Mitchell Dijks’ head gone, Alex Pritchard’s angry face and Blackburn Rovers playing it cool – Six things we learned from Norwich City’s latest Carrow Road draw
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The strange world of Norwich City hit a new peak with Saturday’s Blackburn draw. Michael Bailey summarises the afternoon with his six learnings.
1 – Players have feelings too
I can assure you this isn’t about me cosying up to the players and feeling sorry for them. That is absolutely not what they deserve. Conversely, there is credit to be taken out of what they did on Saturday.
They had every excuse they needed to capitulate. They were playing against a side desperate for points to avoid relegation – albeit a poor one. They played with 10 men for going on 70 minutes.
They even went behind with just 12 minutes to go, from what had been a leading position. And yet City still came out of the game with a point.
For all the criticism and questioning from everyone who has watched City perform in recent seasons, there was certainly character on show.
It can become easy to suggest there’s nothing to play for from here on in this season, but Saturday at least offered some sort of reply to the view.
2 – Pritchard can pull an angry face
The moment singularly proved how passionate it can be, to invest your time and emotions in football.
Alex Pritchard was Alan Irvine’s fall guy following Mitchell Dijk’s red card. Maybe a manager like Paul Lambert would have opted not to make an immediate change; I’d have been inclined to play a back three – but I have more Pink Floyd badges than coaching badges.
The current caretaker decided he needed a change and he had two options: rock and hard place.
Given overnight stories on Alex Neil’s sacking, maybe Wes Hoolahan’s withdrawal would’ve reaped more boos than Pritchard’s – but the later’s face of scorn as his number popped up won all the prizes.
The crowd’s reaction was out of kilter with the event but that owed more to the previous 24 hours, City’s failed season and most of all, the continuing frustration at how little we’ve seen of such a promising player. Alex Pritchard is owed one from here.
3 – Dijks’ head went missing
The discussions ran and ran. Was Irvine’s call right? Should Wes have made way? It probably reminded Irvine why he wasn’t applying for the permanent vacancy.
However, the real villain appeared to escape recrimination – and that was Mitchell Dijks.
Marvin Emnes was still being booed as he laid on the floor, while Dijks took his walk down the tunnel for a challenge that was horribly timed.
No doubt he wasn’t trying to cause Emnes injury. He was trying to get in front of his man. The contact didn’t seem too bad and Emnes completed the game.
But none of that means Dijks shouldn’t have seen his straight red. Now City’s pitiful left-back options will be without him until April 8.
Final word for Mr Simon Hooper, who got that decision spot on – yet still seems incapable of being in charge of a match where you don’t notice him. Otherwise known as having a good game.
4 – Snakepit knows how to pay tribute
Danny Graham and Stephen Hendrie arguably could have been City players at some point. Two of their current Blackburn team-mates did, although Elliot Ward’s sole appearance this season was the first 21 minutes against his former club on the opening day.
Warmest here was the reception for Elliott Bennett, who can still call on plenty of affection from the Carrow Road crowd – more than some players still turning out in yellow and green.
And he was treated to the warmest tribute of them all on Saturday.
Bennett trotted over to take the solitary corner Blackburn won all game, in the second half in front of the Snakepit. The applause rang out and Bennett returned the favour, before placing the ball and making sure a portion of it remained in the quadrant.
Cue all fans in the vicinity screaming at Simon Hooper – again – because they felt the ball was outside it. It never is, but the tribute stood.
5 – Rovers still playing it cool
If there are two more laid back players in the world than Marvin Emnes and Lucas Joao, I’m yet to see them.
Joao looked like he had something about him and arguably should’ve bagged a hat-trick – but I’m not sure managers desperate to instil intensity and tempo in their side would fancy handing him a start.
Likewise Emnes. At one point late in the second half he collected an overhit cross on the byline, turned his defender, faced the goal – and duly rolled the ball back to Michael McGovern thinking it had gone out of play.
It hadn’t. Instead he turned down a gilt-edged chance to cause City damage. There wasn’t so much as a flag, let alone a whistle.
Rovers remain unbeaten since Tony Mowbray took charge; a man with deep Ipswich connections.
Judging from my interactions with him on Saturday, he is also a warm, down to earth character. I hope he keeps them up.
6 – Everyone knows what they want
So what now? Well City need a new manager, and they need a wealth of experience. After all, Alex Neil didn’t have that. They need to have been there, done it and know how to rebuild a squad.
They need hunger to succeed. No point appointing someone who could rest on their laurels. Or who’s arrogant enough to rely on past glories. They will need to be open to working with people to get the best out of them.
They need to know what Norwich City is about. No point someone arriving who doesn’t get this club and its idiosyncrasies.
That said, they’d better not be a pushover – otherwise it’s Costa del Colney all over again. All they need to do is bring some defensive organisation, get the players fit and make sure they play with tempo. Plus tactical nous. And the football should be pleasing on the eye too. None of that route one stuff. Easy.
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