Second pre-season win for Canaries

CHRIS LAKEY Cambridge United 1, Norwich City 3: One of the biggest problems when it comes to pre-season friendlies, is working out just how seriously to take them, writes Chris Lakey.


Cambridge United 1, Norwich City 3

One of the biggest problems when it comes to pre-season friendlies, is working out just how seriously to take them.

After all, Cambridge United are three divisions below Norwich, Fakenham several more, so even by beating them in a non-competitive environment there is very little you can actually gauge about your team.

Wins were expected and they were achieved. And so they should have been. Okay, it wasn't enthralling football - but have you ever been to a pre-season friendly that was?

Frankly, they are just a way for players to top up the fitness tanks and remind themselves exactly what they do for a living - while the manager discovers just who was listening on the training ground and whose mind was still on that Florida beach.

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If they were listening, it will show out on the pitch. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.

Cambridge's first-half team were possibly the most attentive of the groups who paraded in front of us like extras from the window scene in The Life of Brian at varying times between 3pm and 4.45pm. That they had the measure of City is without doubt: Craig Fleming had to be quick to take the ball off Robbie Simpson's toe just before Youssef Safri stuck out a leg for Danny Carey-Bartam to fall over. As one player said later: “Fleming had a go, Spillane had a go, but it was Saff who finished him off”.

Carey-Bartram stepped up and did what England players fail to do every couple of summers or so, putting the spot kick past the goalkeeper.

It produced the first song of the season, from the home fans, and they could have belted out a second verse had Jason Shackell not got off the ground quickly to atone for his error when he headed the ball straight at Simpson, who saw his shot safely ushered away from the empty net by the City defender. Someone's mind wasn't on the job in the City defence, with Shackell clearly not getting the call he wanted.

City always had a goal or two in them, it was just a question of when it was going to come out. Ryan Jarvis - who swapped right-flank roles with Andrew Fisk - fooled us with a header straight at the keeper, ex-City man Paul Crichton, while Peter Thorne was unlucky to see a terrific curling shot after a neat little pass from Darren Huckerby hit the outside of a post.

The goal came five minutes before half-time, although it seemed to owe much to Crichton's decision to stay on his line and watch a floated free-kick without actually using his hands to catch it - leaving Thorne with the easy job of diverting it home.

It was Thorne's third goal in almost 90 minutes of football - a welcome break after last season's woes for an honest pro.

Worthington sent on a different 11 for the second half and immediately they looked more comfortable. In the first half, Safri demanded, and got, every ball in midfield and launched just about every attack, but after the break there were more players involved in moves - Paul McVeigh floated around showing off his bag of tricks, Carl Robinson was knocking around little space-creating passes here and there, and Andy Hughes was finding good space. Most impressive, though, was Ian Henderson down the right flank, who was prepared to take on his man, had the odd trick on his locker and generally looked up for it.

The defence took a while to settle, Mike Gash wasting a couple of headers in the area, but when Hughes broke down the left, he had acres of space to pick out Robert Earnshaw, who returned the compliment as Hughes charged forward. The midfielder got to the edge of the area and, instead of taking a shot, passed right to Henderson. It looked a pass too many, but Henderson controlled it well before drilling home a fine shot.

It proved to be just reward for Henderson, although whether he is up to solving the right-sided midfield problem is another matter which a pre-season friendly or two won't answer.

Earnshaw wasted a chance of his own while Henderson juggled but missed. Teenage keeper Phil Smith replaced Crichton near the end and did well to deny Earnshaw and Robinson before Leon McKenzie put the result beyond doubt when he outjumped the youngster to nod home after Hughes had skipped past the keeper and seen his return cross go high into the Cambridge air.

Henderson would have nicked the champagne had the match actually mattered, but the applause when the final whistle was polite rather than rapturous. Fans aren't daft, they know what they're watching. But come August 5, they'll want value for money.

Whether they get it or not might be a little easier to call in a week's time when the Scotland tour is over. Or not.

t Norwich (first half): Lewis, Spillane, Fleming, Shackell, Drury (c), Fisk, Safri, Etuhu, Huckerby, Ryan Jarvis, Thorne.

t Norwich (second half): Gallacher, Colin, Doherty (c), Rossi Jarvis, Bexfield, Henderson, McVeigh, Robinson, Hughes, Earnshaw, McKenzie. Sub not used: Asmat El Ourgui.

t Cambridge (first half): Crichton, Davies, Bloomer, Morrison, Jaszczun, Brady, Wolleaston, Hanlon, Pitt, Simpson, Carey-Bertram.

t Cambridge (second half): Crichton (Snith 84), Davies (Bussens 76), Morrison (Moses 62), Crane, Gordon, Smith, Simpson, Quinton, Brady (Wines 59), Gash, Bridges.

t Referee: G Lewis.

t Attendance: 2,341.