No reason to be downcast at Norwich City defeat
PUBLISHED: 09:34 08 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:00 02 July 2010
I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. A run of 16 games unbeaten and eight wins on the trot is the kind of form that even the best teams in the world would find hard to sustain.
I suppose it had to happen sooner or later.
A run of 16 games unbeaten and eight wins on the trot is the kind of form that even the best teams in the world would find hard to sustain.
So City should feel no shame at all that they finally came unstuck at Millwall on Saturday.
If you're going to beaten, though, you have to ensure that you go down fighting. And on that score, Norwich can hold their heads high. They gave it a go at The New Den.
Going in front after just three minutes courtesy of Chris Martin's sweetly struck free-kick, the Canaries got off to a dream start.
And they looked set to control the game in the manner they have done so impressively on previous occasions this season.
But credit must go to the home side, who simply dusted themselves down, rolled their sleeves up and - backed by as passionate and demanding supporters as any - forced their way back into the contest.
Millwall pressed, harried and tackled with vigour when they were defending and they played with a high intensity to their game for the whole 90 minutes.
They had obviously identified Wes Hoolahan as one player they couldn't allow any time or space on the ball, as the creative Irishman was man-marked wherever he went. And, in fairness, Jimmy Abdou did carry out his task well on the City playmaker.
Similarly, their defenders got as tight as they could to strikers Chris Martin and Cody McDonald whenever the ball was played up to them, and then when they did win possession, Millwall did their best to move forward with real purpose.
By and large, the Canaries coped well with whatever the hosts threw at them and they weren't found wanting in terms of determination, effort or fight. But unlike most of this term, they did find it difficult to work the ball into the final third of the pitch as often as they would have liked.
Accordingly, the front two and Hoolahan were restricted in the number of opportunities they had to combine with each other and it limited City's potency where it mattered.
The pleasing thing, though, is that City weren't bullied or intimidated into defeat as so many teams are at the Den. They didn't crumble or throw the towel in at any stage. It just wasn't their day. No one should be too downhearted at all.
Putting things into perspective - especially as City have continued to grind out win after win when their main promotion rivals have seen valuable points slip through their fingers recently - there is no harm done, because City are still deservedly sitting at the top of the table.
Saturday's reverse was one of precious few blips in what has otherwise been a truly magnificent campaign to date.
A terrific run of from might just have ended, so now it's time to start another one.
t NEIL'S MAN OF THE MATCH - CHRIS MARTIN: The City centre-forward gets my vote, not simply because he scored an excellent goal to take his tally to 19 for the season, but for demonstrating an impressive all-round ability in very tough and testing circumstances. His first touch and general ball control was superb, and although he wasn't as involved in the game as much as would have been ideal, he still provided a genuine attacking threat.