9th January 2010
Norwich City (Away)
Jim Shepherd reports from Carrow Road
Norwich City 3 Exeter City 1
Exeter City and Norwich City served up an entertaining game in wintry conditions at Carrow Road but it was the Canaries who came out on top 3-1.
City lined up: Paul Jones, Richard Duffy, Matt Taylor, Danny Seaborne, Steve Tully, Ryan Harley, Bertie Cozic, Alex Russell, Scott Golbourne, Stuart Fleetwood, Adam Stansfield.
The opening exchanges were fairly uneventful, only a heavily deflected shot that Jones easily dealt with being produced. Then on 8 minutes, from little danger Norwich were ahead. 20-goal Grant Holt was left in acres of space at the far post and what looked to be a regulation cross was buried beyond the City keeper.
After the home side's top scorer had put another chance wide, City began to get a foothold in the game. Stansfield headed wide, but had been flagged marginally offside, then Golbourne and Tully both had chances to shoot, the latter leading to City's first comer. Holt in particular was causing City problems with his movement. He was appearing on both flanks, often in a lot of space and on more than one occasion only good defending prevented further chances for the home side.
Norwich had most of the play, but City were also showing signs of danger. Golbourne shot over from 20-yards and Stansfield's flicked header was easily saved, but the chances Norwich created were of better quality. One such chance saw Jones tip over from left back Drury's drive, another header went over from a comer and Holt twice brought saves from Jones, City's best spell of the half came in the last 5 minutes. A neat move saw Russell head for goal from 6-yards, but the ball struck Norwich keeper Forster on the knees and squirmed away. Moments later Tully found himself free on the right side of the penalty area. He shot towards the far corner but as the ball passed Forster, a defender was on hand to hack clear. Golbourne's follow up went wide. The last chance of the half saw the left sided City player's shot comfortably saved.
It was as you were for the second half and for the first quarter of an hour Exeter couldn't really get going. Norwich kept possession well and prevented Stansfield and Fleetwood getting any action worthy of note. So, on the hour, Paul Tisdale mixed it up, off came the two forwards, along with Russell, and on came Marcus Stewart, Richard Logan and Liam Sercombe. The three had an almost immediate impact. Logan's run and cross was chested back to Sercombe by Stewart and the former's first time volley fizzed wide of Forster's goal. It was to be a sign of things to come as Sercombe particularly took every shooting opportunity that came. Over the next 10 minutes, Hoolahan's curling effort apart, it was City looking the more likely. Harley's direct free kick was easily saved, and Sercombe shot wide before Cozic's left foot curler just drifted past Forster's left had upright. Then, as quick as you could say it, Norwich were 2 up. Another cross, this time from the right went beyond the far post. Four defenders and Jones, seemed to have everything covered, but the first time pull back fell to Chris Martin who fired home despite the best efforts of Taylor on the line. With 13 minutes to go it looked like game over, but City had shown enough quality to warrant a goal and it wasn't long in coming.
Sercombe, again, let fly from just outside the boxThe ball bounced before it got to Forster and he was unable to hold it. Stewart was alert and pounced on the loose ball, rounding a stranded keeper and placing homeSo, ten to go and game on. Or, so you'd hoped as within 2 minutes the two goal deficit was restored. City seemed to lose their shape and the defence got caught having to try to play offside high up the pitch. One good ball, and a well timed run from Holt and he was clear. He bore down on Jones from 30 yards out and easily rounded him to roll the ball home for his 22nd goal of the season. If I were a Norwich fan I'd wholeheartedly agree with their fans" song about him! On the touchline Tisdale was showing no such joy at the ease of the pass and the finish. City tried to come back, and Logan did have the ball in the net, but it was ruled out as Stewart had strayed offside in the build up. After 4 minutes of added time the referee brought the game to an end signalling Norwich's 9th straight home win, and City's fourth straight away defeat. So, we come away from another game against a leading side from the division having played well but without any pointsJanuary doesn't get much easier as leaders Leeds United visit the Park today. As for the team, nobody really had a poor game. Stansfield and Fleetwood were never allowed to get a foothold in the game by Norwich's defence, but, that apart, the midfield was industrious and positive, especially Russell who found himself in good defensive positions oftenand the substitutes particularly seemed to give City an extra dimension. Golbourne and Tully got forward well too, but it was slight lapses of concentration at the back that set City back. But we knew that would be the difference from last season. Better sides are able to take these chances more often. But City stayed positive and deservedly gave themselves a chance to salvage a point. It wasn't to be.
