Nelson Oliveira must improve penalty area presence to fulfil potential at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The last time Huddersfield Town beat Norwich at Carrow Road I was only one years old, so I guess the Terriers were well overdue a win.
I thought they thoroughly deserved the three points they left with last Friday, they were tremendous, especially in the opening 45 minutes.
That opening period by David Wagner's men was the best half of football I've witnessed this season in the Championship, Norwich quite simply couldn't handle their pace and movement. Huddersfield looked so much quicker and fitter than Alex Neil's men and that would seriously concern me if I was the manager.
The likes of Kasey Palmer (on loan from Chelsea) and Elias Kachunga (on loan from German side FC Ingolstadt) simply caused havoc going forward but what impressed me the most was their work rate when Norwich had the ball especially in defensive areas.
They chased every lost cause and never gave the Norwich back four a minute's peace. To be fair to their team-mates they also worked tirelessly and it is all down to them buying into the way Wagner wants them to play, and why wouldn't they after their first five months of the season.
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To be fair to Norwich they huffed and puffed in the second half and had Nelson Oliveira scored his fourth goal in as many games when he was clean through on goal and tried chipping Danny Ward, only to see his effort go agonisingly past the post, they might have gone on to take something from the game but it wasn't to be.
That's the problem with Oliveira, he's a scorer of great goals not a great goal-scorer. In my opinion he doesn't score enough goals in the penalty box especially the six-yard box. He doesn't sniff chances out, he doesn't anticipate and react to balls coming into the box. If he can work on that part of his game, add that to his excellent all-round play, he could become a firm favourite down at Carrow Road.
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Norwich have now played 22 games and are well and truly off the pace for automatic promotion. In fact they will need a minor miracle to catch both Brighton and Newcastle. Norwich have won 10 of those 22 games and alarmingly those victories have come against teams from 14th position downwards.
Alex Neil's men have played eight of the top nine and have not beaten any of them. In fact they've only two points to show from those eight games which is why they find themselves sitting in 10th position in the Championship and that simply isn't good enough.
The only team Norwich haven't played in the top half of the league are Boxing Day's opponents Reading who under Japp Stam have had a terrific opening half to the season and their league position shows exactly that.
I was a huge Japp Stam admirer when he played. He was a typical no-nonsense, hard as nails, strong as you like centre-half and if he's half as intimidating in the changing room as he was when he played then the Reading players will be very wise not to cross or upset him.
Reading have been excellent at the Madejski Stadium. They've lost just once in 11 games there and have won seven of those which shows how tough a task the lads have to come away from there with a positive result.
I'd just like to finish by wishing you all a very happy Christmas, one I'm sure will be made happier with some points on Boxing Day.
Some mixed memories of the Madejski
I quite liked playing at the Madejski Stadium – believe you me it was far better than playing at Elm Park.
I remember our last game of the 1997-98 season when we played Reading at their old ground, in fact if I'm not mistaken I think it was Reading's very last game at Elm Park before they moved.
The pitch was shocking and because they knew they were moving they hadn't bothered spending any money on their facilities for a few years. So you can imagine the state the away changing room was after a long old season. It was one of those games that you just wanted to get over with and get yourself away for a well-earned holiday, well I thought it was well earned!
My last game at the Madejski wasn't quite as successful and it's the only time where I was quite pleased to be substituted. I used to hate being taken off, every player does as 99 times out of 100 it can only mean one thing, you've been rubbish!
I was wearing the blue shirt of Gillingham back in 2005, we were facing Reading who were running away with the league. At half-time we found ourselves 3-0 down courtesy of a Dave Kitson hat-trick – two penalties I hasten to add.
We'd been battered and I'd hardly had a kick so it was hardly a surprise when Andy Hessenthaler called me to have a chat with him and his assistant Wayne Jones in the shower area of our changing room. Andy was brilliant about it he simply said 'big fella I'm going to have to make a change to bring big Mama Sidibe on'. I knew he wasn't going to take Darren Byfield off as he was our top scorer so before he could say to me he was taking me off I quickly said to him 'Hessy do you want me to come off?'
Andy simply said he hated having to take me off like this but he just needed to get some more pace up front, I guess it was better than him telling me the truth which was that I'd been shocking in that first half.
We drew the second half 0-0 and for the first and only time I watched from the dug-out quite happy that I'd been taken off at half-time.