I have been conspicuous by my absence on here of late so I thought it was time I pulled my finger out and tried to contribute something. In keeping with my normal modus operandi here’s five random points of interest from the game for you to mull over.
1. Winning games can overcome all sorts of concerns and doubts about a team. Much as I might claim to be more interested in the way we play than in the results we gain, you need those boosts of three point tallies to keep feeling positive. Saturday was an enjoyable afternoon for all sorts of reasons. The sun had disappeared and there was a definite chill in the air but it felt like the right sort of weather to play association football. Norwich arrived with their bright yellow & green kit, their fans in good voice and their own variation of pass and move football. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Norwich gave us a little more space than Swansea a fortnight ago and this allowed us to grab an early lead. Despite that I felt we’d need a 3rd goal or a lot of focus to take the points and so it proved. The Canaries pressed harder as the first half progressed and the formation change at half time saw them back on an even footing. We were unlucky not to nick that 3rd goal but ultimately it was pleasing to see us hold on to lead during that fraught final 10 minutes.
2. Ruiz looked much more effective in a central role. He did fabulously well for the opening goal. He even put in a decent shift defensively, one moment in particular standing out when he slid in to win a ball in the middle of the park having chased his man down. He still has some way to go to win me over. He still had a few moments that left me exasperated and his input faded as the game went on but I’ll leave any further criticism of him for another day.
3. The half time shootout was a joy to behold. I missed the announcement about where the kids were from but I got the impression they were from somehwere in Europe. It was lovely to see almost every player attempt some sort of trick or misdirection on their run in to goal. It seems to me this is one of the things English youth development gets wrong. Too great a focus on winning games and not enough focus on having fun (I realise the irony of this statement based on my Ruiz comments). They scored some corkers too.
4. Stephen Kelly in the penalty area! A much improved performance from Mr Kelly capped by the bamboozling run that ended with him laying the ball off for Duffers and bombing into the box but then running into traffic so that he was unable to get in a decent shot. An exciting moment though.
5. Alex Kacaniklic making his debut. Losing the Pog so early was a blow but Kacaniklic impressed greatly, particularly in the second half. He had pace and control and, I felt, really brought our attacking play to life. He used the ball well and was unlucky not to score a glorious debut goal as he curled a right foot shot towards the top corner only to see Ruddy get a glove to tip it onto the crossbar.