Norwich City 1 Cardiff City 0. Match Report

Last updated : 03 November 2005 By NigelBlues

If the Kaiser Chiefs were City fans, they'd sum this one best with, "An Own Goal, I don't believe it, I've never been so far away from home" as almost 500 City fans made the near 600 miles round trip on a Tuesday night (thank you for that one Mr Fixture Man) to watch City fail at Norwich City to a fluke 77th minute Neil Alexander own goal.

The Canaries deserved their win but they never looked like scoring whilst Cardiff didn't look like netting up the right end had we played there all week so it was probably fitting that we scored for them. Cardiff started slowly, got better but looked very jaded in the final stages. I think the combination of City's small squad, over-reliance on the same players and two big away games of journey sapping distance travelling in little more than 72 hours told tonight, that's how it looked anyway. As one fan commented leaving Carrow Road, "the best thing City did tonight was come over to applaud us at the end".

Leaving South Wales, the mood was chirpy, confidence was high. Most of us took at least a day off work to do the trip. Why? You can't explain it really but those of us who regularly go away will tell you that it just has to be done and that's enough of a reason. The journey was good but long and slow and painful. A glorious day, strange to see it go dark by 5pm with clocks gone back but good company and some real laughs. Traffic jams on the M40 and M25 meant it took us more than 6 hours to get to East Anglia and made it with just an hour until kick-off.

A big hand must to Valley Rams and Cardiff City Supporters Club who, in conjunction with the police, directed us to one pub - The Griffin - where we were welcomed by very friendly staff and a free buffet including chilli and beef curries. Several City fans, you know who you are, were observed making several visits to the table but it made a very welcome change from under-cooked and over-priced football ground meat pies and burgers. But who the heck were those three less than sane looking Bluebird blokes who sang non-stop crap that made everyone ignore them? Was it a Football Care in the Community scheme?

Police escorted us to the ground and encouraged us to take any leftover drinks back onto the buses with us. Nobody turned down an invitation like that. Norwich, you see, is a friendly place with friendly folk and we were made welcome. Mind you, they could have dropped us right outside the away end instead of taking us to car parks that were already full so we had to get off in the streets and walk 10 minutes back to the ground.

This was my first visit to Carrow Road and ground 82 of the current 92 league clubs, all bar two of them to watch City play. My mental image was the ground was much bigger than it, in fact, really is. Build in the middle of housing and some retail but with clear space all around it, what used to be traditional stands and terraces has been converted over recent times to a modern all seater stadium with only one open corner. There were double decker style stands behind both goals, a smaller stand opposite us and City fans were housed in an end block looking at a corner flag of the goal City defended in the opening period.

The away end was a good facility with a bookie who did a roaring trade on City fans convinced we would win and a catering point probably loaded with food but which nobody was buying having already scoffed away ... mind you, a few were stocking up again! What was impressive was being in a ground that was full, well 89% full according to the tannoy, the only empty seats were in the corner wings and the 'no man's land', the away section and the 'no man's land' between rival fans in the same stand.

It was a key game for City but make or break for Norwich and their boss as Worthington's Best has become Worthington's Bitter. Nigel Worthington's credibility has gone from lift off to **** off amongst the lurid green and yellow supporters. Having got Norwich into the Premiership, they looked set for survival last term until a calamitous 6-0 defeat last match at Fulham sent them crashing down. This season, while the Bluebirds have been unexpectedly flying high, The Canaries have caught bird flu. They were expected to get out of the Championship at first attempt and, at this rate, they're more likely to achieve that by relegation into League One instead of going straight back up.

Going into the game, only Plymouth, Brighton, Crewe and Millwall were below Norwich who had collected just 16 points in 16 games, 10 of them coming from 9 games at Carrow Road, a pitiful return at a ground sold out every match. Their sole highlight this term was winning the first East Anglian derby at Ipswich.

Delia's simmering and must be tempted to grab that mic and shout her slurry "lesss be avvving yeww" to the players instead of the club's fans. If results are poor, performances have apparently been poorer still and even though they beat City, it has to be said that they are extremely ordinary, don't expect them to fly too high up the table judging by this display.
Many, including their local media, were predicting defeat against City could see Worthington sacked. Indeed, the Board gave him a vote on confidence at the weekend so the end must be nigh. Norwich have had some bad luck with injuries but if Lennie Lawrence's Cardiff City badly under-performed last term, it pales into insignificance against a side including the likes of Robert Green, Calum Davenport, Dean Ashton and Darren Huckerby amongst others.

