Norwich City have added an extra dimension

After last week's column and in the light of the Leon Barnett penalty incident on Sunday I did consider asking the editor to rename this piece 'Mystic Rob's prophetic thoughts'.

However, never even in my most Nostradamus-like moments did I appreciate that Premier League pitches are actually laid out differently to those in the lower leagues.

Apparently there is an undefined piece of ground extending out from the penalty area (let's call it the Swarbrick Zone) within which any incident can be deemed by the referee to have occurred in the area itself in order to ruin a great game of football and to make himself the centre of attention.

OK, maybe that's a little facetious, but two dubious penalties in our first two games is beyond a joke and resulted in a slightly deflating end to a weekend which had started so promisingly with another humiliation of our friends from Suffolk, as Paul Jewell continues the great work done by Roy Keane in creating the world's most porous defence.

When Ipswich fans start talking fondly about Gareth McAuley's time in the centre of their back four, you know the present must be too awful to contemplate!


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However, enough about struggling lower league clubs, let's get back to City in the Premier League.

Regardless of the result, the lads did us proud with their performance against a very physical Stoke side, but what really impressed me was how solid we looked and how patient we were in possession.

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Having moved through two divisions where the game is often played at a hundred miles an hour, the Premier League comes as a bit of a culture shock (although Stoke are perhaps not the best example of a measured build up), yet in both games so far we have held the ball when nothing is on and been quite happy to go back in order to go forward.

What was also good to see was how easily we adapted to the 4-4-2 formation.

In our League One season we struggled whenever we deviated from the diamond, and, although we used a little more variation last year it was still the default that we always returned to.

However, with the acquisition of two fast and skilful wide players with an eye for goal, we now have the personnel to really stretch defences, which should make for some exciting times.

I must also comment on the absolutely electric atmosphere at Carrow Road on Sunday.

I haven't heard 'On the ball, City' sung with such gusto for some time, although I really wish that people would stop substituting 'scrummage' for 'scrimmage'!

I'm sure the players must have been lifted by the passion around the ground, although I was amazed to see the usual suspects filing out of the Jarrold with five minutes left and the game on a knife-edge. Wild horses wouldn't have been able to drag me from my seat in those closing minutes, and I find it hard to understand how a true football fan could just walk away.

By the way, on the subject of fans, well done to the club for identifying around 160 people cheating their fellow fans and their club by claiming under-21 concessions fraudulently. Those caught should be ashamed of themselves.

This week I shall be off to Stamford Bridge and the delights of Didier Drogba, a man for whom being vertical seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Let's just hope we can keep him out of the Swarbrick zone as well as the penalty box!

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