Norwich defensive charity is a cause for great concern

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Norwich celebrate after Leroy Fer halved the deficit at Newcastle.GettyImagesNorwich celebrate after Leroy Fer halved the deficit at Newcastle.

Given Norwich City's boss was a distinguished defender in his own right, the Canaries' generosity toward Premier League opponents remains a puzzling state of affairs.

Fresh from seven goals conceded at Manchester City on their last away outing, they contributed massively to their own downfall against a vibrant Newcastle outfit in a 2-1 defeat at St James Park that had more than a French flavour: Loic Remy and Yoan Gouffran pounced in the first half before Leroy Fer's late header proved scant consolation.

Remy is a deadly predator who came into this contest with seven goals in nine appearances for Newcastle following his season-long loan move from QPR. The Canaries needed to devise a plan to nullify the striker, not present him with arguably the easiest goal of his professional career. Yohan Cabaye's corner was allowed to drift right across John Ruddy's 6-yard box toward the unmarked dangerman, who applied the faintest of touches barely a yard out.

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The Canaries were no less brittle for Newcastle's match-winning second. Shola Ameobi outmuscled Russell Martin to test Ruddy, who could only parry the ball at the feet of Gouffran, who slammed it home from close range. Fer's thumping 80th-minute response gave the final score line a veneer of respectability, but Norwich's manager and his players know they are simply not good enough to beat Newcastle on home turf by gifting them a head start.

Hughton admitted as much in his postmatch verdict. Norwich were too compliant, too willing to defer in a worrying parallel of many away trips since he arrived in Norfolk. Newcastle, in truth, did enough in the first period to drop the pace considerably and canter to the line until Fer's header sparked a belated response that agitated a home crowd who would have felt the points should have been secured a long time earlier.

Ruddy's brilliant two-handed parry to claw out Ameobi's rocket in first-half stoppage time retained City's stake in a contest they had barely contributed toward. A third for the hosts before the break and you feared a repeat of their previous Manchester mauling on the road.

So the pattern endures. Crystal Palace at Carrow Road this coming weekend is another game where they must produce, much in the same vein as West Ham's visit prior to the international shutdown. Hughton and his rapidly diminishing squad, with Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington potentially added to an injury list that seemingly grows by the hour, are placing a high premium on their ability to perform in comfortable surroundings.

Norwich's route to survival last season rested on their prowess at Carrow Road. That pattern appears to be depressingly unaltered despite a major summer outlay designed to furnish the playing staff with a much more potent edge. There remains precious little evidence of any sustained growth in style or substance. Gary Hooper was again an isolated figure for the most part at St James Park with Ricky van Wolfswinkel sidelined again by a toe injury, but one goal in eight league games is scant return for the Dutch record signing.

Hughton left the northeast with much to ponder. The happy homecoming for the one-time darling of the Gallowgate will have to wait for another season.


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