Michael Bailey: Carrow woes, tired excuses, a transformer and one sliding tackle – Six things from City’s Barnsley draw
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There wasn’t much freshness to Norwich City following the international break – MICHAEL BAILEY brings his six things learned from their 1-1 draw with Barnsley at Carrow Road.
1 – Reason slips into excuse
Let’s get this one out of the way first; the thing we really didn’t want to see after two weeks spare to get to work.
Tiredness clearly took its toll during City’s run of three successive league defeats. Everyone needed the break. Gauging performances was neither here nor there. Only digging-in sufficed.
It all meant there should have been a freshness to Norwich on Saturday, against a young team always likely to come with legs – while also unlikely to thrust themselves in Canaries faces.
And yet, from almost first minute to last there was no energy to the hosts’ play. No zip. No spark. A listless performance that wasn’t particularly livened up by the one goal it brought.
Agreeing with the reality is the easy bit. The reasons why it happened is where the importance lies. If that resides anywhere other than a limp day at the office – and City were already pushing their luck on that score at Carrow Road – then it could be a long winter.
2 – Carrow Woes are corrosive
Conversely, the reasons why are not especially key when it comes to the atmosphere at Carrow Road – all that matters is what it is.
A City fan called Jason told me he took his son Lennon to his first game on Saturday, who ended up spending most of it playing with his transformer. At least he had the foresight to bring it.
He’s already seen and loved and Under-23 game – I’m not sure what that means for Lennon’s supporting future.
Whatever you think is instigating it, the atmosphere on Saturday was nonexistent. It was football played in front of a paying crowd that sat down, watched and went home. Murphy’s goal almost served as an early wake-up call to see if people were actually paying attention.
Plenty will want to change that, and good on them. They will want to instigate something really positive at their club – and that should never change. But likewise, apathy is tough to shift when it really takes hold – and it seems it’s grip is growing.
3 – Hanley’s handy timing
There was one moment that didn’t involve a goal or a steward, that brought some genuine noise – a rangy sliding Grant Hanley tackle that promised to take everything with him if he got it wrong. He didn’t, of course – and a cheer followed.
Hanley has had to be patient, and spoke well on that fact when I interviewed him after the game. There was no way he could complain following City’s drastic defensive improvement in September.
And credit here to Daniel Farke, who didn’t give Hanley too much time to knock on his office door once those defensive levels started to head back south.
In some ways Hanley represents a pragmatism that Farke’s football ideals will need if they are to succeed in the Championship. Even though he wasn’t playing during September, he would have fitted in a treat.
And in the Scot’s own words now should be the time for him to get a real run of games, to settle in and see how much he can offer.
4 – Tweaking can get in the way
City have done it a lot before and they will do it again – but when it doesn’t work, boy does it look bad.
Fair play to Farke for wanting to be proactive – I’d rather see that than not fixing things that appear broken, and City certainly looked broken for chunks of Saturday’s first half.
Sadly his players were unable to help him or themselves out, and the defensive shambles they looked immediately after the interval ultimately cost them.
City were vulnerable on the wings in the first half – I wasn’t actually able to get out my worried tweet following the switch to three at the back, before City conceded.
Of all the things Farke told me he wanted to see improve when City returned to action on Saturday, defensive resolve was at the top of his list. The timing of Barnsley’s goal may have been coincidence to some – but there was little to suggest City looked anything other than less secure following Farke’s half-time intervention.
5 – By Heck, he’s doing it again
It was March 20 when I wrote how “he deserves all kind of praise for his work” – that was on Paul Heckingbottom following Barnsley’s Carrow Road visit last season. Eight months on, and the Tykes boss deserves even more of it.
Chatting to Cameron McGeehan before the weekend, it was clear just how respected the gaffer is at Oakwell – and it didn’t take much of Saturday’s game to see why.
Once again, he’s building an energetic team of young and lively players clearly pushing to make a name for themselves. They are on a good run and playing with confidence – but they also looked well organised, and are noticeably getting better as the games tick by.
All that, done with a turnover in playing staff that would give City a run for their summer money.
At some point the call will come and Heckingbottom’s good work will be rewarded with a bigger job. For now, he’s doing it all.
6 – Reality bites when its cold
Another of Farke’s Friday soundbites has stuck with me following Saturday – when he told me this is the period in the season when the table is made.
We’ve still got a few games in hand making the water muddy and in all reality, should City play like they did on Saturday too often they won’t need to worry about troubling the top six party any time this season.
And yet one look at the table without the context of Saturday’s performance and the idea of moving quickly on to the next game, suddenly becomes more appetising.
But Farke is right. This week alone is the last remaining shot before Christmas at bagging six points in just a few days – and that can make a lot of difference in a very short space of time.
Tuesday night in Nottingham will be tricky. Preston’s visit is the stuff of sub-plot heaven – and all a matter of days before this year’s AGM. You can already hear the fingers crossing.
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