Tough At The Toon
Chris Hughton`s return to Newcastle saw an unchanged defence and midfield for City but a return to first team action for Wes Hoolahan and Steve Morison.
Both Holt and Jackson dropped down to the bench as Norwich`s manager went back to the scene of his first full time managerial appointment.
The game started brightly for City with a fair bit of possession and Hoolahan`s presence as an extra midfielder meant that Norwich made the most of it.
However, the Canaries received a real hammer blow with just five minutes on the clock when Bassong went down with what appeared to be a hamstring pull.
He was unable to continue and replaced to a chorus of boos by ex-Sunderland man, Michael Turner.
Having to use a sub so early would no doubt have affected Hughton`s plans for the match.
But to be fair, City didn`t break stride and Turner was immediately in the action making several good interceptions and blocks. Norwich continued to have the better of the play but on 19 minutes found themselves one nil down after a terrific pass from Ben Arfa put Demba Ba through.
Ba found himself with just Ruddy to beat and slotted the ball away to open the scoring for the Geordies.
It was a little harsh on Norwich and also served to galvanise the home side who started to push on.
During the next period of play, Newcastle continued to threaten and Cabaye in particular will be disappointed not to have scored after he put a shot wide from a dangerous position.
Norwich almost levelled when a Robert Snodgrass effort was cleared off the line by a panicky Newcastle defence but it could`ve been much worse for City when Steve Morison tangled with Mike Williamson inside the Norwich penalty area.
There didn`t look a lot in it and it seemed as though Morison had needlessly nudged Williamson. Whatever, the ref pointed to the spot and John Ruddy was facing a penalty kick from Papiss Cisse with 44 minutes on the clock.
Last season, Cisse had an extraordinary start to his Newcastle career when he almost scored in every match he played. As he stepped up to take it, there seemed to be only one outcome.
Perhaps he remembered the 1990 World Cup semi-final in which Geordie Chris Waddle blazed his effort over the bar to put England out against the Germans.
His attempt was very similar, if he is a Chris Waddle fan his impersonation was very good and the ball soared over Ruddy`s bar to leave Norwich trailing at half time at just one nil.
The teams both took to the field unchanged for the second half with Holt soon warming up as the second period got under way.
Within moments, Hoolahan played in Surman with a carbon copy of the pass from Ben Arfa that put Ba through in to score for Newcastle.
Surman hit his shot but Steve Harper was equal to it and managed to keep it out.
Norwich had enjoyed a decent start to the half and continued to push on with Snodgrass and Hoolahan being particularly effective.
But Newcastle remained dangerous on the break and Ben Arfa forced Ruddy into conceding a corner after a stinging effort on 58 minutes. The corner came to nothing but Ben Arfa continued to threaten with his brilliant close control taking him past two Norwich defenders to send a cross in that was headed away by Martin.
A long ball from Garrido was headed down by Morison to Hoolahan but Wes could only send his volley over from 25 yards.
Newcastle, as previously mentioned were always a threat on the counter and one such break saw Cisse get beyond Leon Barnett. His shot from a tight angle was comfortably dealt with by Ruddy though.
Russell Martin then had to be alert when dealing with Ben Arfa in the Norwich area and did well to block the Frenchman`s effort, sending it out of play.
John Ruddy dived and smartly saved Williamson`s header from the resulting corner.
With 20 minutes to go, Morison was replaced by Grant Holt who, possibly with a point to prove, started to make his presence felt.
He immediately started to link up with the City midfield with neat touches and passes.
It was great to see Hoolahan back on the field and it reminded me that we don`t have another player like him at the club.
Wes was at the heart of much that was good about City`s performance here and despite little previous game time showed he had plenty in the tank.
With 15 minutes to go, Newcastle brought on Tiote to sit in front of the defence and in particular to try and stifle Wes` creative efforts.
It was very much a case of shutting up shop for the Magpies.
The introduction of Tiote meant a new physical threat for Johnson and Howson, both of whom had decent enough games in the midfield.
With 8 minutes to go, the tiring Surman was replaced by Simeon Jackson as City`s last throw of the dice.
Keeping Hoolahan on showed the visitor`s attacking intent but although we had enjoyed plenty of possession the shot count still wasn`t good enough from the Canaries.
Newcastle had done enough to show they are a decent side, not that I didn`t know that already. It was the home side that finished strongest though with both Ba and Obertan being denied by Ruddy in the final stages of the match.
Ultimately, City ended up losing the game one nil.
As an away performance, it was decent enough without ever having a sharp enough cutting edge to really trouble Newcastle.
Snodgrass, Hoolahan and Surman had decent chances but couldn`t make them count and this is now seriously becoming a problem for us.
Two goals in five games is nowhere near good enough. Unless the ball starts hitting the back of the net soon then we are in big trouble.
We are now in a run of matches that is so tough that next week`s visit from Liverpool looks the easiest of that run!
Sitting just above the drop zone is a position that we may have to get used to at this rate - Or even worse dropping into the bottom three.
Despite our effort and endeavour here, the truth is that we just didn`t do enough to win or really get a point. Newcastle were worth the win.
So, back to Carrow Road and a visit from an indifferent Liverpool side.
On paper, they have plenty for us to worry about and last season`s visit from Mr Suarez still makes me shudder. But football matches aren`t won on paper and we need to step up.
Let`s give it a real go.