Wearside woe reserved for Sunderland as Norwich City prove their Premier League mettle

Norwich City midfielder Robert Snodgrass confronts Sunderland's Wes Brown after the challenge on Ricky van Wolfswinkel that earned him a late red card. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd Norwich City midfielder Robert Snodgrass confronts Sunderland's Wes Brown after the challenge on Ricky van Wolfswinkel that earned him a late red card. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Monday, December 23, 2013
10:38 AM

The temptation to focus on the negative connotations from a goalless stalemate should be resisted given the underlying sense of two clubs moving in opposite directions.

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"Norwich needed to offer further tangible proof they can leave the secure confines of Carrow Road and return with league points in their quest for upward mobility. Sunderland needed to breathe new life into a league campaign that necessitates an epic second act beyond Christmas to survive."

Paddy Davitt

Norwich’s second consecutive clean sheet on the road in the Premier League restored another portion of self-belief among a squad and a support who have suffered some horrific blows away from Carrow Road. City carved out enough decent opportunities on Wearside to have matched that previous win at the Hawthorns, but Chris Hughton and his players are now in the midst of a genuine fertile period in sharp contrast to Sunderland’s struggles.

Gus Poyet named eight of the side who had swept past Chelsea four days earlier to reach the Capital One Cup semi-finals and the hosts were backed by a volatile crowd who berated referee Martin Atkinson with wearying regularity.

This was no drab affair. This was a raw, frenzied contest, particularly in the final quarter, fuelled by a desperation from the terraces to grasp what they perceived as a golden opportunity.

Sunderland’s sixth winless top flight game kept them marooned at the very bottom and listing dreadfully. Poyet’s side require five points simply to edge out of the bottom three - given their parlous goal difference - another four points just to draw level with Norwich. Those are huge deficits approaching the half-way mark of the Premier League season.

Hughton set Norwich up to be defensively resolute and efficient on the counter-attack in a repeat of the successful formula at West Brom and in Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner he had the axis for an obdurate display that never quite demanded the same levels of resistance due to Sunderland’s lack of attacking menace. But there were still moments of tension as the volume reached a crescendo.

The bile directed towards Atkinson was in truth frustration at the Black Cats’ inability to make a significant dent in a City backline on what felt like a pivotal afternoon.

Norwich needed to offer further tangible proof they can leave the secure confines of Carrow Road and return with league points in their quest for upward mobility. Sunderland needed to breathe new life into a league campaign that necessitates an epic second act beyond Christmas to survive. The Canaries’ visit was clearly viewed as base camp; the first staging post in the hosts’ revival. Norwich will happily deal in draws away from home but that is not a currency which will keep the Black Cats out of the Football League and both Poyet and his disgruntled fans knew it at the final whistle. Atkinson was maligned for his refusal to award a penalty kick against Sebastien Bassong for a ball which clearly struck his lower chest and the red card for Wes Brown deep in stoppage time which robs them of an influential figure during this key period.

Brown’s scything lunge through Ricky van Wolfswinkel was a callous act that deserved retribution; a cheap shot borne out of frustration but with collateral damage to Sunderland’s festive prospects.

The Dutchman’s return after a lengthy lay-off in a second half cameo alongside Gary Hooper offered another positive dimension to the Canaries’ shift.

Injury has severely curtailed the union between two expensively purchased commodities who have plundered at a prolific rate at every stage of their young careers. Hughton’s side at the finish contained five of his summer recruits in a record outlay designed to address the deficiencies which undermined his debut season at the helm. Such solidity and defensive resolution were admirable traits lacking a reliable goalscoring threat, but in the quest to evolve Norwich appeared to had lost the hard edge which Hughton forged to address a porous start to his tenure.

Vito Mannone’s shot-stopping prowess frustrated Norwich at the Stadium of Light but the encouraging signs at West Brom were visible again on Wearside. City have exhibited a meanness without the ball and a potent intent in the final third during their recent away assignments. Robert Snodgrass’ return injected another element of devilment to City’s creative potential. Hooper was picked out with surgical precision in the second period but the striker’s glancing header dropped wide of the target.

Hughton had Wes Hoolahan and Josh Murphy on the bench and Anthony Pilkington and Elliott Bennett set to return in 2014. Norwich clearly possess the personnel to embellish that defensive ring constructed around John Ruddy. They also have a sense of momentum building and a festive fixture list that offers the potential for fresh gains. City may well have taken all three points against a fitful Sunderland but in denying the Black Cats the same return they maintained a sizeable distance between the two clubs that already appears unbridgeable.

Look beyond Norwich into the lowest reaches of the Premier League and you see rivals riven by internal politics that have messily erupted into the public domain or experiencing the upsetting process of managerial change. Norwich have no such worries and must make the most of real possibilities for further progress.

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23 comments

  • I think Wes could have made a contribution. I must say however that I also thought Fox could contribute and now he can't even get a game for Barnsley, maybe Hughton knows something after all.

