Fortune favours Lambert the brave
Neil AdamsNo doubt one of the biggest talking points amongst City fans last weekend would have been the decision by Paul Lambert to change the Canaries' formation against Brighton in the hope that it would provide the team with a greater attacking threat and force them back into the game.Neil Adams
No doubt one of the biggest talking points amongst City fans last weekend would have been the decision by Paul Lambert to change the Canaries' formation against Brighton in the hope that it would provide the team with a greater attacking threat and force them back into the game.
It wasn't going Norwich's way at the Withdean Stadium last week. Despite City having upped the tempo of their game in the second half and generally being the dominant side, they still didn't convince you that an equalising goal would be imminent.
With strikers Grant Holt and Chris Martin often moving out into wide areas or dropping deep to receive the ball, even on the occasions when Norwich did create an opportunity to deliver the ball into the box there often were not enough bodies present to unduly trouble the home side.
City were huffing and puffing, but without ever seriously threatening the Brighton goalmouth.
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Now in similar circumstances many managers would swap one attacking player for another, maybe add a bit of width to the team, or perhaps gamble by sacrificing a midfielder for an extra striker.
In the dying stages of a game, when there really is nothing to lose, of course you can then throw bodies forward ad hoc.
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But with just one goal separating the teams, very few would risk sacrificing a defender for a forward with almost 30 minutes of the game still remaining.
The City boss did. And in doing so he changed the course of the game and ultimately reaped rich rewards.
That decision revealed two things. Firstly, that he trusted that his now three-man defence and goalkeeper would be good enough to cope with whatever the home side would throw at them. And secondly, if he felt that it was worth changing the formation of the side, then he certainly wasn't going to dither about actually doing it.
I suppose some would argue that it is easier to take such a risk when you're sitting pretty at the top of the division as opposed to when you're fighting for your lives down at the opposite end of it, based on the theory that if something doesn't come off when you're flying high it's more likely to quickly be forgotten than if you mess up tactically if you're deep in the mire.
Then again, isn't winning football matches just as important no matter which position in the table you happen to occupy? 'You have to go for it,' the City boss said afterwards. 'You have to try to play on the front foot.'Dead right. You certainly do if you want to win things. It reminded me of Joe Royle's philosophy at Oldham when we pushing hard for promotion to the Premiership in 1991, and the surprised look on the faces of our opponents when he too would play three at the back if ever things weren't going our way, irrespective of how long we'd been playing.
If we ever went a goal behind and didn't look as though we would immediately strike back, Royle would push our centre-back Ian Marshall into attack and play a 3-4-3 formation. He once did it after only 15 minutes, and it would regularly result in us turning games back in our favour.
It wasn't a case of him simply throwing caution to the wind and hoping for the best. It was a calculated risk. Clever, intelligent, perceptive management. And yes, a certain amount of bravery too. We scored loads of goals that season, we occasionally ripped teams apart and we won the league that year too.
t THIS CITY SIDE HAS GOT WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO SUCCEED
I think it's fair to say that City haven't really pulled up any trees since they destroyed Colchester on their own patch five weeks ago.
Unlike their main promotion rivals Leeds and Charlton though, what they haven't done is regularly allow precious league points to slip alarmingly through their fingers in the process. The Millwall blip aside, Norwich have found a way to drag themselves victorious over the finishing line in matches.
They've got the job done.
And sooner or later it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if they do slip back into top form and give someone a real good hiding.
You can be sure that the old adage of taking one game at a time will be one that the City camp are subscribing to now that we are approaching the business end of the season, purely in order to avoid complacency setting in or assuming that results will take care of themselves.
But for the rest of us it's hard not take a peek at the remaining games and make a quick estimate as to what might be required in order for this 2009-10 campaign to conclude a truly memorable one.
With City already having 66 points on the board, it doesn't take a genius to calculate that even if they only win every other game in these remaining 15 fixtures they'll still have amassed a total of 90 points. And 90 points has been enough to guarantee automatic promotion from League One in 9 out of the last 10 seasons.
That's eight wins from 15 matches in simple terms. For a team that has just won 18 of its last 22 league games.
Tomorrow's visitors Southampton are a good team and we have to expect them to push City hard, and there is a three- game spell next month that should prove equally difficult. In theory, Huddersfield and Swindon away followed by Leeds at home looks tough. But it's nothing that should overly concern a City side that has passed virtually every test that it has faced this season.
t TRAVELLING CANARY ARMY REALLY DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE
You might have seen the feature on the travelling City fans on the late kick-off show on Monday night. (OK, hands up, I admit that I did get a little over-excited when the Doc headed in that late winner!).
Someone calculated that supporters who manage to travel to every Norwich away game this season will cover more than 9,000 miles in total.
It's a staggering distance. And it doesn't bear thinking about what the total cost involved amounts to if you include match tickets, programmes and food and drink etc. No matter whether you're a regular away-day fan or only manage to attend one or two away fixtures though, the support is always greatly appreciated. Some might think it a throwaway comment, but I can tell you from a player's perspective that when you've got a decent backing away from home and they make themselves heard, it really does make a big difference.
So I can only sympathise with the 867 that were stationed more than 50 yards away from the pitch at the Withdean. Granted, it is an athletics stadium after all and, as such, there's only so much that they can do to accommodate everyone. But it's still taking the rise if you ask me when paying customers can barely see one of the goalmouths because they are so far away from the action… and sat in temporary seating at the mercy of the elements because there is no roof over their heads at that!