Next Match: Scunthorpe United (A) Tuesday 28th September 2010

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Match 5: Norwich City (A)

Ah, Carrow Road. Another of the many grounds on our list of places we just cannot get anything from. Usually it's a beating when we travel to Norwich, but yesterday we came agonisingly close to finally getting something. I think that's what stings the most. I'd have preferred the beating.

It's been a few weeks since the last entry on this blog, and plenty has happened. We got a respectable point at Ashton Gate, despite leading 2-0 and 3-1, and then beat McBoro at Oakwell with a fine performance. And of course, on Friday night we confirmed the promising signing of Garry O'Connor from Birmingham, who was ineligible to play against the Canaries. So for the first time ever, we headed to Norfolk in confident mood. I really fancied us to get something yesterday.

And we deserved to. Perhaps not all three points, but certainly something.

We set off at the crack of dawn for the gruelling three and a half hour drive to the ground, only stopping for a full English breakfast half way there, which certainly hit the spot. Sitting in the car for that long is mind-numbingly boring and uncomfortable. A few times I wondered why we were even bothering, since our record at Norwich is so poor. We've not won there since 1937. When I told my dad this, he had a look in his eye which suggested he too was thinking about turning the car around and heading home.

The most annoying part of the journey is all the country roads you have to take to get there. We got stuck behind horse boxes, tractors, rickshaws, you name it, we tailed it. And everywhere you turn, there's a speed camera, hiding behind trees, or road signs, always waiting to catch you out. It's infuriating.

But we stuck with it, and landed in Norwich at about 1, and found some parking just around the corner from the ground, behind the train station. The bloke taking the money in the car park was friendly, stopping us for a chat and directing us to the Compleat Angler, suggesting that most away fans would be heading there too. He also gave us in-depth instructions on how to get from the pub to the ground, and then from the ground to the car park again, which was probably a total waste of time since we'd forgotten what he'd said before we'd even left the car park, but it's the thought that counts.

Norwich is a really nice place. It's a lovely city and was nice to walk around, despite us only seeing a brief glimpse of it. And in terms of a football day out, it's perfect; pubs everywhere you turn, a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with home fans who are always willing to stop and have a chat, and plenty of places to eat in the area too. All on the doorstep of the train station. You really couldn't ask for any more.

On the way, we bumped into a lad and his son heading for a pub just over the road from where we were going, so we tagged along with them and had a chat about the season. He seemed confident enough, but worried that they wouldn't be able to keep hold of Paul Lambert for much longer. To be fair, it could well be a problem we'll face with MR.

Throughout the above conversation, the young lad was waving his Norwich scarf about, singing about how they were gonna "thrash the Tykes" which didn't help my nerves. And he wasn't just waving the scarf about, he was waving it dangerously close to my head. I looked like something out of The Matrix, dodging and weaving, desperately trying to avoid a face full of scarf. Still, we managed to find our way to the pub without almost any help, and got nicely settled underneath the tv with a pint.

The tv was showing footage of the September 11th remembrance service in New York, which was pretty sobering stuff. And the sun, which had been shining brightly all morning, had now vanished and the rain was lashing down. We stayed for a couple of pints, but we weren't there long and soon headed to the ground.

We did our usual trick of being at the furthest point away from the away end when we reached Carrow Road, and walked the whole length of the ground before we finally got through the turnstiles and into the concourse, before heading to our seats.

There's something just universally wrong with not sitting behind the goal when you're away from home. I don't like these grounds that sit the away fans along the side. It's just not the same.

The ground itself was nice, with four decent stands and a good, enclosed atmosphere. The hotel to the right of the away fans is a bit strange, and probably cheaper than the tickets if you were to get a room and watch the game from the window, but I liked Carrow Road on the whole. The only gripe would be the home fans seeming rather subdued for most of the game yesterday.

As kick off approached, there was a nice tribute to Roy Waller, a broadcaster for BBC Norfolk, which was brilliantly observed by both sets of fans, a nice touch. And then it was time for kick off. Time to end many, many years of agony, and finally take some points back to Oakwell.

That was the plan, and it nearly came off. We more than held our own in the first half, although we didn't create much of note in terms of chances, but that said neither did Norwich. They had a couple of free kicks given in decent areas by the referee, but wasted them with wayward shooting. Overall, aside from a couple of nervy moments, we were good value for a 0-0 half time scoreline.

