Top gear not required for this victory
PUBLISHED: 09:00 11 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:20 02 July 2010
You often hear the saying that the hallmark of a good side is one that can win a game even when it hasn't played well. And no doubt some will say that was the case with the Canaries against Exeter.
You often hear the saying that the hallmark of a good side is one that can win a game even when it hasn't played well.
And no doubt some will say that was the case with the Canaries against Exeter.
I think everyone would agree it wasn't a case of playing from start to finish in top gear, ripping the opposition to shreds and denying them so much as a sniff at their own goal.
But I wouldn't go so far as to say that City didn't play well on Saturday.
In fact, had Norwich converted one or more of the decent goalscoring chances they created - in addition to the three goals they did add to a tally that is already the envy of every other team in the division - we'd be talking about the scoreline in terms of a rout.
On the positive side, City dominated in terms of territory and possession, and there were plenty of times when their approach play was of the highest order.
At times the Canaries were able to move the ball quickly, accurately and with real purpose, and the team continued to probe well even when they were faced with a wall of Exeter defenders in front of them.
There were also many examples of intelligent off-the-ball movement in their opponents' half, and City looked bright and inventive for long periods of the game.
As usual, Wes Hoolahan was the opponents' principal tormentor-in-chief. He twisted his markers into the ground at times and generally combined well with the other two strikers, while in midfield City enjoyed a healthy balance of the energy, resilience and athleticism provided by Darel Russell and Korey Smith, with the creativity and dead-ball accuracy supplied by Simon Lappin.
At the back, the City rearguard and Fraser Forster in goal generally dealt well with whatever the Grecians could muster.
True, some of the above can be countered by Norwich's final ball lacking quality at times and a few instances of players making the wrong choices in possession, and the fact that for 10 minutes or so in the second half City took their foot off the gas and dropped off unnecessarily deep inside their own half.
It inevitably invited the visitors to attack them and put them under pressure.
But the positives undoubtedly outweighed the negatives.
City have set very high standards this season, and naturally every performance is going to be judged accordingly. And it's inevitable that the team won't always manage to hit those lofty thresholds for each and every one of the 90 minutes in a match.
But, apart from a brief spell in the second half, I wasn't concerned that this game was going to end in anything other than a City victory.
A 3-1 win at home? Another three points on the board? Distance put between the Canaries and third-placed Charlton?
Enough for me to suggest that although City might not have played as well as we know they can, they certainly played well enough.
Job done. On to the next one.
t NEIL'S MAN OF THE MATCH - WES HOOLAHAN: Another brace from goal machine Grant Holt naturally puts him in the frame, as did the impressive performances delivered by Darel Russell, Adam Drury, Simon Lappin and young Korey Smith. But it's Hoolahan who gets my vote. Not only did he add another two goal assists to his tally, firstly with an inch-perfect cross to Grant Holt and then with a well-timed and beautifully weighted through- ball to the big City centre-forward, but he also looked likely to make something happen whenever he was in possession.
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