Norwich 3 Newcastle United 2: Norwich show Newcastle the value of teamwork

4 Apr

Newcastle United’s net spend on players in the last two transfer windows is about £70m; Norwich City’s, even with a newly promoted squad that needed strengthening, is £12.5m. Whether or not Martin Olsson had scored a winning goal in the 93rd minute on Saturday, it would not require the Norfolk club’s chairman Ed Balls to tell which of the two relegation strugglers has achieved the better value.

Alex Neil, the man who spent Norwich’s money so wisely, was sensible enough to point out amid the euphoria engulfing Carrow Road, complimentary yellow-and-green clappers and all, that “there’s a lot of football to play”.

Next up are Crystal Palace, now within their sights, and then Sunderland, who will follow their north-eastern neighbours to Carrow Road on Saturday week for another critical fixture.

“Since I’ve been here we’ve been used to playing big games,” Neil said. “Even this season, to keep us in the league, every game is massive for us. We showed that we can handle that.”

Whether Newcastle can, with their more expensive and supposedly bigger players remains open to doubt. Six points in arrears with a game in hand is not an irretrievable position, even after a ninth successive away defeat in all competitions since winning – with typical perversity – at Tottenham in December. Now they have lost seven games out of eight, glimpses of better organisation under Rafa Benitez need to be translated into points.

Giving a more disciplined Aleksandar Mitrovic his head and a starting place would surely help. He won almost every header after coming on for the last half-hour, putting one of them past John Ruddy for the first equaliser and grabbing the ball to beat him with a penalty for the second one.

“They’re all in it together,” Neil said of his team. Are Newcastle?

Norwich (4-4-1-1): Ruddy 6; Wisdom 7, Bennett 7, Klose 8, Olsson 7; Jarvis 7(Redmond, 75), O’Neil 7, Howson 7, Brady 7; Naismith 8 (Hoolahan, 80); Mbokani 8 (Jerome, 85). 

Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Darlow 7; Janmaat 6, Mbemba 4, Taylor 6, Anita 4 (Mitrovic, 61); Shelvey 7, Tiote 5 (Perez, 46); Townsend 6, Wijnaldum 5, Sissoko 5; Cisse 6.

Man of the match: Klose.

Match rating: 8/10


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