Norwich City need to lose their soft touch and be prepared to fight

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Matty Pattison celebrates the opening goal for Norwich City in a 2-1 Championship

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Matty Pattison celebrates the opening goal for Norwich City in a 2-1 Championship win at Nottingham Forest in November 2008. Photo: Archant archiveNottingham - Saturday November 22nd, 2008: Matt Pattison of Norwich City celebrates his opening goal during the Coca Cola Championship match at The City Ground, Nottingham. (Pic by Alex Broadway/Focus Images) - Credit: Focus Images

Viewed in isolation an away defeat at one of the Championship's form sides would be neither surprising, nor particularly worrying.

However, Tuesday night's abject surrender had the air of something that's been coming for some time and the failure to beat a succession of mediocre teams in recent weeks has now turned what should have been a setback into something rather more serious.

Of course, a hammering always focuses attention on the defence, which has been having vaudeville moments for weeks, but it's also worth noting that for the umpteenth time in recent weeks City had plenty of possessio, but managed just one shot on target.

Goals are becoming few and far between and Neil Adams has every right to feel disappointed with the quality of the end product from his attacking players.

What makes the performance at Boro harder to stomach is the fact that Friday night's performance against Bolton was much improved.

With Jonny Howson at last given an attacking midfield role and Gary O'Neil providing the sort of intelligent and fluid link-up play that has been lacking in City's midfield, the whole side looked sharper.

O'Neil is the sort of player that every side needs. He does nothing flashy, but simply maintains the midfield tempo by playing simple passes early and then moving into a position to receive a return. Key to his effectiveness is the fact that he is rarely static when he receives the ball, making it much harder for opponents to close him down.

Most Read

However, while there were positives from Friday night, the debacle at the Riverside marked a new low in a campaign that has stalled alarmingly after a promising start.

It was always going to be a tough game, but it's the manner of the defeat, rather than the defeat itself, that has shocked many fans.

This time there was no goalkeeper playing a blinder or opponents parking the bus to excuse the result, just a strong, skilful side who simply wanted it more.

Inevitably, some will still repeat the mantra that the Championship is a tough league, and no one would dispute that it's a competition where anyone can beat anyone else.

However, it's hard for everyone, not just City, and the stark fact is the likes of Derby, Bournemouth and, yes, Ipswich are finding ways to win more often than not.

Look at each of those sides, though, and one thing is immediately obvious. Regardless of what quality they have, they also possess a sheer doggedness that sees them through in tight situations. Finesse and skill are great, but sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and win ugly.

While the romantic view of City's last promotion season is one of delightful passing football and flair (and there was plenty of that) a look at the highlights reels shows how many points were won by slinging it in the mixer and letting Grant Holt bully defenders. It doesn't have to be pretty because this is a league where artisans will outmuscle artists.

Goals don't have to be preceded by elaborate passing moves. Look at the opener against Bolton; a long ball to Cameron Jerome, a knock down, a spin and Howson's astute pass saw him one-on-one with the keeper. Simple, but effective.

There will certainly be a physical threat from today's opponents. Forest take no prisoners and certainly won't sit back and admire City's passing game, so total commitment will be essential from the men in yellow.

What's in Norwich's favour, though, is that Forest's results have dipped even more alarmingly than City's, and if the positive soundbites from Colney are translated into actions on the pitch this could be the perfect game to start a climb back up the table.