A Fan's View: Norwich 4-0 Albion

Last updated : 17 May 2013 By Site Editor

The scoreline tells you everything you need to know about this game. In front of 2,400 travelling fans, many in fancy dress to follow the beach party and Romelu Lukaku theme, Albion’s players simply didn’t turn up and allowed a motivated and hardworking Norwich side to pick up three of the easiest points they will have won in a long time.

Steve Clarke chose to start with a 4-3-3 formation, even after the surprising success of a 3-5-2 at Manchester City in our previous game. He made five changes to the side with Ben Foster, Steven Reid, Gareth McAuley, Goran Popov and Shane Long replacing Boaz Myhill, Billy Jones, Gabriel Tamas, Craig Dawson and Liam Ridgewell.

First half

Both sides started the game slowly, with Norwich looking understandably anxious due to how important the game was for them.

Albion were looking a bit disjointed at this stage, but this has become a regular occurrence over the last few weeks and the impressive travelling support would have hoped that it was just another example of the players feeling their way into the game.

As soon as we fell behind after 25 minutes though, it was clear that it was going to be a long afternoon.

The goal came from a corner after Ben Foster had parried an Anthony Pilkington effort. We were unable to effectively clear the set-piece and after Foster denied Wes Hoolahan at point-blank range, Robert Snodgrass was on hand to fire into the empty net.

Sometimes conceding a goal can give the players a kick up the backside and get them performing, but this was not the case.

The only reason we went in at half-time just the one goal behind was thanks to a fine Foster save from Hoolahan after an abysmal defensive header by Jonas Olsson.

Second half

Clarke made two changes at half-time, introducing Jones and Chris Brunt in place of Reid and Markus Rosenberg.

After such a poor first-half display, there were several players probably feeling rather fortunate to still be on the pitch and it could have been any two of eight or nine of those who started the game being hauled off when it came to making the changes.

Having played with no width or purpose before the break, the start to the second half was relatively encouraging. An impressive passing move ended with Lukaku scuffing a close-range shot wide, and there was renewed hope that we might kick on and take something from the game.

Two goals in three minutes just after the hour mark won the game for Norwich.

The first was one of the worst I have seen us concede all season, with Foster running out of his area to try and clear a Hoolahan through-ball, only to totally miss his kick and allow Grant Holt the easiest of finishes.

We then conceded a sloppy free-kick which ended with McAuley deflecting a Ryan Bennett header past Foster and made it 3-0 with 25 minutes still to play.

One or two Albion fans began filing out of the ground at this point, having seen enough of a half-hearted, lethargic display.

With ten minutes remaining, the mood in the away end became even more frustrated due to the introduction of Peter Odemwingie. Why is a man who no longer wants to be at the club being included in the squad ahead of young players like Izzy Brown was probably what most of us were thinking.

Norwich added further gloss to the victory in the last minute of normal time, when Jonny Howson curled a superb effort past Foster and into the top corner after exchanging passes with Luciano Becchio 20 yards from goal.

On reflection

This was undoubtedly our worst display of the season.

From the first minute to the last, we were second best all over the pitch and looked like a side with nothing left to play for after achieving our main aim of staying up back in February.

The same formation that had worked so well at Southampton and for 60-70 minutes at home to Wigan was torn apart by an impressive Norwich side, who knew that a win would guarantee another season of Premier League football at Carrow Road.

Clarke accepted full responsibility for the result in his post-match press conference and while he was absolutely right to do this in a way, surely the players should take a large portion of the blame?

The head coach can only do so much to motivate the players and once they are out on the pitch, it is ultimately down to each player as an individual whether they perform to the best of their ability.

Our performances throughout the second half of the season have led to a number of supporters justifiably expressing their concern at where we will finish next season.

I’m normally fairly optimistic when it comes to the Albion, but after an almost eight-hour roundtrip yesterday to watch a totally inept, gutless display, I share the concerns of people who are already predicting a relegation struggle next season.

You cannot afford to stand still if you want to remain in the Premier League and continue improving, so this summer may well be the first time in a few years where we need to do more than just ‘top up’ the squad and actually invest a significant amount of money into the side.

There have been too many good performances this season (albeit the vast majority of them coming before Christmas) to ignore, but we really do need to address this decline in form.

Whilst recent results should not entirely detract from what has been a record-breaking season in terms of points achieved and matches won, it is also correct that breaking these records should not paper over the cracks of what has been a largely disappointing second half of the season.

There are some big decisions to be made over the summer when it comes to deciding which players may need to be moved on, but hopefully they step up to the plate next weekend and produce a positive display against the champions in our final game of the season. 

Have your say on Albion's defeat here at Baggies Banter.