Norwich City 3 Wolves 1

This wasn’t the first Carrow Road disaster for Carl Ikeme.

Those with decent recall will remember a 5-2 defeat in 2008 when our number one (then number two) dropped the ball into his own net and suffered a torrid evening as Wolves slumped to a rare defeat on their way to winning the title.

The key difference is that yesterday our goalie wasn’t to blame. Wes Hoolahan dived, plain and simple.

You only have to see it back once to observe he was halfway to the ground before making any sort of contact with Ikeme.

And whatever Paul Lambert wants to say about slow starts that was the pivotal moment that took this game away from us.

Yes, Wolves were sluggish and Norwich could have scored two or three before Helder Costa drew us level from the spot.

But with 15 minutes left, they hadn’t taken those chances, Wolves had woken up and were arguably the more likely to make the telling breakthrough.

None of this is to say on the overall balance of play Norwich didn’t merit the three points, just that the key decision went against us and that shouldn’t have been the case.

With all three substitutions used up by the 75 minute mark (quite unusual) Matt Doherty performed manfully between the sticks.

And he in particular was unfortunate to be on the losing side having defended well all afternoon and dragged his team back into the game with a wonderful run for a more obvious spot kick award.

The Portuguese contingent certainly know how to take a penalty. All three have been buried in the side netting or top corner. Long may that continue.

Sadly, in open play our better attacking players didn’t really fire. Mason, Costa, Bodvarsson and Cavaleiro in particular were all well below their usual standard.

Similarly Dicko and Enobakhare found it a struggle to get into the game after coming off the bench. Andreas Weimann did marginally better in a lively second half debut.

So an under par performance that could so easily have merited an unlikely result ahead of next weekend’s trip to Anfield.

Instead, we make the journey to Liverpool (pending appeal) without the man who played the biggest role in getting us there.

And that is most disappointing aspect of all.

Norwich City Vs Wolves Preview

If any Norwich fans are reading this, it’s definitely the worst time of the season to be playing Wolves.

Confidence is high, tails are wagging and Paul Lambert has all sorts of options up his sleeve for his return to Carrow Road.

I don’t think we’re world beaters just yet, even by Championship standards, but after months of struggle, a team is beginning to emerge.

Keeping the momentum going for as long as possible and getting into the top half must be the primary short term objective.

Norwich

Admittedly I didn’t see Norwich’s collapse coming. I occasionally do a podcast where I chat with fans from other clubs and we all thought they’d finish in the top two.

Now it looks like they’ll be lucky to even get anywhere near the top six after a disastrous run of results.

Precisely why they’ve been on the receiving end so many times of late is difficult to pinpoint from the outside looking in.

39 goals conceded probably has quite a lot to do with it, giving them one of the weakest defences in the league.

They’ve scored plenty which is unsurprising with players like Hoolahan, Jerome and Naismith knocking about.

But I suppose if I look down their squad I’m just wondering if many of those players have seen their best days come and go?

Whatever the reason, Alex Neil is well and truly under the cosh for the first time in his short managerial career.

Wolves

Hard to imagine there will be a significant number of changes to the team that saw off Villa.

But I would start with Bodvarsson up front. I think he’s offering a bit more in his all round game than Nouha Dicko.

It will be intriguing to see how Lambert uses Andreas Weimann. Most Villa fans seem to think he should be playing through the middle, even though most of his games have been out wide.

But he’s an energetic, hardworking player, which are both traits of the current team. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can add.

Derby supporters weren’t pleased he’s been allowed to leave suggesting he might have a bit to offer. Lets hope so.

Paul Lambert

Predictions

I really fancy us this weekend, which probably means definite defeat. We don’t get many wins at Carrow Road but this feels like a good opportunity.

Four cleansheets in a row is probably adventurous, particularly against a team who score plenty of goals, but I think we’ll do some damage.

Going all in lads, so don’t let me down – 2-1 to the boys in old gold (or electric green tomorrow).

Up The Wolves!

Wolves Vs Norwich City Preview

If you thought our limp midweek defeat was depressing, spare a thought for Norwich.

 

3-1 up with 20 minutes to go and 3-2 up 5 minutes into injury time, they still found a way to lose it 4-3.

Both teams come into this one licking wounds and craving that immediate response to get their respective promotion ambitions back on track.

Playing late on the Saturday adds that little bit of extra pressure as some of those teams around us will have gathered points and moved further ahead.

Norwich

687px-Norwich_City.svgI was on a Championship podcast last week and said if Newcastle and Norwich went up I’d kill myself. Probably a bit over dramatic on reflection, but I stand by the initial point.

