Norwich City revert to type and Alan Irvine struggles to fathom out why
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alan Irvine admits you just do not know which Norwich City is going to turn up after failing to break down a slick Fulham side who played the second half with 10 men following Chris Martin's red card.
The Canaries would have fancied their chances of following up last week's emphatic 7-1 Championship win over another play-off hopeful, Reading, when Martin was dismissed in the final seconds of the opening period against his old club.
But Norwich found themselves 2-0 adrift barely three minutes after the restart, when Jonny Howson was forced to take emergency action to halt Floyd Ayite and Ryan Bennett was then caught the wrong side of Tomas Kalas to concede a penalty.
Ayite waltzed through City's motionless backline to gather Lucas Piazon's pass and coolly round John Ruddy to seal a win for the out-numbered visitors.
'It has been the same for most of the season. You are not quite sure what you are going to get,' said Irvine. 'The first goal is crucial in any game, if you look at the statistics for all teams, but it should not be the be all and end all. You have to be able to come back from being 1-0 down. If we had a bit more quality in the final third on this occasion we could have done that.
'I think it was a just result. We obviously started both halves poorly. We responded well in the first half to the initial setback and we got into the final third on a lot of occasions but the quality of our final cross, pass or decision was not good enough. I still felt we were showing enough that it would come together in the second half. Then we give the ball away really cheaply to concede a free kick. Our organisation was poor at that point and it led to the penalty.
'You are 2-0 down and it took us quite a while to recover from that. We got one back from our one real quality cross of the game. At a time when I think we'll get another one we defended really poorly, had plenty of players in the area for their third goal but no-one takes responsibility and we end up conceding a goal which killed it for us.'
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Irvine had few complaints with Fulham's streetwise approach and liberal attitude to running down the clock that eventually earned keeper Marcus Bettinelli a second half yellow card.
'They have done what they had to do to slow things down. I don't like it. The referee could have dealt with it a bit earlier than he did. He had his own tolerance levels,' said Irvine. 'I felt it was a long, long time before he took any action. They are going to do what they need to get a result. I don't think it makes for an entertaining game but they are going away happy because they have the three points.
'Some of our players got a bit frustrated and they can't afford to do it. You just have to keep mentioning it to the referee and hope he takes some action.
'They are a good team. Second half they were extremely disciplined and that is another side of their game you don't often see. They were certainly well-organised, they defended in a really determined manner. They deserved the result. They are a good side who would be a threat to any team in the play-offs.'