Video: Neil Adams delighted Norwich City stood up to the rough stuff against SC Bastia
- Credit: Stefano Gnech/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City under Neil Adams have the steely edge it will take to prosper in the Championship on the evidence of this combative friendly against Corsicans SC Bastia.
The Canaries' made the short trip across the French border from their Italian training base in Chatillon Saint Vincent and Adams' squad were rewarded with a test of their steel and skill against Claude Makelele's Ligue One outfit.
Anthony Pilkington's cool late slot cancelled out Francois Kamano's opener to secure the parity Adams felt his side's efforts deserved in a spicy contest that had numerous skirmishes, headlined by the early departures of Wes Hoolahan and Yannick Cahuzac on the referee's advice. Hoolahan reacted angrily after being struck off-the-ball by the Bastia midfielder who appeared keen to continue the disagreement as both players left the field before John Ruddy and Russell Martin emerged as peace-makers.
Adams was in no doubt his players had deserved more protection.
'It was a feisty game, a little bit too feisty and I point the finger at the referee for that,' he said. 'I didn't think he had a very good game at all. The players were a bit frustrated with some of the decisions that went against them. Anyone who was here could see one or two were clearly wrong. Sometimes it can be hard to bite your lip then, although we have to do that.
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'You see Wes cleaned out and then he has a hand pushed in his face. It wasn't a punch but the referee comes over and asks me to take him off. That was disappointing.'
Adams was delighted with the application of his side, with Hoolahan a pivotal figure in a new-look formation which deployed Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson as two holding midfielders.
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'I was pleased with the performance. I felt we deserved to get something from the game. I would have been disappointed to have lost it to be honest because we had a lot more possession,' he said. 'Performance-wise we looked strong, solid and we used the ball a lot better in the second half. We gave them a problem by stretching the pitch.
'They are a good team with Claude Makelele as manager and one or two excellent players in there. I enjoyed the tactical side of it. We changed how we set up with the two holding midfielders and I think when Claude saw that and with us having some joy through the middle and pace up front he changed his formation. I felt overall we were the better side. They would probably say in the first half in that final third they looked more threatening but after the break that was the other way around for me.'
City's boss is now challenging his squad to build on solid foundations during the remaining pre-season friendlies.
'That use of the ball, the combinations, the passing through the middle areas of the pitch is going to be key for us this season. I really feel that,' he said. 'The challenge for the players now is to re-produce that in games, not just in training. It is easy in training but we are capable of doing it. The only criticism I had at half-time was the diagonal passing was a bit astray because it was on to get our full-backs in all the time. I've told the lads I don't have a problem with errors as long as they keep trying it and we got bags of opportunities after the break.'
City enjoyed territorial domination in the opening period but were fortunate to go in level after Floyd Ayite's rising strike cannoned against Declan Rudd's left-hand post and bounced back into play.
Livewire Kamano stabbed Bastia in front in the 65th minute when City were unable to clear a deep free-kick and the substitute reacted quickest to guide past the sprawling Rudd. Norwich were increasingly forced to probe on the counter with Pilkington denied a goalscoring chance by former Arsenal defender Sebastien Squillaci's despairing dive to cut out Josh Murphy's thoughball.
City continued to press and got their reward in the 85th minute when Jacob Murphy's thunderbolt shot dropped into Pilkington's path and the Republic of Ireland international calmly guided a right-foot finish past Jean-Louis Leca.