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    PaulWho

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • And a step backwards in yours Serinus. Good luck with the sprouts and Christmas pud, x Bill

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    Bill Punton's bald patch

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • GW, if fyou read the first half of PD's quote "Norwich needed to offer further tangible proof they can leave the secure confines of Carrow Road and return with league points in their quest for upward mobility" (27 words) it means nothing more than "Norwich needed to maintain their recently improved away form" (9 words).

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    Pierre

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Let's not kid ourselves, we're still in the relegation mix - concede ANY points to Fulham and Palace and we deserve to be there, especially with Manure on the up. Have you sent your CV to The Guardian's Culture Editor yet, Paddy?

    Report this comment

    jigs69

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • SM, your somewhat dire alliterative offensive attacking Paddy's pertinent prose would tend to suggest that you yourself place more emphasis on form rather than meaning. Are you a Serinus Pedanticus by any chance? However, as most of us on this forum are serini at heart, I suggest we wish each other a Merry Christmas and 3 points for the Canaries on Thursday. OTBC

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    GW

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • I'll take that as a step forward in your case, 'Bill Punton's bald patch.'

    Report this comment

    serinus mozambicus

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • For me the introduction of Wes for Redmond with 20 minutes or so to go, would not have changed our defensive play at all as Redmond does not help out the defender to start with. Wes on the other hand has the ability to creat chances for the two strikers so surely that move would have been a win win once Redmond had tired the full back out.

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    TrevorKeith

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Very well written as always, but the thesis is wrong. The attitude of the club, not necessarily the team, is to be content with a draw at the bottom club. The dreadfully heavy earlier away defeats and the prospect of relegation have instilled an attitude of fear at Board and manager level, you only have to read Hughton's comments to know this. The players can play attacking football, and would be prompted to do so by Wes Hoolahan. But the management appear to discourage such an attitude and Hoolahan remains on the bench. They may rue it come May.

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    Lastsongster

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Lets focus on the next game - as far as I am concerned we are overdue a WIN against Fulham. Three points on Boxing Day will do fine - then bring on Man Utd and throw the kitchen sink at them ! 25 Points by the year's end and people will start to believe. OTBC

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    Dubai Canary

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • I agree, Pierre, but what's wrong with preferring Shakespeare to Holinshed?

    Report this comment

    GW

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • My lips are sealed

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    Bill Punton's bald patch

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • Insightful, quality writing? This lot of c0ck, waffle, and p1ss?

    Report this comment

    Cecil

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • The alliterative phrase is completely pertinent in all senses GW - it's Davitt's; it's diarrhoeal; and it's drivel. I have no problem with adventurous vocabulary or with any literary device but the scribe in question actively destroys his thesis, as well as the reader's will to live, through his verbosity. Not a pedant then; just squeamish in regard to appalling journalism. However, yes, it's Christmas - so no more on this (for a while) and here's to six points before Saturday at 5pm!

    Report this comment

    serinus mozambicus

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • Paddy Davitts insight, and the quality of his writing is a pleasure to behold. As good as that "Norwich God", Mick Dennis. I look forward to his excellent Monday essays with pleasure.

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    Algarve Canary

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Having rewatched MOTD earlier, I am still baffled as to why Ruddy decided to run out to the touch line in a vein attempt to get the ball from an attacker. Only the gods know how they missed that sitter afterwards.

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    TrevorKeith

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • I find myself agreeing with the basis of this article. Sunderland were on the back of a good cup result and were looking at Norwich as a must win game, we effectively stopped them in their tracks. It wasn't dazzling and I understand people ctying out for Wes, but I also empathise with CH for leaving things how they were because a point away from home and a clean sheet is not a given against any team especially one that is fighting for its life. Lets see what xmas brings OTBC!

    Report this comment

    GossVolley

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Paddy Davitt - the Jane Austen of the Sportsdesk. Quite a well-reasoned argument ruined by language more flowery than Kew Gardens.

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    el dingo

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Merry Xmas to all - even Paddy Davitt, patron saint of piffle.

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    el dingo

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • I was looking forward to reading about my beloved NCFC, not being party yet again to Davitt's thesaurus diving. Need a shower now; need to be cleansed of the adjective infection. Will somebody sort this man out and get him writing properly?

    Report this comment

    serinus mozambicus

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Enough said. Goss Volley puts us all right "Let's see what Christmas brings" OTBC NMTD

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    mardler

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Don't understand those comments denigrating Paddy's so-called "flowery" language. As usual this is a well written piece displaying a literary command of the "mot juste". If this irks you, go to the national tabloids for bottom-drawer football journalism. Keep up the good work, Paddy.

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    GW

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • That's pretty much what I meant Cecil! I obviously have a few lessons to learn myself!

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    serinus mozambicus

    Monday, December 23, 2013

  • The difference, GW, is that Shakespeare made every word count in terms of form and meaning; Davitt's diarrhoeal drivel adds little - or nothing - to sense. For your information, I turn to The Observer, The Guardian and The Times for proper football journalism. If you think this man writes well, you are ill-educated I'm afraid.

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    serinus mozambicus

    Monday, December 23, 2013

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