Saturday, April 04, 2009

Season 2008/2009: Match 21: Norwich City v Sheffield Wednesday

Mrs Wife and I have been dog and house sitting for her auntie and uncle in Skegness since Tuesday, and as part of this two-week break in England, I decided it would be a good opporchancity to take in some football south of the border.

The match that seemed most appealing within traveling distance today was Norwich City v Sheffield Wednesday at Carrow Road, the Canaries taking on the Owls in a match the home side couldn't really afford to lose as they seek to avoid relegation.

It was my first visit to Norwich (both the city and the football club) and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the stadium - I'd say there are only two better in the Scottish league, and Carrow Road is certainly a far better venue for watching football than the soulless bowl that is Hampden, despite being less than half the size of our national stadium. The stands are tight against the pitch and even in the back rows, you feel as though you're right on top of the action.

There were a few players with Scottish connections playing today - Scotland goalkeeper (and now presumably second choice for the national side following Shagger's midweek antics) David Marshall started for Norwich, as did Alan Gow, the striker currently on loan from Rangers. Another former Rangers striker on show was Sheffield Wednesday's Francis Jeffers, whose Rangers career was so glorious that I'd forgotten it ever happened until I was reading the programme before the start of today's match. Chris Killen, who is on loan at Norwich from Celtic, didn't play today due to injury. Former Dundee and Celtic midfielder Mark Fotheringham hasn't played for Norwich since March, when he was stripped of the club captaincy after storming down the tunnel having been substituted by new Canaries boss Bryan Gunn.

The weather in Norwich today was glorious, and the stadium was filled to capacity for the match, with a vocal Sheffield Wednesday support filling one of the corners of the Jarrold stand. Apparently my seat in the County Lounge section was within spitting distance of the directors box inhabited by Delia Smith, but I didn't catch site of the chef.

And so to the match. Sheffield Wednesday were by far the better team, and easily looked as though they deserved to be more than eight points ahead of an average Norwich side. Jermaine Johnson looked lively throughout for the visitors, his darting runs down the left a constant source of worry for the Norwich back line. Francis Jeffers, meanwhile, continued his career-long impersonation of a tree.

In the Norwich ranks, Lee Croft looked faster than a short Alan Stubbs lookalike ought to have, and he frequently had the pace to beat Tommy Spurr. It was just a pity that none of his teammates thought it a good idea to make their way into the box in the hope of connecting with one of his crosses or passes. Alan Gow actually looked decent, which probably won't come as a surprise to anyone who saw him play for Falkirk but might do to Rangers fans who never saw him don the light blue. All too often he opted to attempt to beat every man instead of shooting, and his decision-making proved costly in the end. His strike partner David Mooney was utter shite, and I was surprised that Gunn kept him on the park for the duration of the match.

The game was a scrappy affair, neither side creating many clear-cut chances. Wednesday looked better throughout and should have won comfortably, but instead had to rely on Jermaine Johnson's goal two minutes after the break to secure all three points. Norwich had an equaliser ruled out five minutes from time for a foul in the build-up that it seemed no-one in the stadium saw except for referee Mike Russell.

Russell had an appalling game from start to finish, turning a blind eye to a series of niggling fouls from the Wednesday players. As well as disallowing the equaliser, he also managed to turn his back on an eight-man brawl in the Wednesday box during the second half, a ruck that had to be split up by the linesman in his absence. Tommy Spurr was sent off with a minute of normal time remaining, having been booked for a nothing foul 10 minutes earlier. A very poor show from the official.

On the basis of today's game, Norwich are in trouble. Nottingham Forest, who I'm going to see on Saturday, scraped a point with fellow strugglers Barnsley, while Charlton got a result at Southampton. Both of those results keep Norwich out of the drop zone for the time being, but they're only a point ahead of Forest, while Southampton can overhaul them by winning their game in hand.

Having said all that, there were a few good signs for Norwich - Gow looks like he's enjoying his football, Marshall is a steady goalkeeper, Jon Otsemobor and Ryan Bertrand were solid in defence, Croft looked decent and Sammy Clingan had a good game in the middle of the park. Gunn also handed a debut to Korey Smith, who has been promoted from the club's academy, and he looked a decent prospect when coming on from the bench.

On a good day, Norwich could easily beat an average SPL side such as Aberdeen (the Dons selected there purely for my own amusement). But it seems as though good days are few and far between for Norwich at the moment, and their season is going to end with a real relegation dog fight (or Canary fight at least).


Anonymous said...

I worked with a keen 'Naaar-itch' fan a few years back ( he was actually Robert Fleck's father-in-law) and retain an affection for the Canaries to this day - Bryan Gunn is also one of fitba's good guys.... and one of my current work buddies is a rabid Owl - despite being a schoolboy player with Sheffield United..

A few years ago us Aberdeen fans dreamed of the day when we would rise to the heights of 'average'

Anonymous said...

Good write up that! Although I live in Norwich I haven't been to a Norwich match in years (with being a Tranmere fan and having a large family!!!), but reading match reports it does seem that Norwich have played OK (if only that) all season, so it seems mystifying that they are in the position they are in.

On a side note Robert Fleck now works as a classroom assistant at a Special school, surely this ranks him also as 'one of footballs good guys'?

Anonymous said...

Big Scottish connections at Norwich:

Anonymous said...

How did it compare with Montrose though Jock?

Interesting stuff. Have you ever thought of a career in journalism? (-:

Groanin' Jock said...

Ken: Yeah, average is probably a generous description of the current Aberdeen squad ;-)

Anonymous 1: They looked like they have the players, but something wasn't clicking on Saturday. The season ticket holder I was sitting beside said he's seen an improvement since Gunn came back, so here's hoping that continues.

Anonymous 2: I'd forgtten how many other Scottish connections there were at Norwich in the past as well - Martin O'Neill, Chris Sutton, Chris Woods, Dale Gordon....

Rab: Well, Carrow Road is no Links Park - and Norwich aren't getting promoted this season ;-)

Colin Campbell said...

The weather looks a hell of a lot better than an average Scottish March match. Nice copy Jock.