Norwich remain stuck in attritional mode to edge a step closer safety

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Dimitar Berbatov looks to escape the attentions of Javier Garrido PA PhotosDimitar Berbatov looks to escape the attentions of Javier Garrido

Norwich appear determined to secure Premier League survival by stealth after a second goalless stalemate on the spin against Fulham at Carrow Road.

Chris Hughton's men tried to break the impasse in the closing stages with a lively debut cameo from US loanee Kei Kamara, but the Cottagers' goal was only sporadically threatened. Pockets of City's home support voiced their displeasure at the final whistle but the pragmatic reality was fresh defeats for QPR, Reading and Wigan saw City increase their measure of comfort to the current bottom three.

The underlying sense of frustration swirling around Carrow Road was entirely understandable. To go to Loftus Road and grind out a point, as Hughton's men did last weekend, was a perfectly acceptable return but at home against a team in the same vicinity of the table, City's lack of collective urgency was less palatable.

Grant Holt's back spasm injury on the eve of the game forced Hughton to deploy Luciano Becchio up top on his own but Simeon Jackson and Kamara were kept in reserve again into the latter stages. The absence of Republic of Ireland squad man Anthony Pilkington with a hamstring injury further hindered City's creative potential with the lack of width painfully evident.

Robert Snodgrass and Elliott Bennett were deployed on either flank and sought to cut in on their favoured feet at every opportunity. The result was a fragmented supply line to Becchio that did little to utilise his aerial gifts against the swarming attentions of Bred Hangeland.

Seasoned watchers of the Canaries this season under Hughton's guidance will have expected nothing less than a cautionary approach. Becchio had the best chance for the hosts with an early sidefooted effort from barely eight yards that dropped straight at Mark Schwarzer. The Cottagers matched Norwich for a similar lack of ambition. Mark Bunn was only pressed into meaningful action once in the second period to beat away Steve Sidwell's long range hit.

In an overview of Norwich's season, this game will struggle to even make a footnote. Plenty of endeavour on display by two well-drilled sides who appeared to have perfected the art of defensive discipline without the ball that served to mask a visible lack of quality in offensive areas. The artists were certainly present. Wes Hoolahan and Dimitar Berbatov are two gifted exponents but this was another day when the artisans held sway.

City's club-record Premier League unbeaten run prior to Christmas was embellished by a set piece threat that produced a seam of goals, but that particular supply line has dried to barely a trickle. Norwich have now scored one goal in their last six league and cup games. Yet still they increased their margin for error over those in greatest peril. Which his why Hughton is unlikely to abandon his policy of stealth any time soon.

ESPN Conversations