His side for this make or break game were Green, Colin-Davenport-Doherty-Drury, Jarrett-Safri-Hughes-Huckerby, Henderson-Ashton. Amongst their subs but sadly not seen was Peter Thorne. It was a nice touch as the game started to hear City fans chanting the Thorney song one more.

While fans had to take time off jobs and spend several hours sampling the delights of motorways, A roads and traffic jams aplenty, Dave Jones and the boys flew to the game. Wild rumours circulated that a couple of players were worried about taking to the air - Parry and Koumas apparently - although wicked suggestions said it must have been Michael Ricketts as he never bothers to get off the ground.

No problems with team selection as it was the 9th time in 10 Championship games that City started with the same eleven of Alexander, Weston-Purse-Loovens-Barker, Cooper-Ledley-Whitley-Koumas, Jerome- Ricketts. The subs were the usual suspects too.

Norwich were either going to throw everything at City or surrender and die if they wanted their boss out. It was the former and backed by fanatical support, Cardiff were doing everything they could to hold on in the first 20 minutes. They survived but it had a lot to do with luck.
City were uncomfortable against Norwich's pace and width in particular. It was an open game but that wasn't helping us. How did captain Andy Hughes put a close range far post header clip the outside of the post and side netting with the goal gaping in front of him? He also managed to collide with the post and was taken off injured moments later, McVeigh replacing him.

A worse miss came from Dean Ashton who frightened City with his power and strength early on but not his finishing as he leaned back 6 yards out and blazed a ball laid straight into his path well over from a few feet out. Alexander had to save from Huckerby and a couple of efforts fizzed over or wide, Purse and Loovens were defending strongly but Norwich were using width which bothered a Cardiff side which played far too narrow all night - someone needs to tell them the pitch is 60 yards wide, not 35.

Having ridden the storm, Norwich's fans went quiet and those who had been standing - which was only those in home shirts - sat down as well and Cardiff took over on and off the pitch.
The lamest football chant ever - "Delia cooks with a microwave" - seem to be popular with a section of our support, the rest of us cringed. There's only one Gordon Ramsey is marginally better. Better still, was "Delia loves a spit-roast" but I think it was too difficult for the microwave boys to understand.

Much better were City larging it before the interval as we were now dominating singing, "he's getting sacked in the morning" (about Worthington), followed by "Lennie's taking over" and "you're going to sign Andy Campbell". Excellent.

Cardiff fans were buoyant having seen Jeff Whitley fire wide, make Green save twice, Ricketts (on the only time he moved all night) and Ledley were close with chips with both hit the top of the goalnet as they were a fraction over. Norwich had been physical and their frustrations were showing, Safri and Colin were carded just before the interval for bad challenges, the ref could have easily added one or two more.

City went in half-time maybe slightly lucky to be level but definitely having turned things around and finished it as the stronger side.


Now attacking towards us, we thought would see the best of City. Safri was replaced by Brennan. That was due to injury but just 1 minute after the restart, Ricketts was off as well, replaced by Lee.

Why did we bother restarting with him anyway? Ricketts was awful, lazy and disinterested. Not for the first time, there's a suggestion that he was ill and sick. He made a good start but has been worse than poor lately, his goals have covered up how terrible he has been lately. We're now starting to understand why some Leeds fans rate him as their worst player. He's not helping Jerome or working for the team. He only touches the ball if it's straight to his head or feet, he ain't interested if he has to move for it. His attitude and body language looks all wrong. It's no exaggeration to say City fans used greater energy and sweat more supporting the side in the stands than he did on the pitch. It can't be right.

Alan Lee replaced him and the game swung end to end. For City, Jerome three times got behind Norwich but couldn't finish. The first effort saw him go left but his left footed shot lacked any power or direction, Green took it comfortably. The next saw him get through, his diagonal shot beat Green but was a couple of feet wide, the third saw him fall over in the area. His new white boots were causing him to slip so he changed them after that, a couple of City players started slipping as night dew fell.

For Norwich, there was huff, puff and pressure but no end product. Their fans were now very quiet although they did manage a humorous Delia homage chant of "c'mon, let's be'aving you". For them, one shot went wide, another blocked.

All quality had gone from the game, both sides resorting to hoofing away. it was ugly but Norwich had more width whilst Cardiff's midfield were struggling and neither Lee or Jerome could hold up play, the ball far too often just bouncing back from them. The key difference however was that Cardiff were wilting before our eyes, they fell deeper, they were second best to loose balls, Koumas was working hard but could never break away. They needed help but a drawback of our small squad is that it's not necessarily there.

