Canaries sing at Loftus Road.
Well, that’s certainly one way to kick off 2012; getting all three points, scoring a terrific goal, coming back from behind and picking up only your second away win in the Premier League in 17 years.
Needless to say Norwich closed the festive period and began the new year in the best possible manner against QPR in what was at times a rather dogged display. The win maintains City’s place in the top half of the table and gives them a total of 25 points, a very satisfactory return for a promoted side and 8 points better off than today’s opposition, who’d actually been promoted as champions last season.
Barton Sees Red
The main talking point of the match, and something that certainly helped swing the balance in favour of the Canaries, was Joey Barton’s red card. The QPR captain was given his marching orders for a headbutt on City’s Bradley Johnson.
We’ve seen far worse incidents, but for Barton to even react in such a manner, however mildly, was reckless and he was rightfully punished for his stupidity. Had he kept his cool, his side may well have kept control of the match and held on for a vital three points.
After Barton’s dismissal, QPR seemed hell bent on trying to frustrate City with some some rash challenges and as a result kept giving away careless fouls. They tried a more physical approach and it absolutely backfired for them, with the likes of Shaun Derry becoming increasingly frustrated and taking any opportunity he could to voice his displeasure to anyone who would listen.
But City had enjoyed mixed fortunes of their own in the first half. They started brightly in the first ten minutes, controlling the game well and looking very confident on the ball. But QPR finally got the ball forward with their first attack, and sure enough City’s defence crumbled once again in a Premier League game, Barton of all people getting on the scoresheet with an admittedly neat finish.
The manner in which City’s defence keep getting sliced open has now earned them a rather unsavoury record, having now equalled the record for games in a row without a clean sheet.
Despite the goal City were still the better side, and they nearly equalised on 31 minutes when Bennett played a good ball through to Jackson, who’s attempt at a half volley left a lot to be desired. Still, it was nice to see Jackson get another Premier League start and he looks to finally be getting to grips with this league.
While we’re on the subject of starts, it was particularly nice to see two excellent Norwich servants earn a place amongst the first eleven in Adam Drury and Simon Lappin. The goal aside, which didn’t take place on their own left flank, was the only blemish on two otherwise rock solid performances.
After Barton’s dismissal, QPR seemed hell bent on trying to frustrate City with some some rash challenges and giving away careless fouls. They tried a more physical approach and it absolutely failed for them, with the likes of Shaun Derry becoming increasingly frustrated and taking any opportunity he could to voice his displeasure at anyone who would listen.
You felt a City goal was on the cards at some point, and sure enough it came before half time thanks to a top effort from Pilkington. Johnson, playing pantomime villain at this point with the home support berating him in light of the red card, provided a decent pass for Pilkington, who edged forward towards his left before unleashing a shot into Paddy Kenny’s bottom left corner from outside the box.
It was a fine effort from Pilkington, certainly one of City’s best goals of the season and the least they deserved going into half time.
The second half proved much more difficult for City than they’d have perhaps anticipated, as QPR’s ten men roared forward trying to regain the lead. Shaun Wright Phillips in particular, who had replaced Jamie Mackie at half-time, would continuously catch the City backline off guard with surreal bursts of pace. But their best chance came when Taarabt guided a free kick on target, only for Ruddy to parry the ball away with a noble save.
The Triple Substitutions
City tried in vain to get the ball forward but just seemed to be lacking the cutting edge required to fully take advantage of the extra man. Paul Lambert then went for a triple substitution in what proved to be a real master stroke on his part. The incredibly hard-working Grant Holt and the always reliable duo of Adam Drury and Simon Lappin were replaced by Steve Morison, Wes Hoolahan and David Fox.
It seemed inevitable that of the three men brought on would produce the winning goal. Pilkington turned into a provider of sorts this time, his cross from the left being brought down in the box by Bennett into the path of Morison. The former Millwall man would make no mistake from close range, thumping the ball into the net before celebrating in front of the loud and proud travelling support of over 3,000.
QPR tried in vain to rescue a point with Neil Warnock handing a debut to loan signing Frederico Macheda and also bringing on DJ Campbell. Macheda did nearly get on the end of a cross from Wright Phillips, but Ruddy got to the ball first and after that QPR never looked like salvaging anything.
Job done for Norwich, who’ve come out of a difficult 2 games in three days with 4 points out of 6 and a double over QPR having already beaten them 2-1 in the reverse fixture. City kick off 2012 in the same manner as they spent most of 2012 by working hard and earning the points.
‘Twas a deserved win for Norwich. They didn’t play near their capable best and they still can’t buy a clean sheet for love nor money, but it’s the points that make the prizes and they were richly rewarded today. Barton’s short temper ultimately cost his team at least a point, but take nothing away from City who made sure they picked up the points when the opportunity presented itself.
Next for City, Burnley are the visitors to Carrow Road for an FA Cup tie. City’s cup fortunes since the Milk Cup final in 1985 haven’t been the most kindly, so one certainly won’t be expecting a walkover.
Next in the league, Chelsea are the visitors. The reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge was quite the contest with City ultimately losing 3-1 in a brave and dignified fashion, but Chelsea currently find themselves in an awkward state of form, so it should be a fun contest.
Man of the match
Anthony Pilkington. Scored a peach of a strike and played a vital role in the match winner. Lively throughout.
QPR- Kenny, Hill, Young, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Barton, Faurlin, Taarabt (Campbell), Derry, Helguson (Macheda), Mackie (Wright Phillips).
Subs not used: Cerny, Connolly, Orr, Hulse.
City- Ruddy, Drury (Fox), Whitbread, Ayala, Martin, Lappin (Hoolahan), Pilkington, Bennett, Johnson, Holt (Morison), Jackson.
Subs not used: Rudd, Naughton, Surman, Wilbraham.
Goals: Barton ’11, Pilkington ’42, Morison 83.
Cards: Sent off-Barton. Booked- Helguson, Wright Phillips, Ayala.
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