Apart from, of course, we scored with seconds left of the half, after winning a free kick deep in Norwich territory. The ball was swung in perfectly by Trippier and McEveley thumped home the header, sending the away support delirious. The travelling support had been brilliant all the way through, never stopping singing, and we certainly enjoyed this moment. Not long after, the whistle went and we had a half team lead that we perhaps didn't fully deserve.

At half time Norwich sent out their girls academy to wave to the crowd, and Jim O'Brien won the award for funniest moment of the day by joining in with them, giving a camp wave to the crowd. The most worrying thing was that he didn't look too out of place.

We started the second half well, and could have had a second goal when Gray was bundled to the ground trying to latch onto a ball from McEveley, with Hammill skying the resulting chance. Gavin Ward waved away the protests. He's already a hate figure for Barnsley fans, and this performance won't have done anything to endear him to us anymore, as he gave a string of poor decisions against both sides. There's too many examples of just how shite he actually was, so I won't list them.

Indeed, he played a part in the first goal, by sending Shackell from the pitch for an injury the skipper didn't have. During his time off the field, Norwich took full advantage, with the help of a desperately unlucky Stephen Foster, and levelled the game.

There's a worrying trend developing with us at the moment, and that's us losing our heads whenever we concede a goal. At QPR we totally lost it after going 2-0 down, and Bristol City scored twice in minutes at Ashton Gate. Here it happened again.

After Norwich had equalised, they were the only ones going to score again. Our heads went down, passes started going astray, players looked less confident on the ball, we lost our shape, and ultimately the game. The winner came from a cross that we didn't deal with, and Chris Martin wasn't closed down by Hassell quick enough, giving him ample time to pick his spot. And after they took the lead, the game was over.

More worryingly, a few players seemed to be limping around the pitch, complaining of cramp. For some reason, it seems our fitness levels aren't up to scratch, and this could be something to do with why we've thrown a couple of leads away in the second half.

As I said, we never truly threatened again as the game drew to a close. This was summed up perfectly when Jim O'Brien winning a free kick deep in Norwich territory, which McEveley insisted on taking, and promptly spooned well, well over the bar and out of play. Our performance was ending with a whimper.

At full time, the players surrounded the referee, who'd had a dreadful game, and protested in vain. It's already becoming a depressingly regular sight. But he only takes a portion of the blame, because overall we didn't do enough to win the game. I still think a point would have been a fairer result, but us winning would've been harsh on a decent Norwich side who will probably beat better sides than us at home this season.

We headed away from the ground, trying to ignore the celebrations around us. We'd given the Norwich fans some real stick all the way through the game, so it was obvious we were getting it back now they'd turned the game around and taken maximum points. By the time we got back to the car, the traffic was backed up for miles and it took us ages to get away from the ground. That settled it; next time, assuming both our sides are in the same division next season, it's gonna have to be a train journey rather than a car.

The route home was long and tiring, and seemed to take ages longer than the journey there, even without a stop off. I spent most of the journey home yelling at Robbie Savage on the radio, since he was talking pure crap the entire time. Honestly, how can he seriously have a career in the media? He's the most annoying man in football.

And so we arrived home, tired, miserable, totally fed up and beaten yet again. Our away form hasn't been brilliant so far this season, and this is something which needs to change sooner rather than later.

Some players really didn't impress today. Hassell had a few shaky moments at the back, and wasted a good chance in the second half to play the ball out wide, instead going for a speculative effort from 30-odd yards out which sailed miles over the bar. Lovre was poor too, looking well below the pace of the game, and his partnership with Gray didn't work yesterday. Hammill was frustrating too, trying too hard to recreate his goal against Boro and eventually being crowded out every time. But there were positives too, it's just hard to see them when you've watched your team throw the lead away.

MR has to take some stick too, because his changes came way too late. O'Brien only got a few minutes, which could be down to his fitness, but the game was crying out for changes in the second half. They just didn't come quick enough.

Anyhow, we move on, and the next game should be a very interesting one. Leeds have started well, and come to Oakwell backed by an away support of nearly 7,000 so we're gonna have to up our game. If I'm honest, I can see a couple of changes being made. I think O'Brien will start, and Garry O'Connor too. It would have been nice to look at the table today and see us sitting pretty in the playoffs, instead of Norwich, but it wasn't to be. Lets hope we can put it right on Tuesday night.

Thanks for reading.

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