Wednesday, January 29, 2014

City's sigh of relief as Remy has a night to rue

Norwich City 0 - 0 Newcastle Utd

This was a match that was always likely to be overshadowed by Dreamboat's impending departure to PSG, and so it proved - our inability to score a goal and claim the win we thoroughly deserved only serving to underline his importance to the side. Loic Remy will hog the headlines, though, repeatedly coming closest to breaking the deadlock before picking up a very untimely red card late on.

There were familiar faces in both the Norwich dugout (ex-Toon manager Chris Hughton) and the Norwich side (Sebastian Bassong), though thankfully Spidermag was ineligible to play under the Premier League's rules for loanees. For us, meanwhile, Dreamboat's absence coupled with the injuries to Goofy and Papiss Cisse was guaranteed to open the door to HBA, but the Silver Fox arguably also sprung a surprise in selecting Little Big Lad ahead of his older brother from the start.

Both decisions were vindicated in an extremely one-sided first half, the duo giving us trickery aplenty in wide areas. Likewise, Mathieu Debuchy justified his immediate recall from suspension, showing no signs of pining over the loss of his best mate.

But it was Remy who time and again found himself in the thick of the action. He had already curled narrowly wide of John Ruddy's goal and found the Canaries 'keeper's gloves with a shot when his cross caused chaos in the Norwich area, Ruddy flapping and the ball deflecting off Bradley Johnson and then the post. Remy rattled the upright himself shortly afterwards, and as the half drew to a close Little Big Lad set up HBA only for the Frenchman to blot his copybook and send the ball over Ruddy's bar.

The under-pressure Hughton will have had stern words in the home dressing room at the break, but we maintained our dominance into the second period. HBA was denied what would admittedly have been a soft penalty while Remy hit the woodwork for a third time, on this occasion with a free-kick of which Dreamboat would have been proud.

HBA went off with what we hope was cramp, replaced with Big Lad, as the players started to look somewhat demoralised at being still unable to score - but in fact it could have been worse had Gary Hooper's deflected attempt not hit the bar or Tim Krul not remained sufficiently alert to produce a good save late on to deny Robert Snodgrass.

By that point, both sides had been reduced to ten men, Chris Foy compounding Remy's frustrating evening with a red card for an alleged headbutt and issuing the same punishment for opponent Johnson for his role in the fracas. While Hughton has intimated that Norwich will appeal on behalf of their player, the Silver Fox ruled out us taking a similar course of action for Remy - despite claiming afterwards that Johnson "made such a drama out of it" and "should be ashamed of himself". A bit baffling, really - especially as he's such a crucial player to us at the moment and as, if you recall, Jonjo Shelvey got away with much the same thing on Debuchy when we visited Swansea in December (before inevitably going on to score).

After a typically turbulent few days towards the end of a transfer window, an away draw (our first of the season) and a clean sheet could be viewed as a welcome result, and certainly the performance gave much encouragement. However, the pessimist in me can't help but feel this was definitely a case of two points dropped rather than one gained, given the way we played and laid siege to the Canaries' goal.

Of course, the game will have significant ramifications in weeks to come as it will result in a suspension for Remy, our top scorer. Without him, the departed Dreamboat and the injured duo of Cisse and Goofy, we suddenly look very light in attack. Big Lad aka the Mackem Slayer will find himself at the front of the queue right on cue i.e. Derby Day, but we'll need to hope HBA is fully fit and we manage to get the deal for Luuk de Jong "over the line" in time for a baptism of fire.

A final word for Hughton, who at the end of his post-match press conference apparently had the decency to wish the Geordie reporters well for the derby. Here's hoping he manages to turn Norwich's season around - having been sacked from his job on Tyneside barely a month after guiding us to that splendid 5-1 derby victory, he's already had more rough treatment than he's deserved.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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