Hartson reflects on what might have been

CHRIS LAKEY John Hartson was left to rue the one ingredient missing from what could have been the perfect debut - goals.


John Hartson was left to rue the one ingredient missing from what could have been the perfect debut - goals.

The on-loan West Brom striker saw more chances come his way than most City players have seen in a month, but every effort on target found goalkeeper Adriano Basso perfectly positioned.

"I would go as far as to say that's the best debut I have ever had, without scoring, in 15 years," said Hartson.

He's had a few - Luton, Arsenal, West Ham, Wimbledon, Coventry, Celtic, West Brom and now Norwich.

"I felt really, really good out there. I felt strong, I felt me and Dave Strihavka linked up really well in the first half. I probably had about five chances - I could have scored a hat-trick in the first half, if I'd been a bit sharper."

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And there's the rub for the 32-year-old Hartson, who hadn't started a league game for eight months and had featured in just two reserve outings for the Baggies this season.

"My excuse is I haven't played a competitive game - if I am going to look for excuses, which, I'm not really, because I am a goal scorer and I am in there - I probably should have scored today if I am totally honest with myself, but if I have got an excuse it's that I haven't played for a while.

"I have said to the lads that I wouldn't mind getting that many chances every game; I have never minded missing chances, it is when you don't get a chance when you think you are not getting into the right positions.

"It is ever so disappointing. I don't know how you saw it but it was the old cliché, a game of two halves. If we get the first goal and we go in at half-time in front I think it would have given all the boys a lift.

"In the second half we conceded within two minutes, we were a bit sloppy for about 20 minutes. They kept the ball, they frustrated us and then Darren scored a great goal, got us back in it and then they score a freak goal, the lad's sliced it and it has gone in off both posts.

"The third goal, Lee Trundle has broke away - he is a quality player Lee - and the young lad (Michael Spillane) should have shown him on his right side really because Lee Trundle is all left foot. It was probably a bit of inexperience."

It made for an unhappy post-match dressing room.

"We are a bit shell-shocked - the lads are saying that's just been the story of their season really. They have been creating chances, they have been playing very, very well but losing games and ultimately if you lose too may games at this level you are going to pay the price, so we have got to get back to winning ways and we have to take a scrappy 1-0 from somewhere."

A scrappy 1-0 at Burnley tomorrow would go down well, but the good news is that Hartson doesn't think it will be long before he scores - for the first time since an FA Cup win over Leeds last January.

"If I keep getting that many opportunities I know I will get my fair share of goals," he said. "I know I am here to score goals, but if I keep getting that many chances I know I will stick a few away.

"I have had a good week's training now. I've done the right things all week, I've been in my hotel, I've been getting plenty of rest, I have prepared properly, me and big Dave have been working on things through the week. I thought he was excellent, he got through a lot of work and in the first half we did everything apart from go in one or two nil up, we really did.

"But the result says 3-1 to Bristol City, and they are sitting second and we are second from bottom - that's what is the baffling thing about it.

"It's a tough game Burnley away - I went there last year with West Brom. We were 2-0 up and got beat 3-2. It is a fair journey for us as well, but I am looking forward to it.

"I will be giving it my all because I can't play on Saturday against West Brom so I will have a week after Tuesday to recuperate again."