Norwich City 4:3 Leicester City
Leicester slid to their third defeat on the spin last night and although they looked good going forward they were, once again, the architects of their own downfall.
Paolo Sousa made five changes to the side that was humiliated at Fratton Park last Friday with Ikeme, Lamey, Kennedy, Hobbs and Wellens in for Logan, Berner, Vitor, Neilson and Abe.
City got off to the best possible start when they took the lead in the second minute as Waghorn wriggled past two defenders before firing in a low shot at the near post that squirmed from the grasp of Ruddy in the Norwich goal and over the line.
Norwich responded positively and deserved their equaliser when it eventually came on the half hour when Crofts side-footed home from ten yards after a pull-back from the byline by Holt.
The Canaries kept the heat on until half time when City would have been the more relieved to hear the whistle.
The second half was played at a frantic pace with both sides going forward at every opportunity but it was the home side that grabbed the lead on 53 minutes when Hoolahan converted a penalty that was harshly awarded when Morrison was adjudged to have handled a cross. It was rough on City who would feel like the roof was falling in just nine minutes later when a rapid breakaway move resulted in Hoolahan releasing Drury on the left and he had (too much) time and room to finish coolly from an angle.
Rather than cave in, City responded well and the introduction of Fryatt, Abe and Gallagher for Oakley, Wellens and Dyer gave the side new impetus and it was no surprise when Fryatt scored to keep the game alive in the 65th minute. He responded smartly to slam the rebound in to the roof of the net after Ruddy had parried a Howard shot. There was an incident after the goal that was to have repercussions later when Ward grabbed the ball from the back of the net and kicked it shamelessly in the crowd in an act of blatant time wasting. The referee didn’t punish the player and City had a frustrating wait whilst the ball was retrieved from the crowd.
As City poured forward they were caught out at the back again in the 74th minute as Hoolahan grabbed his second of the night with a stunning half volley beyond Ikeme’s dive and the home side’s two goal advantage was restored.
Once again City responded positively and two minutes later Fryatt reduced the deficit with his second of the night as he finished his run with a cool finish past Ruddy from the angle. Remembering the time-wasting antics after the previous goal, Howard, Fryatt and Norwich’s Leon Barnett sprinted to the back of the net in an attempt to be the first to retrieve the ball. All three players arrived together and after the pushing and handbags that ensued Fryatt was met on his way back to the halfway line by referee Walton who brandished the red card and Fryatt’s night was over.
It was a ridiculous situation that could have been avoided but the upshot was that City had to chase an equaliser with ten men. It was a fruitless effort and Norwich closed the game out comfortably and could have grabbed a fifth goal when Drury shot in to the side netting when it looked easier to hit the target.
City will (rightly) consider themselves unlucky not to have taken something from this encounter but they have to look at themselves to see why they lost: once again too many mistakes led to a goal avalanche, too much possession was conceded, and previously reliable players have lost confidence and form. Sides that succeed at this level are usually the sides that make fewest mistakes and City have once again shown that they are going backwards right now in this regard. Until this changes then the trapdoor once again beckons to the third tier of English football and we must hope that Sousa (or someone else) can find a way to restore confidence and form to a decent squad of players.
As a footnote to the events at Carrow Road last night it is worth highlighting the over-zealous stewarding from jumped up wannabees in high vis jackets. We pay a lot of money to attend matches these days and it is not too much to ask that we be allowed to vent some anger and emotion when events on the pitch warrant it. Last night we were continually hassled by stewards who delighted in telling us to “Sit down and mind your language” and several folk were led out for having committed no bigger crime than swearing at the ref. Was it not Delia Smith who, several seasons ago, demanded more passion from her own fans in a famous rant? It seems that the stewards inside Carrow Road are on a mission to ensure that the passion is amputated from the visiting fans and they will only be happy if we all sit and applaud politely. Special mention goes to the somewhat emasculated female steward who looked like Olive from ‘On the Buses’ and was carrying a copy of ‘The Female Eunuch’ in her pocket (probably)…
Norwich: Ruddy, Ward, Barnett, Martin, Drury, Crofts, Hoolahan (Smith 81), Lappin, Smith, Jackson (Martin 72), Holt. Subs Not Used: McNamee, Fox, Berthel Askou, Rudd, Johnson.
Leicester: Ikeme, Kennedy, Hobbs, Lamey, Morrison, King, Dyer (Gallagher 66), Oakley (Fryatt 54 (sent off 80)), Wellens (Abe 67), Howard, Waghorn. Subs Not Used: Berner, Logan, Moreno, Moussa.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire). Attendance: 25,091.