After back to back clean sheets and a vital victory against Hull last weekend, there were definitely positive vibes surrounding the club ahead of our trip to Carrow Road yesterday. Unfortunately, despite a variety of pleasing aspects to our play, we were forced to head home empty handed, leaving us bottom of the table once again.
It’s fair to say that the opening stages of the fixture saw the home side playing their best football, but as the game wore on, we undoubtedly grew in confidence, feeling more than a tad aggrieved to be leaving Norfolk empty-handed. Whilst there was plenty of industry within the team, our lack of killer instinct in the attacking third of the pitch cost us dear, with one or two major chances to get on the score sheet falling by the wayside over the course of the 90 minutes.
After his impressive performance from the bench at the KC Stadium, Cameron Jerome was given a starting role by Tony Pulis, playing as the more advanced man in a partnership with Marouane Chamakh at the head of the side. Throughout the afternoon, Jerome was a threat to the Canaries’ defenders, chasing every ball down with impressive enthusiasm and drifting into the channels time and again to offer the midfield an attacking option.
Following a less than explosive start to life in SE25, Jerome has certainly come into his own of late, and despite his gilt-edged miss in the dying minutes, you would assume he would be one of the first names on the team sheet for Tuesday night’s game against West Ham, fitness permitting. Where performances akin to those he’s turned in during our last two games have been hiding is anyone’s guess, but I for one am glad they’ve reappeared.
Although somewhat expected, the clearly defined tactical changes implemented by Pulis yesterday do seem to have had an immediate effect on the players, with both Jedinak and KG looking eager to snap into tackles at all times, whilst the rest of the side appeared desperate to chase and hurry the opposition with real fervour, leading to a visibly nervous conclusion to the game from the host’s perspective.
Given their own desperation for three points, a level of apprehension was always likely to descend upon the home team, both in the stands and on the field, but it was certainly refreshing to see our own play gradually improve as the fixture reached its conclusion. Admittedly, we weren’t able to find an equalising goal, but given the amount of pressure we applied on John Ruddy’s goal, it never felt as though we were out of the game.
Whilst far from pretty, our play was functional, utilising the strength and pace of Jerome, whilst attempting to play with width, first from Bannan and Puncheon before they were replaced by Williams and Kebe. On more than one occasion, we saw a ball whipped into the six-yard-box without a Palace head or foot able to make contact at the vital moment, which, although proving to be a source of frustration as we analyse our performance this morning, bodes well for our chances of success in the coming weeks.
Afterwards, Pulis was understandably upbeat about the challenges ahead of him, having been impressed with the effort shown by the players throughout the game. With his record of never having been relegated a constant point of reference for the press, Pulis was keen to stress the importance of the January transfer window, claiming for that it was “unfortunate for the club and myself that I wasn’t here in the close season”, in what can only be interpreted as a mild dig at Ian Holloway’s approach to player recruitment.
Despite the disappointing nature of the result, the first game of Tony Pulis’ reign offered a number of obvious positives. With back to back home games against West Ham and Cardiff in the next six days, hopes of success will remain relatively high, regardless of yesterday’s result. No one said it was going to be easy.