Date: 15th December 2014 at 3:27pm
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Norwich City 5-0 Huddersfield Town: The art of self-destruction


Pre-match Thoughts:


Coming into this match, despite both teams winning their last game against Brentford and Wigan respectively, both teams were looking for some form. Norwich were looking for home form having only won one game at Carrow Road in the last 9 after a good start to the season. Town on the other hand had failed to win away from home in 5 games. After an excellent 2-1 victory over high-flying Brentford, Chris Powell elected to field the exact same 18 and the likes of Murray Wallace had earned their place on merit, Norwich also fielded the same starting 11 by Neil Adams with Ruddy in net, a defence of Martin Olsson, Carlos Cuellar, Russell Martin and Steven Whittaker. The dynamic midfield of Bradley Johnson, Alexander Tettey and Gary O`Neill with Johnny Howson playing slightly further forward in the number 10 role, he was the main support to the premier league experienced strikers, Gary Hooper and Cameron Jerome.

Tale of the Tie:


The game started lively and both teams seemed even as there were chances at either end early on. As early as the 3rd minute, Grant Holt almost slipped Nahki Wells in however John Ruddy was alert to come in and grab the ball before Wells could latch onto the end of the through ball. Directly from this attack, Norwich showed how dangerous on the counter they could as Bradley Johnson almost opened the scoring as a dangerous cross flashed across the face of goal however his lunge missed the ball and Town could breathe again. It appeared that Norwich had done their homework as two minutes later, they were attacking down the wings once again, this time it was Martin Olsson that had escaped Sean Scannell and isolated Tommy Smith however his dealt with relatively well by Mark Hudson, following the clearance nobody was covering the edge of the box and Bradley Johnson once again was close to opening the scoring with a clean strike that flew past the post.

The next big moment came in the 13th minute as Nahki Wells hit the crossbar after his first strike was parried by John Ruddy. It was becoming apparent that the Norwich faithful was becoming despondent with the home side`s inability to take advantage and open the scoring as well as being wasteful in possession which was leading to Town chances. However the pivotal moment in the game came in the 17th minute when Cameron Jerome pounced on a Mark Hudson mistake causing his partner Murray Wallace to haul him down and this led to the dismissal of the Scottish centre-half. This seemed almost like Deja vu as Murray Wallace had previously been dismissed for a similar incident with Igor Vetokele against Charlton earlier on in the season (However his dismissal was overturned). Following the dismissal, Conor Coady replaced Wallace at the heart of the defence.


This difficult game now became even tougher as Town lost a player and this allowed Norwich to dominate possession however they were unable to carve out clear opportunities except for an occasion where Norwich continued to have a lot of joy going down the wings as both full-backs seemed vulnerable when attacked by the opposing full-backs, this time it led to a Gary Hooper header being saved by Smithies. Most fluid passing moves ended with a shot from distance and the Norwich midfielders were off-target on multiple occasions. It took until the 33rd minute for Norwich to create another chance, this one was more gilt-edged than previous, Town always look vulnerable from corners and after Smithies, Hudson and Robinson all got in each other`s way, it left Cameron Jerome alone to head the ball in from 3 yards however he was unable to as he somehow put it over the bar when it looked easier to score.

Two minutes later, a chance as good as Jerome`s as Jerome stole the ball from Jonathan Hogg and picked out Gary Hooper in acres of space however he was unable to get the ball from out of his feet and Town managed to recover. There are other chances towards the end of the half with Olsson putting the ball over the crossbar from close range however Town survived and reached half-time.


I thought at the time that following the dismissal of Wallace as long as that Town get compact and managed to maintain their concentration then we`d be capable of keeping Norwich out, frustrating both the fans and players and with the pace of Wells and Scannell and the creativity of Butterfield that we could possibly catch Norwich on the counter. However following Powell`s decision to take Wells off, it seemed blatantly obvious that Powell was now fielding a side that`s primary aim was to attempt to retrieve a point.