Match day by Kirstie Bowden.
I never made it to Norwich. Before anyone gasps with horror at the thought of a weather related travelling incident I should point out that I never set off. I aggravated an old back injury clearing a road of: snow during the week and couldn't bear the thought of travelling. Been there done that - I went all the way to Halifax and back with a back injury once, never again! My Mum stayed at home with me, positively sick of snow having spent the week struggling into work at a Primary School. It was one of a handful that stayed open, and unfortunately being located at the end of our road, Mum was unable to claim that the snow was preventing her from getting there! My Dad and brother made the trip, crashing around very loudly at 5am to get ready and taking all available food with them! With regards to the latter point, the morning of the match saw us venture out of the village (for the first time in a week) to the local supermarket. Here a couple of Grecians nearly passed out at the sight of us, both asking "what are you doing here?" Back home Marge partook in her customary away Saturday morning phone call. I answered, as always with "Hi Marge. Where are you?" "At home" was her response.
So, here I am sat in front of the TV watching Jeff Stellings Soccer Saturday with Sacha Opinel (the cat, not the footballer) and Grecian the Lion. I obviously rarely get to watch Jeff whilst City are playing but despite this his tie is the subject of superstition. A red tie means points. Opposition colours do not. His tie today is somewhat ambiguous in colour. I think it's Norwich green. My Mum thinks its turquoise. In the midst of arguing over this (I'm adamant that turquoise is closer to green than blue) the vidi-printer announced bad news. Grant Holt, a player who I was desperate for us to sign over the summer, scored for Norwich. My "bet it was a header" comment (he is absolutely lethal in the box) was soon verified by Jeff. Oh dear. Still, at least we're not Stenhousemuir. They've just gone 3-0 down at Dunfermline with only 21 minutes played!
3.35pm: great celebration in our front room. Alas, no City equaliser. The heating has just come on! Bored of the lack of reports from Carrow Road (but too scared to listen live on the radio) my Mum briefly consulted with Exeweb. She announced that Richard Duffy had been booked. I muttered about our disciplinary record whilst sparing a thought for the poor Stenhousemuir fans, now 4-0 down. Finally Jeff crossed over to Tony Cottee at Norwich. For a moment he appeared transfixed with the game, staring into space before turning to camera and optimistically, for the Grecians in my front room, saying "I've been impressed with Exeter". Nearing half time he informed us of 2 great chances for City. He seemed surprised. Confirmation of half-time saw me hobbling off to the kettle....
After a half-time spent drinking, in a break from away day tradition, a hot chocolate that was both hot and chocolatey it was back to Jeff, who as I walked in was singing the theme to the Addams family. The reason? Charlie Adam had just scored for Blackpool. As time ticked on Jeff moaned about Leeds, 1-0 up against Wycombe, with the commentator arguing that they were "flat". I hoped that they would remain that way for their trip to SJP the following week. Minutes later Wycombe equalised and Stenhousemuir conceded a 5th! Brief consultation with BBC Sport informed me that City were making a triple substitution with just under 30 minutes to go. I hoped that we could do a Wycombe. Just before Jeff referred to our form as "indifferent" and Tony Cottee praised Paul Jones, Stenhousemuir conceded a 6th. I felt for their fans.
As Norwich's second goal flashed up on the vidi-printer abject melancholy swept the front room. "Game over" Tony Cottee announced. He was wrong. A minute later came a cry of "And there's been a goal at Carrow Road" from Jeff. Marcus Stewart had scored! Hope returned. And promptly left. One minute later Jeff announced "Exeters comeback is short lived". 3-1. Grant flipping Holt. In sympathy Stenhousemuir let in a 7th (thankfully, they later scored a consolation goal). As Jeff informed us that the game was over I blamed not the ref, not the players, definitely not Tiz, but Jeff. It was clearly the fault of his green tie.