The only teams I don’t want to see getting promoted are those that have just come down. Variety, spice of life and all that. Nothing personal Canaries fans I promise.

Norwich have been down, up, down and chances of another up don’t seem unlikely with Alex Neil maintaining a squad packed with proven Championship quality and a couple of players who have and could still do it in the Prem.

I always thought Dorrans was a good player at the Albion so interested to see if he’s still got something to offer.

Robbie Brady is one of those players who probably could have abandoned ship in the summer and Cameron Jerome loves playing against Wolves.

This promises to be very tough, but away from Carrow Road, I think they can be got at so an entertaining game in prospect.

Wolves

I’ve repeatedly said Jon Dadi Bodvarsson is carrying our team. For all the bits and pieces of quality we’ve seen from others, he’s been the one consistent.

team-for-brentford

If Dadi is anything close to fit we should throw him in as we’re probably snookered without him.

The center halves should hang their head in disappointment over Wigan’s late winner. Batth in particular showed a lack of judgment, pace and strength to allow Grigg the opening. He should have done better.

But I still think they’re the best pairing as Hause or Stearman are both prone to similar lapses. I can see there being a change though.

Midfield might also be freshened up so I’d expect at least one of Saiss, Edwards or Oniangue to get the hook.

Predictions

Score draw for me, on the basis that Dadi is fit enough to make a return. I think we’ll cause Norwich enough grief as they’re not solid defensively. They’ve conceded 14 already.

But we’ll also be vulnerable and they have the attacking players to make us pay. In fact, it’s probably our biggest challenge so far in that respect, certainly at home.

With Villa and Brighton away to come after this, it’s a testing time of the season.

2-2.

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Norwich City 2 Wolves 0

At the Fans’ Parliament meeting on Wednesday evening, Jez Moxey said he’d be ‘really disappointed’ if Wolves didn’t finish in the top six.

Wolves Norwich

Looks like he’s going to be a bit miffed come the end of the season then, judging by today’s limp, meek surrender at Norwich.

Just like the Reading no-show the week before, our glaring deficiencies were laid bare once more, the most notable one being a complete lack of character and fight when the going gets remotely tough.

Only once (away at Leeds) have Wolves secured three points having fallen behind, as we revert our subservient ‘don’t rock the boat’ mode on every other occasion.

With 15-odd games left and no significant new signings imminent, don’t expect this trend to change either.

Ergo, don’t expect a play-off place in your wildest dreams.

And without wishing to steal a line from Geoffrey Boycott following England’s quite revolting World Cup thrashing against Australia, I’ll unashamedly pinch the sentiment.

“Diplomatically speaking it was disappointing, but if you want it in straight Yorkshire: It was rubbish. England just didn’t seem to have the aggression and the intensity.”

In the opening two games of the 2008/09 season alone, Wolves recovered from conceding the opener to recover four points from a possible six (2-2 draw at Plymouth and a 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday).

Today’s team, which we are told is in prime position to attack for the Premier League, are rendered abject when they fail to take the lead themselves.

To use a cricketing term, ‘flat track bullies’ springs to mind.

Where Alex Rae, Paul Ince and even Karl Henry would grab a game by the scruff of its neck, Kevin McDonald, Jack Price or any other midfield permeation are way too deferential to affect a fixture in the same way.

For both goals this afternoon, Wolves sat back and watched like a hapless England fielder in Melbourne, dropping the first clanger to allow Bradley Johnson to head home a corner from all of three yards.

The second dolly could be seen when we allowed the positively useless Bassong (on Molineux 2011 evidence) the freedom of Carrow Road to saunter upfield before setting up a second.

I now make it Bolton, Reading and now Norwich who look superior outfits in our last handful of fixtures.

Expect Kenny Jackett to cut a diplomatic figure afterwards, ruing a Dicko injury, a failure to switch on and a general below-par showing, from which we’ll bounce back soon.

Don’t expect a top six finish unless you’ve completely lost your mind.

The gaffer

Norwich City Vs Wolves Preview

It’s always an entertaining game at Carrow Road.

Norwich

From Robbie Keane’s emphatic league debut in 1997 to Bully’s sublime chip over Bryan Gunn, Wolves have some fond memories from East Anglia.

But there’s been some misery too. Play-off heartache in 2002 stands out and we haven’t had a decent result there for a good few years now.

The Canaries turned us over 5-2 in our promotion season under McCarthy and having climbed up into the Premier League themselves a few years later, won 2-1 in the fixture to help condemn their opponents to the drop.

