Signs of City getting back to their best
PUBLISHED: 13:07 01 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:29 02 July 2010
There would have been a few of questions on the lips of the City fans before the Canaries ran out at Boundary Park on Saturday. Firstly, given Oli Johnson's two-goal supersub antics against Southend four days earlier and the impressive form of Anthony McNamee that night, which eleven names would feature on Paul Lambert's teamsheet and what formation would he play them in?
There would have been a few of questions on the lips of the City fans before the Canaries ran out at Boundary Park on Saturday.
Firstly, given Oli Johnson's two-goal supersub antics against Southend four days earlier and the impressive form of Anthony McNamee that night, which eleven names would feature on Paul Lambert's teamsheet and what formation would he play them in?
And furthermore, would the Canaries maybe even reproduce the magic that has essentially seen them storm from the relegation zone to the top of the pile in League One this season and continue to edge themselves closer to automatic promotion?
As far the starting XI was concerned, the City boss opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Korey Smith and Simon Lappin as holding midfielders and Chris Martin and McNamee playing as the wide forwards.
City created some decent chances in the first half, and if they had managed to take one of them we might have subsequently been spared the ten minutes or so at the end of the contest when Oldham put the Canaries under a bit of pressure as they tried to grab an equalising goal.
When Norwich emerged from the tunnel for the second half in a more orthodox 4-4-2 set-up though, they then proceeded to play with more urgency and cohesion than had earlier been the case.
As it was, it didn't turn out to be a complete drubbing of the opposition as many might have expected, however City did win the game quite comfortably in many respects.
For example. They dominated in terms of possession and territory and generally controlled the tempo at which the game was played. The players also defended well from an individual and collective viewpoint when they had to and the team showed a much more creative attitude with their approach play than their opponents did - who frequently tried to transfer the ball forward as quickly and directly as possible.
And without intending to be flippant, on a man-for-man basis you certainly wouldn't have swapped any of the Oldham players for the ones in yellow shirts.
As for recapturing the type of scintillating displays that has ripped so many of their other opponents to shreds this term, well, while it wasn't a full throttle display from City up their with some of their very best this season, their were signs in the second half that one of them might not be too far away.
Grant Holt's winning goal for example was evidence of Norwich at their attacking best -A sublime pass from Hoolahan, an inch perfect cross form McNamee and Holt simply doing what he has done now on 25 occasions this term.
And there were other passages of play that ultimately petered out, but which nevertheless showed glimpses of the impressive manner in which City can move the ball about the pitch with confidence, accuracy and purpose when they want to.
Of course the most important thing of all, - and this needs to be put into perspective when you consider just how differently this 2009-10 campaign might easily have turned out -is that with just 12 league games remaining now City are still positioned in the number one spot and are showing absolutely no signs of relinquishing it.
The Canaries have even managed to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack, and by my reckoning another six wins will more than likely be adequate for them to secure an immediate return to the Championship.
As such, you can only admire and applaud what has happened so far this season.
Saturday in a nutshell? Simple.
Another game, another victory and another step closer to City achieving their objective.
t NEIL'S MAN OF THE MATCH - KOREY SMITH: There were good defensive performances from Gary Doherty and Michael Nelson at the heart of the City rearguard, while Grant Holt worked incredibly hard all afternoon. And Fraser Forster acquitted himself very well again. But it's the young midfielder who gets my vote. Smith has been a revelation in his first full season in the first team and looks as though he has been around for years. Full of bite, determination and running as always, he was dominant in the middle of the pitch from a defensive perspective, and he also kept things ticking over nicely whenever he was involved in City's attacking play.