Sunday, October 31, 2010

We are top of the league! City 3-1 Norwich

I had predicted a win by two goals (to myself and Ministats anyway) ahead of this game, and for once my predications came true.

In startling and ridiculously open first period, both teams went at it hammer and tongs. Norwich certainly hadn't come to sit back and soak up City's attacks and try and hit us on the counter.

However, it was the Bluebirds who took the lead after just 9 minutes when a superb Whittingham corner was headed back across goal by Gabor Gyepes, and Bothroyd nodded home from a yard. If that wasn't enough, just three minutes later a classic keeper punt, and nod on by Bothroyd put Chopra through. It looked like he'd messed his first touch, but he's a class act finding his sharpness, and he slotted the ball under the advancing keeper for 2-0. Last week against bottom of the table Bristol City we were two down after 8 minutes, and here a week later after 12 minutes we were two up against fourth placed Norwich! Football is indeed a bizarre game.

Credit to Norwich though, who were still playing good, pacy football, with Naylor once again being given a hard time at left back. The Canaries piled on the pressure on the edge of the 18 yard box with the City faithful howling for someone to just try and get a tackle in. They seemed incapable of challenging for the ball at this point. This intense period did see Norwich put the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for a push - one of the abysmal Mr Scott's better refereeing decisions of the day.

Eventually though you just knew the pressure was going to produce result,s and Hoolahan nipped in front of Gypes for a brave header that brought the score back to 2-1.

Two minutes later though and it was 3-1 when Ward was adjudged to have handled when the ball hit him. It may have been harsh if you're of the ball to hand school, but from where I was sat in the Grange End, it was a clear handball. The linesman gave it, and after their No. 9 Grant Holt tried putting Petter Whittingham off by moaning about the placement on the spot (to be honest Holt spent most of the match whingeing about something or other), Whitts slotted the ball in for 3-1.

Seconds later, it could and should have been 4-1. In build up play Naylor was clattered. Mr Scott saw no reason to give a foul (his decision making was at best ropey all day long), the ball fell to Chopra and he was hauled down just inside the box. If the handball penalty was dubious (it wasn't), this was a no-brainer penalty and red card, but Mr Scott just waved play on. I don't know which match he was watching, but it wasn't the same one I was.

I said after the Bristol City match that the standard of refereeing in this League is shocking, and Mr Scott's performance today has done nothing to alter that view.

In the second period, things predictably quietened down a bit. The Bluebirds got hold of the ball, and importantly generally held on to it well. The Canaries still piled on pressure when they got the ball, but City's defence was stouter and more marshalled. Bothroyd had a screamer bounce back off the bar, and both he, and Burke could and probably should have scored late on when City were in the last 10 minutes and in total control.

The one blot on the match was the (almost inevitable) yellow for Bothroyd for a challenge on Smith. Bothroyd's claimed on Twitter and in reports that he never touched the Canary man, and it looked a harsh decision, but the ref had such a shocker whether or not Bothroyd caught him it was probably going to happen.
That means our talismanic front man misses the next match - the huge South Wales derby v Swansea at CCS on Sunday. It couldn't be a worse match to miss, but it's done and we have to get on with it - Jones will have to remind City players to play the ball to feet, as with Chopra, and Bellamy our attacking options are, well, short, to say the least.

So our three points, plus QPR dropping points at home to Burnley means for the moment anyway, City sit proudly atop the Npower Championship.


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