No Joy At The Cottage
After last week`s second yellow card in the home win against Wolves, City would be travelling to Fulham without Grant Holt. But Holt`s misfortune would open up a chance for another player and that was to be Steve Morison.
Morison`s early season form saw him keeping Holt out of the side and made him almost un-droppable, but since the turn of the year Morison`s form has been patchy at best. Loads of rumours abound as to the reasons why and I`d have a fiver that 99.9% of them are utter garbage.
But the fact remains that something hasn`t clicked lately. And while that`s been going on, Holt himself has gone from strength to strength. He would be a big loss at Craven Cottage but it would be a chance for Morison to try to play his way back in.
Paul Lambert sprung another surprise as he decided to go with another change of personnel and gave a start to Ryan Bennett in a three man central defence with Ward and Whitbread. Martin and Naughton would be the wing backs with Howson, Fox and Surman in midfield and Hoolahan playing just off Morison.
After the first two minutes in which Fulham didn`t get a sniff of the ball, a long ball forward from Bennett was intercepted by Hangeland and knocked back towards the City goal and to Ruiz.
Ruiz`s shot was parried by Ruddy but hit the lurking Dempsey and went in off the American`s thigh. He didn`t know much about it but he`s having the season of his life and made it 1-0.
On 13 minutes City were two behind after Dempsey`s pass to Duff left Naughton playing catch up. Duff`s shot was too good for Ruddy and it was a terrible start and a now a mountain to climb.
Before the half was out Fulham spurned a great opportunity to go three ahead when Dempsey hit the post and the ball rebounded to Dembele who seemed certain to score. His shot was blocked by an instinctive Ryan Bennett to send it wide.
For Norwich, Howson will be disappointed that he didn`t pull one back when he broke clear and Ward`s shot went wide from a corner.
At the interval Lambert replaced Whitbread with Jackson and Norwich immediately looked a more balanced attacking threat. Although City were thankful to the woodwork yet again early in the second half when Kacaniklic hit the bar.
Hoolahan tested Schwarzer with a low shot that the keeper could only parry and a diving Aaron Hughes blocked Surman`s follow up.
On 68 minutes Morison`s game was up. He wasn`t great and although he showed some of his old promise at times, didn`t set the match alight.
Enter Aaron Wilbrahamovich for another good cameo from the bench. Wilbraham had been on the pitch for just nine minutes when he scored from an angle with a little deflection off Hughes. It made up for a chance he spurned just moments before.
City huffed and puffed for the final 13 minutes and although they threw the kitchen sink at Fulham it wasn`t to be.
The memory of 2005 is a distant thought now although the Fulham fans sang "We want seven" after they quickly went two up. If Holt had been available today I think we may well have got something out of this match.
Fulham clearly had the best of the first half but the second half belonged to Norwich.
Once again Howson, Hoolahan and Fox were excellent and their passing was tremendous at times.
Ryan Bennett had a promising debut and looks a good buy along with Johnny H, proving once again Lambert`s eye for a player.
Next up is a very tough home game against Everton. They are playing very well at the moment and beat West Brom as convincingly this week as they did Swansea, last week. It won`t be easy but at home and with Holt available we`ll give them a good game.
Just a quick word or two about the battle at the bottom, it`s getting desperate with everyone other than Wolves seemingly finding a bit of form and more importantly, points and wins.
Aston Villa are now just five points off this battle and although City are eleven clear I will be happier if those teams start to stutter back to their normal form before our tough run in begins. I am very glad that Norwich haven`t been in amongst that lot all season - it`s been a little unexpected but very welcome.
My tips to go down…
Well, Wolves are pretty much a given and look doomed.
A couple of weeks ago I thought Blackburn were on the up but they have now been pegged back as QPR, Bolton and Wigan have also upped their games.
I think Bolton will escape and QPR and Blackburn will be the other two, although Aston Villa do seem to be falling a bit.
After watching the QPR documentary and seeing what was going on there, I have to say I don`t really think a lot of them now.
And I quite like Wigan really, Roberto Martinez is a very intelligent, astute manager and I like to hear him speak about the game. Of course, the way things can change in football I`ll probably be completely wrong.