Jinx or no jinx, Norwich City weren’t good enough

Norwich City are enduring a frustrating run of form. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Norwich City are enduring a frustrating run of form. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Prior to leaving for Craven Cottage, I did some homework into just how woeful City's record against Fulham was.

In the 16 matches played since we last beat them in 1986, we'd lost 12 times and only managed four draws. In those fixtures, we'd conceded an incredible 34 goals and scored just six. The signs weren't good.

Yet before kick-off there was an optimism that's not been felt before a game against our West London bogey team for quite some time. We were top of the league, Fulham were in the bottom three. We're not in a relegation dogfight. This isn't an unwanted FA Cup replay. It was the day we were going to put this so-called curse to bed.

It's a shame that positivity again didn't translate to the players. This season Norwich fans have been accustomed to watching their team start slowly. But a tendency to save our best football for the second half has turned into one which in the past two matches hasn't seen us attack with intent until the final 20 minutes of the game.

Perhaps from a distance, Saturday's defeat seemed unlucky. John Ruddy didn't have too much to do, we hit the bar from a penalty and then again with 10 minutes to go. It just wasn't our day.

But look beyond the hard luck stories and I think every fan in the Putney End would agree that it wasn't our day because we weren't good enough.

The 4-2-3-1 formation deployed by Neil Adams wasn't effective, and countless times Lewis Grabban found himself isolated on the left wing unable to beat Fulham right-back Tim Hoogland. Both he and the Norwich contingent in the crowd became increasingly frustrated.

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The feeling was that had Kyle Lafferty been fit perhaps Grabban would have been dropped in his place, such has been the noticeable dip in his performance levels recently. As it was, his disappointing afternoon being played out of position was topped off by failing to convert a penalty, an out-of-form striker's golden opportunity to better a record which now stands at one goal in the last seven.

We were sloppy in possession and in midfield in particular Fulham had far too much time on the ball. At 34, Scott Parker rolled back the years and powered forward as Norwich allowed him to spread the play like Xavi. Ironically, while City were too slow in moving the ball forward in the final third, it was a Fulham fast-paced attack that undid the Canaries after Michael Turner misplaced a pass high up the pitch and couldn't recover.

Nathan Redmond's deliveries into the box seldom threatened the Fulham back four. Quite why Redmond doesn't use his pace to run at defenders is a mystery. Instead, he seems to prefer taking his time with the ball at his feet to try and carve out a cross.

The introduction of Josh Murphy for the injured Wes Hoolahan seemed to prompt a change in formation to 4-4-2, and City looked much better for it. Murphy injected some much-needed urgency down the left-hand side and we began to play with a natural width. He switched the ball brilliantly and added unpredictably to our play which at last began to trouble the hosts. His superb effort that crashed against the crossbar almost capped off a memorable cameo.

Adams must now utilise his big squad. For example, in midfield for tomorrow night's match against Leeds, I believe Bradley Johnson will be lucky to start against his old club after two poor performances.

Jonny Howson, Gary O'Neil, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe – take your pick, Neil.