Liberty Stadium is the perfect setting for Norwich City to shed their inconsistent streak
08:55 29 March 2014
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It couldn’t have gone much better for City last weekend. While the win against Sunderland was priceless in itself, the rest of the Premier League results were all in their favour.
However, I’m not going to get excited just yet. The simple fact is that the bottom half of the table is still extremely tight, with only four points separating West Ham in 11th and Crystal Palace in 17th. Ten teams are still very much in the mix, because no one has been able to find the consistency to pull themselves out of the quicksand.
And therein lies the problem with the argument that there are teams that City should be beating. There is so little to choose between the sides in the relegation scrap that anyone can, and frequently does, beat anyone else on any given day. Anyone looking for a logical pattern is going to be disappointed. For example, City have taken four points from Stoke, yet none from Villa, who’ve lost twice to Stoke. So who does that make the best side of the three? Answers on a postcard.
It is, and always has been, a dogfight, and it will go to the wire. For my money Fulham, Cardiff and West Brom will go down, but there are still all sorts of possible permutations. The win against Sunderland was uplifting, but we’ve been here before, so let’s not get too carried away. Home form has never been an issue; it’s City’s form away from Carrow Road that’s been the real threat to the club’s Premier League status.
However, that shouldn’t stop us relishing the memory of a superb performance in which everything, apart from Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s finishing, seemed to click. I really feel for the lad. As a former striker myself I know what it’s like to be in a drought. Suddenly the goal looks about half its normal size and goalkeepers seem unbeatable. Worst of all, you start to think about what you’re doing in front of goal instead of trusting to instinct.
He’s doing all the right things by working hard and contributing and he will come good. Goalscoring is one thing you can’t coach into a player and he’s a natural finisher; he just needs a goal to rediscover his self-belief.
Of course, self-belief isn’t a problem for Phil Dowd, a referee who seems to genuinely believe that people have paid to watch him rather than the players. Once again he puffed around Carrow Road like a portly, bandy-legged peacock, usually trailing the play by 20 yards and handing out extended lectures replete with dramatic hand gestures while he got his breath back. At least his performance had no real impact on the result of the game.
What did have a real impact was the increased pace of City’s midfield play. More positive build-up matched with better passing and ball retention were the key as Sunderland were given no opportunity to get onto the front foot.
Hopefully, City can now carry the confidence that the win must have given them into this afternoon’s match. Swansea are under pressure, and have never beaten City since the two sides got back to the Premier League. Surely this is a game where City will look to be positive away from home. In both of their visits to the Liberty Stadium they have taken the game to Swansea and been rewarded and a victory today would be priceless, although a point wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Now that the 30-point barrier has finally been breached the finishing line seems so much closer, but I still feel that another six points are required to be sure of safety. City have been maddeningly inconsistent all season, but now would be an awfully good time to stop.