest concern about what was actually a rather entertaining evening which ended in defeat for us following an epic spot-kick shoot-out which went to 18 penalties.

It just wasn’t the sort of occasion that would attract too many corporate official club partners, no matter how tax-deductible football matches might be in the blue-chip world.

The team line-ups also make for interesting reading almost three years on. For the home side, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert all started, as did Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan for the Canaries.

Quite conceivably all could start again on Wednesday, while Russell Martin is another prominent survivor.

Their continuing presence could be about the only similarity. There will certainly be no sign of £9 adult admission prices this time around and the attendance will probably be around twice the JPT crowd of 15,453.

That game was also our 29th fixture of the 2009/10 campaign, whereas Wednesday will be only the 17th of a less packed schedule this year.

Ignoring the penalty shoot-out three years ago, that was our second 2-2 draw at St Mary’s in the space of a month.

Good results, yes, and I’d be happy with a repeat, but we’ve moved on a bit since then and ought to be capable of aiming for only our third top-flight victory at Southampton – and the first at St Mary‘s. Now that would be a record worth setting.

• BAD TIMING

Talk about bad timing. Take away Chelsea (I can still live with losing there) and Fulham (I can’t) from our away record and we’ve lost only once on our travels this season, at Newcastle.

If only we hadn’t played them in September. Since then injuries and European involvement look as though they’ve caught up with them and they’ve won just one of their eight subsequent fixtures.

You now just wonder whether maybe Wednesday isn’t exactly an ideal time to be playing a Southampton side who will be looking for an improbable third successive victory.

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