Norwich City are too good for 11, let alone 10
COVENTRY CITY 1, NORWICH CITY 2: There was a time when following Norwich City on their travels was often more about how many they'd lose by, or how many strikers would be watching the game from the sidelines.
Ambition was a banned word. To get a single point away from home was deemed well worth spending many hours on the road, eating rotten motorway service station food and feeling ill as City 'parked the bus' in front of their penalty area.
If you haven't got the players it's perhaps needs must, but it wasn't always edifying. The season City tumbled into League One they won only three away games; the season before that it was five.
But the last 16 months have been a little different, with 12 wins on the road as City got back to the Championship at the first attempt.
Take Saturday's trip to Coventry, who hadn't conceded a goal in their previous four games. In days gone by it would have been a dull 0-0 draw, one striker running his socks off trying to ease his solitary frustrations.
But a look at the team sheet at the Ricoh Arena proves that things have changed immeasurably: three strikers and a midfield trio all with goals in them. Even centre-half Michael Nelson has a few goals in him.
The last thing you want to do is go down to 10 men and have to cope with being outpassed for an hour until your opponents find the opening they've been looking for and go for the kill.
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That's what this side does: the pass ratio must be incredibly high and when you are missing a pair of legs in midfield, that's an awful lot of chasing to be done. Norwich chased Coventry out of their own stadium and, just like they did at Derby on their last away trip, thoroughly deserved all three points.
That's the thing with this side: there's no luck involved, even if Coventry did point to a penalty appeal that fell on deaf ears when Nelson and Platt had a coming together.
City were in the ascendancy when the game changed on 35 minutes, Aron Gunnarsson shown a straight red for a two-footed tackle on Henri Lansbury.
Perhaps the surface did play a part: there was a thin layer of snow on a pitch that ground staff had been brushing since 10am and the lines were being cleared right up until the official flipped the coin in the centre circle. But snow or no snow, professional footballers can't leap in two-footed, even if their intentions are innocent and the player involved is, according to his manager, 'the nicest Viking I have ever met'.
Aidy Boothroyd is a genuinely top bloke, but perhaps someone needs to buy him a history book for Christmas.
But by the time 'Gunner' took away a Gunner's legs, Norwich had already shown enough to suggest Coventry's defence was ripe for opening.
Pretty passing, patient and a lot of it, is all very well, but City do have an edge as well, particularly Lansbury. At Derby he served notice to Robbie Savage within the opening minutes; on Saturday he tangled with Coventry hard-man Michael Doyle and then crashed into ex-Canaries winger David Bell within a matter of moments.
Doyle had already left Holt rounded with what in wrestling parlance is known as a clothes line – a straight forearm that, simply out, you run into. It was feisty stuff at times – Bell was booked for a late tackle on Simon Lappin, although it never really boiled over until Gunnarsson was red-carded.
Boothroyd tinkered, leaving Platt alone up front, with Marlon King dropping back, and while the hosts produced a little flurry over activity around John Ruddy's area, there wasn't too much to bother the keeper.
Bell didn't come out after the break – whether he came out for the first half is questionable – as Coventry tried a 4-2-1-2 line-up.
With 6ft 3ins of Platt to find, Coventry goalkeeper Kerien Westwood perfected the familiar routine: kick, one bounce, Rudd catches.
You know the phrase 'the ball came down with snow on it'? This one very often did. It's a percentages game: sooner of later, a defender is going to make a mistake under pressure from Platt and someone picks up the pieces.
Early in the second half there were a couple of birds flying around the sparsely-populated Ricoh Arena. They decide to settle on the pitch – sensible really, the way Coventry played it was pretty safe.
But Norwich stuck to their guns and on 65 minutes they were rewarded. The ball had been carefully moved around the edges of the area until Russell Martin got possession on the right. No on challenged him so the full-back had time to measure the cross and find Holt getting in front of Richard Keogh to head home. It was classic Holt.
Coventry levelled on 73 minutes, Ward unable to hold on to King, who shot past Ruddy. But anyone who watches Norwich on a regular basis knows that a goal conceded is sometimes just an irritant. Norwich didn't deserve to be pegged back, but a second goal, at least, was needed.
Chris Martin turned well and shot just wide, but City softened up Westwood with a couple of quality efforts. First Lansbury sent in a screamer that the keeper touched aside for a corner, from which sub Anthony McNamee then sent a shot heading towards the top corner, only for Westwood to save brilliantly.
David Fox took the corner, Holt stole in at the far post, but had plenty to do before he could drive it into the back of the net. There was time for Freddie Eastwood to hit a post, but it was a comfortable few minutes for the richly deserving winners.