Norwich did really well on Saturday to ruin everyone's weekend, and Zoe Whitford's favourite away ground. Now just another ground, tainted with another defeat. Where do we go from here? We aren't angry. We're just disappointed.
I’m going to Barnsley, I said. I’ll write about Barnsley, I said. It’s my favourite away ground, I said. Oh dear.
Oakwell is one of those perfect old-school football grounds that feels like it hasn’t changed in years. You park in a muddy field right next to the ground, the concourse is concrete and unashamedly simple. There are a surprising number of ladies loos. There’s no messing here, no fuss. We’re here for a 90-minute football game, what else do you need? It’s wonderfully Yorkshire. A car park attendant spends five minutes giving us detailed directions to a pub in town, the last instruction is ‘then ask someone where the pub is’. Everyone’s ready for a chat, there’s no edge to the place.
But then, the locals were probably nervous. I’d never seen Norwich lose at Oakwell. Barnsley might be the only team in the country who have Norwich as a bogey team. Maybe no one does now. They also hadn’t won at home in the league since the end of August. My pre-match positivity seems so naive now. Have I learned nothing?
Unlike some, I want no part of selecting the team before the match. I mean really, in the grand scheme of things, I’ve got no idea have I? Whoever’s chosen, the fans are there to support them, and they’re there to try and win the game (more of that later). So the team was picked, and truthfully raised few eyebrows an hour before kick-off. One enforced change to a team that won 5-0 last week in a game where Howson, Pritchard and Oliveira ran the show? Not too much to shout about? Two identical men? Always exciting.
An hour after the final whistle, and Alex Neil’s saying he picked the wrong team. The reason he gives: ‘too many were not willing to roll up their sleeves and fight’. Which leads me to my next point:
The first 45 minutes was very trying. I am struggling to remember the last time I watched a Norwich City team put in an entire half that was so utterly dreadful, and completely embarrassing. I don’t watch Barnsley regularly, but I would wager they weren’t playing close to their best, as the five-minute sequence that involved both teams just passing the ball out of play would suggest. A better team could have been 5-0 up by half-time.
The players, barring Graham Dorrans who receives my special merit award for ‘at least trying even slightly’, were utterly abject.
Picking Josh Murphy ahead of someone with more defensive qualities in midfield did not cause the eleven on the pitch to play so poorly. Not giving Carlton Morris a chance on the bench did not mean Ivo Pinto seemed not to pass successfully to one of his own players for about 35 minutes. For whatever reason, whatever is going on, that team were not trying their hardest in the first half at Oakwell and they should be ashamed of themselves.
Yes, things were much-improved in the second half. Norwich always play better with Martin Olsson at left back, and Youssouf Mulumbu was storming around the pitch like a man with a point to prove. In that first 20 minutes of the second half we could have equalised, and who knows what might have happened after that, but is that really the point? Do the players think that trying for 20 minutes in a 90 minute buys them a get out of jail free card? Maybe, if we were on a run of form like Newcastle. Not this time boys, not this time.
At the end of the game Timm Klose seemed to be having a mostly-mimed chat with a fan along the lines of ‘what can I do if I’m not playing?’ The man’s got a point. I know I said I have no interest in picking the team, but recent defensive selections have been at least gently baffling.
A black and white, 90-second compilation of some of Seb Bassong’s recent career highlights would undoubtedly look like some of Charlie Chaplin’s best work, but Bassong has leadership qualities and experience lacking glaringly among the rest of the squad. I get why he’s in the team. But if someone can explain to me how Ryan Bennett is being selected ahead of beautiful Swiss camelopard Timm Klose, I’d be interested to hear it. Bennett, once a bright young prospect, has now just become the answer to the hypothetical question 'If a Norwich City player crashed their quad bike in a field with a bull in it. Who was it?’ Klose would have single-handedly saved us from Premier League relegation if the dingbat hadn’t gone and got injured. I think we probably need him now.
Oakwell, I’m going to forgive you this once, because you charmed me like you always do. This defeat had very little do with Barnsley and almost everything to do with Norwich. Hopefully next time we visit both teams will want to win the game.
Zoe tweets at @zvfm2 - Follow her