An unlikely comeback, even for this City

Steve GedgeA year ago I might have been a bit more worried about City's prospects for victory on Saturday.One down to a well-organised side, on a bitterly cold day and in the Football League's worst ground - it had away-day letdown written all over it.Steve Gedge

A year ago I might have been a bit more worried about City's prospects for victory on Saturday.

One down to a well-organised side, on a bitterly cold day and in the Football League's worst ground - it had away-day letdown written all over it.

But having seen all bar three of the Canaries' league fixtures this season I now know that the crucial thing is never to go more than one goal behind.

Such is the gulf in squad standards in this division that you always know that City have it within themselves to score twice in most second halves and make up for their earlier failings.

Except that Saturday's game really took this belief to the limit.

I don't want to start getting too carried away yet, but let's just say that it doesn't exactly auger too well for our 2010/11 prospects that we all too often keep having to wait until the second half to get to grips with some quite poor teams.

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And, you have to say, they don't come a lot poorer than the Seagulls.

As was seen at Carrow Road a couple of months ago, Brighton can be quite lively up front, but don't always take their chances and are shocking defensively.

And it was that last point that kept you going through Saturday's second half - the thought that, surely, sooner or later their back four would buckle.

We were lucky that, when it did happen, there was still enough time to go on and win.

I was just about reaching the point of starting to have to put a brave face on things by thinking that I'd settle for a point as long as Leeds didn't win.

There would have been some merit to that thinking, except that it would have meant we probably needed to win at the likes of Huddersfield or Swindon to make up for such easily-winnable points being needlessly tossed aside.

You would hope, though, that both those clubs provide more in the way of traditional matchday build-ups than the increasingly tired-looking Withdean Stadium.

'There is an atmosphere of anticipation,' said BBC Radio Sussex just before kick-off. Really? How could they tell?

I don't doubt for a moment that this had a lot to do with City's sluggish start.

Since our last visit to Sussex, Brighton have moved away fans from one end of the ground to the other and achieved the seemingly impossible feat of making an already non-existent view of the far goal even worse.

Particularly if you were in the front row. What with having a running track and a large expanse of space behind the near goal, the far one seemed so far away that the curvature of the Earth almost obscured the view.

Such was the distance involved the opposite end should really have had a different postcode to the rest of the ground.

Just as well, then, that all the goals were scored at 'our' end.

As a result City fans were able to reflect on one of the game's key moments, Michael Nelson's first-half goal-line clearance.

Had Brighton gone 2-0 up at that point they'd probably have gone on to get a third before the break and we'd now be embarking upon a Leeds and Charlton-style 'What's gone wrong?' post-mortem after a winning run came to an inexplicable end.

At least when Simon Lappin did likewise in the second half the Canaries were beginning to show a bit more purpose and you'd have thought they could have at least hit back to snatch a 2-2 draw.

But during the opening 45 minutes Norwich looked bereft of inspiration to break down a well-organised, packed Brighton midfield.

Passing moves that began with the ball being played across the middle ended with it being pushed back to the defence as City could just find no way through a mass of blue-and-white shirts.

Cue another Paul Lambert half-time team talk and later telling substitutes.

Mind, even he must have started to doubt whether things would turn out all right, given how he sprinted up the touchline at one point to return the ball to the pitch when the ball boys appeared to have gone missing.


It's just a thought, but.... have City missed a trick on the reserve-team front?

I would have to be really bored before I might have decided to take in some of the recent top-quality fare on offer in the Combination. Call me picky, but the prospect of seeing the second teams of Grays Athletic or Stevenage Borough just doesn't do it for me. But the only visit of an Ipswich Town side to Carrow Road this season? Now that might have been different.

So to play the game on a Wednesday afternoon in front of a couple of hundred die-hards seemed a bit of a wasted marketing opportunity.

Maybe not this week, since Ipswich have a scheduled league fixture tomorrow, but why not play this game during another half-term, with an evening kick-off, and attract a few families along? And if you have to charge a couple of quid to cover additional operating costs, then so be it, but surely you'll make something back out of refreshment sales and/or general goodwill?

Obviously none of this will apply next season, because hopefully we'll be back playing Ipswich's first team again. Because surely, unless a struggling Premier League club goes bust, they wouldn't be stupid enough to take their eyes off the ball and allow themselves to be needlessly relegated. Would they?


Unless it all goes badly wrong for us and the Seagulls manage to get out of their relegation battle, Saturday should prove to be our third and final visit to the Withdean Stadium.

And unique an experience as it might be, I won't be sorry.

Whenever City have visited in the past, in 2002 and 2005, you felt that surely they'll have left by the time we play again. Well now it appears they are set to play in their new ground at Falmer in August 2011.

The Withdean has been their home for more than a decade, and, while it's not their fault, you do rather get the impression that this is an issue which football's governing bodies have chosen to ignore because it doesn't involve a particularly fashionable or important club. (In much the same way that Stockport are going through long, lingering death throes with the minimum of publicity).

With hindsight, it is probably no surprise that so few City fans wanted to go to Saturday's game.

There will have been those who have been to the Withdean before, or others who were put off by the pictures they saw or tales they heard from others.

It probably also explains why the following at Millwall was so large - given a choice of a facilities-free ground in further afield Sussex or an easier trip to south London I'm sure most people would simply have plumped for an afternoon with the lovely Lions.

It's the way football's going, frankly. The age when lots of people would have been really taken with a visit to an obscure non-league ground in the FA Cup are gone. Most people want a nice modern all-seated ground that isn't too far away, thank you very much, hence the 2,000-plus followings to Southampton and Wycombe.


As the board went up for four minutes of additional second-half time on Saturday, where did Norwich take the ball? Straight into one of the Brighton corners.

It's just so frustrating when they do this. Quite apart from that's how we ultimately went out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy by such needless timewasting, it just seems so unnecessary against this level of teams. Plainly City's players are under strict instruction to do this, but I had to laugh on Saturday when Oli Johnson decided he'd had enough and instead played the ball low towards to the near post to try to surprise home keeper Michel Kuipers.