Things we sort of learned - Rotherham (a)

New year, new start, new Norwich? New no. Zoë Whitford talks maths, posters and ponies as she was at the New York stadium to watch The Norwich City do another embarrassing defeat. New. 

First Barnsley, now this. I get all the good ones, don’t I? I blame Yorkshire. And me, mostly. 

Nelson Marches into Battle
Fresh from his coronation as Norfolk’s favourite Nelson after his hat-trick against Derby (H), Oliveira warmed up at Rotherham with a look of a man with battle in his eyes. He might as well have been wearing one of those fancy sailor hats. But, with all the confusion who takes war hero analogies far too literally, Nelson decided to fight for Norwich in South Yorkshire.

Sure, Kirk Broadfoot had been niggling away at him for five minutes or so. Sure, he actually had him in a headlock. But for Nelson to react by indulging in a brief bout of Greco-Roman wrestling followed by what could only be described as a moment of pure WWE is total madness. 

The ref and his assistants were absolute pony throughout the rest of the game, but they got that decision right, there are no excuses. And while playing the rest of the game without Oliveira made the occasion doubly hard for the rest of the players, who knows what impact him missing the next 3 matches will have. Our current disciplinary record is the worst I can remember it and perhaps reflective of the confused mindset of the players.

No Pyro, No Party
It was my first visit to the New York Stadium and I must say it was thoroughly enjoyable if you take out the 90 minutes of football. The Rotherham mascot made an appearance in the away fans’ concourse pre-match, and there were posters on the wall thanking us for making the 296 mile round-trip from Norwich (my round-trip was about 100 miles but I lapped up the appreciation anyway). I even enjoyed the pre- and post-match bursts of New York, New York over the PA system.

My favourite part, though, was the series of posters adorning the walls of the concourse warning fans against the dangers of flares. Not the 70s pantaloon of choice, you’ll understand. The posters were called ‘Pyro Facts’ and were all emblazoned with such natty slogans as ‘We can’t see you sneaking out’ and ‘Sing when you’re coughing, you can’t sing when you’re coughing’. I saw Pyro Fact number 01, 02, and 05. I can only imagine how many facts there were. Top tip: if you ever want to stress out someone from Rotherham, tell them you’ve got a flare in your pocket.

Super Wes
The supreme power and awesomeness of Lord Weslington of Hoolahancashire has been well-documented on these pages, so I won’t dwell on it too much. But suffice to say he was once again our best player against Rotherham, twisting and twirling his way round multiple red shirts.

But, as we’ve said before, the little man can’t do it on his own. Wes was at times trying far too hard, taking every throw-in, taking the free-kicks, trying to run through brick walls made of men instead of bricks. He was shattered by the end and looked embarrassed as he apologised to the fans. Another season, different players, still we rely on Wes. What the bloody hell are we going to do when he’s gone?

Teams that succeed in the Championship, unless they spend £50 million (don’t quote me on that figure) on strengthening their squad and have the former Real Madrid manager in charge, are often said to be greater than the sum of their parts. It’s certainly true in the case of the 2011 promotion-winning NCFC squad, potentially even the 2005 team. 

These teams fight for each other, they understand their strengths and also their weaknesses, and they often have managers who seem to extract every last drop of ability from sometimes limited players. 

You add up the parts of our squad and you get a big number, or whatever metaphorical units we’re talking. We should be top four in the Championship, minimum. Even taking the Rotherham game in isolation, not many of the players had a distinctly bad game (Tettey, Murphy, and maybe Pinto 2nd half apart). Ruddy played well, Martin and Pinto played well, Wes and Jerome played well. And yet. And yet the defence looked vulnerable every time Rotherham lumped a ball hopefully towards them. And yet we looked desperate instead of crafting our chances. And yet we lost 2-1 to a bottom-of-the-table side with a worse defence than ours.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of this defeat was that the effort was there. The players were trying, they were communicating, but it was still not happening. Here is a squad achieving so much less than the sum of its parts. Someone needs to draw out this potential, and fast.