This game is beautifully poised with both clubs on the fringes of the play-offs and looking to break in.

Norwich

687px-Norwich_City.svgBeating Norwich on the first day of the season was a wonderful tonic. I was convinced they’d be towards the top of the league and haven’t been proven wrong.

Like Wolves, they’ve been consistent if not spectacular home and away. Unlike Wolves though (until this week anyway), they haven’t had a problem finding the net.

They’ve already scored 36 goals at Carrow Road this term, a Championship record that can only be equaled by Watford.

Cameron Jerome has 14 in the league already and has been ably supported by Gary Hooper (9) and Lewis Grabban (8). They must have one of the strongest forward lines in the league.

New boss Alex Neil has certainly inherited one of the strongest squads, so the play-offs must be considered a minimum requirement.

Wolves

It’s a daunting fixture this, but away from home Wolves have shown that they can be a dangerous outfit of late. There’s bags of pace in the attacking third, which can stretch teams on the break.

Wolves team for Norwich

I don’t think many defences will fancy taking on our front four and after the goals and result at Huddersfield, it would be a bold move from the manager to make wholesale changes.

By all accounts the 442 left us open in midweek, but it created space for our attacking players to do the damage. I suppose Kenny has to weigh up whether we can win a similar type of shootout against Norwich?

I think Golbourne and Iorfa can count themselves unlucky to be out of the team, but like Edwards, Henry and Evans, they’ll get another chance at some point.

The gaffer

Predictions

Definitely plonking myself firmly on the fence for this one. Can see Norwich doing a number on us, but if Wolves can get their best attacking players into the game, we’ll create chances and could easily win.

This isn’t must win for either team, but with the top six keeping a steady pace neither will want to lose any further ground.

I think it might be cagey, but the stats suggest goals galore at Carrow Road this season.

My best guess is 2-2.

Up The Wolves!

Wolves 1 Norwich City 0

You don’t win a marathon by sprinting out the blocks, but on early evidence, Wolves look well set to go the distance.

Dave Edwards Norwich

Kenny Jackett raised some eyebrows at the starting line, dropping three of last season’s pacesetters.

Out went Ricketts, Jacobs and Henry, in came Doherty, Edwards and van La Parra. As per usual our head coach’s judgment proved bang on the money.

Man of the Match van La Parra won the game, drawing both the fouls that saw Martin Olsson make a deserved early exit, before sending over an inch-perfect delivery for Dave Edwards to nod home the only goal of the contest.

The Dutchman was lively and skilful throughout, displaying all the trademarks we’ve come to expect from a Kenny Jackett signing – pace, agility and an admirable hunger to get on the ball. If he’s consistent, he’ll be a wonderful addition.

But while it was a fresh face grabbing the headlines, it was a case of back to business for last season’s old guard.

Ikeme was solid and dependable, save for one minor first half aberration. Norwich barely tested him though. Only Lewis Grabban’s meek effort from an acute angle came anywhere near for Neil Adams’ side.

The center halves were given a similarly easy ride for the most part, as the visitors’ lone striker failed to consistently stretch the back four.

Doherty impressed, justifying his surprise selection at the expense of Samuel Ricketts with the sort of powerful, athletic performance that made him an early standout performer in our brief League One vacation before injury curtailed his progress.

There were no such problems for Scott Golbourne of course and last season’s Mr. Consistent registered another uniform display on his return to the Championship. You sense he could play at any level and appear competent and reliable.

van la parra norwich

McDonald and Evans had the toughest job of all, plugging the gaps between midfield and defence that Norwich were continually probing to exploit, and ultimately won the day.

Evans played the safe pass too often for my liking, but deployed in a deeper holding role that was likely his brief. McDonald was his usual all-action self, controlling proceedings for large parts against some high caliber opposition.

Sako remains the team’s most direct and consistent route to goal. Save for missing the clearest chance of all to put the game to bed from Nouha Dicko’s cutback, he barely put a foot wrong all afternoon.

Dicko himself struggled to impose in a compressed first half, but came to the fore when the gaps started to appear. His pace and tenacity will always be rewarded. The goals will come.

Dave Edwards remains happy to pick up the slack and a thumping header following a perfectly timed run were just reward for a wonderful all round display. Questions about his capability to perform and find the net in the Championship answered emphatically in one pleasing afternoon’s work.

Fitting too that it was the man that never stops running who set his team off on another marathon campaign.

And if this encouraging performance showed anything, it’s that Wolves have the legs for the journey.