The game seemed to be heading towards 0-0 or a home win. only because they had the territory and possession and Cardiff were jaded, but you still couldn't see a goal coming. It took a comedy goal to split the sides but City also have to look at themselves. A corner came in which wasn't defended well, when it came out, City were static and when the ball came back in, Norwich had three players loaded at the near post. Alexander came out but timed it wrong, one of them flicked over him and then luck ran against us as Purse got to the ball and flicked it off the line but it then rebounded off Alexander's head as he landed on the ground in front of him and over the line. A fluke goal? Yes, Poor defending? Yes again.

The closing stages were painful. City raised their game, tried to pressurise the home side brought on Parry for Cooper and Ardley for Weston but their tiredness was telling as passes were misplaced, moves broke down and even players who had performed well such as Loovens were now making mistakes. City only managed two shots, both from Koumas. His free-kick in a dangerous position was wasted as he slipped as he kicked, the ball squirting harmlessly wide than an effort with the last kick of the game flew well wide.

You could see the relief in the faces of the Norwich fans and players. Of course they're too good to be as lowly as they are but, despite their talents, they look nothing special and I'd be surprised if they got close to the play-offs which must be their minimum target. For Cardiff, it was disappointing but only our 2nd defeat in 12 league games and we managed to stay 9th.

The defence played reasonably well. Purse and Loovens looked excellent but, even so, both made mistakes. Rhys Weston had another good game defensively, Huckerby caused City few problems but Rhys never managed to get forward. Chris Barker wasn't at his best, most danger seemed to come from crosses on his side. Midfield fell short once more, Ledley wasn't in it, Whitley was no influence, Cooper worked hard but never saw enough of the ball whilst Koumas was the one who put himself about most but he had no chance to show his flair tonight. Jerome had the chances but not the finishing this evening but Lee and himself found it difficult. It can't be easy however when City play so narrow and hit long and high balls towards you.

The journey home was uneventful. The team flew apparently but the team coach was there for those who wouldn't, the kit and the supporting staff. Our coach didn't stop in Norwich which the police were happy for us to do, half of us tried to sleep, half partied away. We got back at 4am, it wasn't helped by a poor escort and arrangements to get us away, we were still in Norwich an hour after the game. Still, we did it ... because we had to. It's crazy.

The Cost of Being A City fan:

Ticket: £20
Programme: £ 3
Food/drink: £20
Coach: £22
Travel to/from home & coach: £3

Badges £4

Total for game: £72

Total for season: £1,305

Report from FootyMad

At last the ball seems to be running for Norwich City.

After creating and wasting several chances early on, the home side scored the only goal of the game when it rolled into the net off unlucky Cardiff keeper Neil Alexander in the 77th minute.

The Canaries defence stood firm from start to finish and the sigh of relief from the home fans was almost audible at the final whistle.

Norwich kicked off attacking the Barclay end and were only inches away on opening the scoring when Andrew Hughes got his head to Darren Huckerby's left-wing cross with the ball going just wide of the post.

Two minutes later Hughes limped off with an injured thigh, to be replaced by Paul McVeigh.

In the 15th minute Dean Ashton set up Youssef Safri, but his long-range effort went inches wide.

Huckerby had a shot saved, then Ashton fired over from six yards when he got a foot to Jason Jarrett's low cross from the right.

Huckerby tried a delicate chip shot but it cleared the bar as well as the keeper.

On the half hour Ashton again fired over and then aimed his header too high as well.

A foul which left Calum Davenport with a bloody nose went unpunished, but a minute later Jurgen Colin was booked for a foul on Jason Koumas.

Safri followed him into the book seven minutes before the break and it was no surprise when Koumas became the only Cardiff player to see a yellow card for his foul on Safri three minutes later.

Jim Brennan replaced Safri, who was suffering with a groin injury, at half-time.

Two minutes into the second half, Alan Lee came on for Michael Ricketts.

Norwich had the best of the second half but failed to create as many chances as in the first.

But in the 73rd minute Ashton created a chance for himself only to fire over yet again.

McVeigh did force Alexander to tip over his long-range shot but referee Drysdale angered the home fans by awarding a goal-kick instead of a corner.

The home side got the deserved winner in the 77th minute. Brennan crossed from the right wing, Davenport headed goalwards and the attempted clearance by Darren Purse rebounded into the net off Alexander.

Colin then had to be carried off and was replaced by veteran defender Craig Fleming in the final few minutes.