This was an achievable aim however after a relatively solid 45 minutes, there were glaring errors made by Hogg, Hudson and Smithies but it was still goalless. I still don`t understand what triggered the change but it did the opposite of solidifying Town`s defence, it took only a minute for Town`s hard work in the first half to be completely unravelled, a neat interplay of passes found Gary Hooper behind the defensively line and as he reached the by-line, his pull back was put away by Bradley Johnson as the Town defence was guilty of ball watching.

A minute later it was two, Olsson had time to fire in a perfect cross which was met by Nathan Redmond and it looped over Smithies head into the far corner. It was worrying as both goals were preventable, the fact that nobody closed down Olsson or marked Redmond was criminal and the tie was over. It was now a matter of Town attempting to keep the score-line respectable but it only took another three-minutes for Town to completely capitulate, Redmond beat Dixon once again, this time his cross was met by a fierce volley by Howson but it was blocked well by Robinson however with Smithies already committed, diving in anticipation, it left Bradley Johnson on his own to react first and head the ball into the empty net.
Although Smithies had made some mistakes, he made up for them with a smart save at his near post from a sweet Redmond strike and in the 67th minute, Redmond wreaked havoc once more and his dart into the box and cross found Jerome however despite a brilliant save, two minutes later, Smithies would concede to Jerome, another excellent Redmond cross was headed towards the far post by Gary Hooper and Cameron Jerome beat Robinson in the air and powerfully headed the ball home leaving Smithies with no chance.

The final nail in the coffin was delivered by Lewis Grabban, a through ball cut open the lack-lustre Town defence and Grabban drilled the ball in at the near post. Alexander Tettey also came close to scoring with a long-range strike being inches wide and Hogg almost scored a consolation goal for Town with his improvised volley being saved by Ruddy and the agonising second half finished to the relief of the Town players and fans.


Conclusions:


Following today`s game against Norwich City, I`ve come to the realisation that Huddersfield Town have mastered the difficult art of complete self-destruction. It seemed incomprehensible that despite losing Murray Wallace in the 17th minute, Town managed to survive the first half unscathed without conceding that was due to a combination of last ditch defending by Town and a complete lack of a clinical edge by the Norwich attackers. However after the break, it was a completely different story and the capitulation was in a devastating six minute period with Norwich scoring 3 quick-fire goals that Town were never able to recover from. This wasn`t a new phenomenon, earlier on in the season when facing Blackpool at home, Town managed to make an extremely comfortable lead of 3-0 change into a relatively nervy 3-2 in a matter of a minute on the stroke of half-time.


The despondency shown by myself and fellow Town fans is completely understandable and the majority of the blame has to lay at the feet of Chris Powell, his tactical change at half-time to take off Nahki Wells and bring on Paul Dixon was an obvious attempt of damage limitation following Norwich`s domination in the first half, however it failed miserably.

The tactical change caused Paul Dixon to slot in at left back with Jack Robinson, the England U21 moving uncomfortably to centre-half. This decision seemed odd to me considering Anthony Gerrard was sat on the bench who`s natural position is centre-half and he was also at Cardiff at the same time as Mark Hudson so the two wouldn`t be completely alien to partnering each other at the heart of the defence. I think that as odd and significant the tactical change by Chris Powell was, you can`t ignore the change made at the same time by Neil Adams when he brought on the lively direct attacker in Nathan Redmond for the seasoned veteran, Gary O`Neill, the former made his impact almost immediate with his goal in the 48th minute and was involved in every goal.


It would be easy to overreact following a 5-0 drubbing however that Norwich outfit did have a lot of quality and losing any player early in the first half makes it difficult especially away from home. It seems strange that Town can be so compact and disciplined at home but away from home, they lose composure and inevitably concede goals. It`s a telling statistic that Town have now conceded 25 goals away from home compared to only 12 goals at home. I think it`s becoming clearer with every game that the full-backs are a weakness for Town and this causes them to vulnerable down the wings.

I`d be interested in seeing Adam Hammill given a run of games in Harry Bunn`s absence, although he was badly used by Mark Robins in a wing-back role, he does have some defensive qualities that could help Robinson who is often left isolated from attacks. I do think that this is only a blip however if it becomes a more regular occurrence then it does become a cause for concern.

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