Simple, but effective – and the perfect way for Norwich City to get rid of a blip
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
If Norwich City ever needed to grind out a 1-0 result it was against Wigan – and that is exactly what the lads did.
It was a no-nonsense performance and just goes to prove that when they have to, they can win games ugly. Games don't always have to be won by playing it the beautiful way.
Neil has proven in the past with his successful 2013 FA Youth Cup winners that he can organise a team to be solid defensively and very hard to beat. In the two-legged final against Chelsea the lads were superb because Neil had drilled them with the tactics of defending deep, getting men behind the ball and making themselves very hard to break down and very difficult to beat. He did the same at the end of last season when he took the team to Stamford Bridge and came away with a very creditable 0-0 using very similar tactics.
Just because the club is now in the Championship he must not think for one minute that the team is too good to win games playing like they did against Wigan.
Yes, it's great to entertain, score goals and play attractive attacking football, but that doesn't always win you games. There is nothing wrong in this league, especially away from home, in setting out your stall and asking the question of the other team, 'are you good enough to break us down?'
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I think many of us were surprised with Neil's selection last week, especially the midfield four. He opted for four out-and-out central midfielders, full of hard work, battling qualities and, most importantly, vastly experienced. Okay, there was not much pace and width in the team, but with just one win in 10, playing with pace and width, it was a good time for Neil to make a change.
I thought the goal was brilliant in its simplicity and just goes to prove you don't have to look for the perfect goal every time you attack.
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Three players touched the ball after a huge kick from John Ruddy. Cameron Jerome's neat flick on to his striker partner was perfect – Gary Hooper's anticipation to Jerome's flick is what good centre forward play is all about. His hold-up play to give Howson the time he needed to arrive in the box was top class. Hooper's lay-off was inch-perfect, which meant Howson didn't even have to break stride to fire in the winning goal against Malky Mackay's men.
It was simple, but so very effective, and I'd be more than happy to see the team score a few more goals like that one in the next few weeks. I am not saying I want Norwich to be a long ball team, but every now and then just mix play up a bit and be a bit more unpredictable to play against.
The win against Wigan really was the best start possible to a very hectic December and the team now really does need to kick on and show people that their blip is well and truly over.
Having won only once in their last eight home games, tomorrow is a game that they need to show everybody that they are back on track with automatic promotion still a real possibility.