Chance after chance goes begging as another defeat emphasises Reds’ re-building priority

Norwich City 2, Barnsley 0

(SkyBet Championship)

Barnsley created enough chances to have won this match but poor finishing meant that they came away from Carrow Road with nothing at all to show for their efforts.

Does that sound familiar?

It could also sum up the two previous away fixtures at QPR and Derby. Which means no points where there would have been nine if only half the opportunities had been taken on all three occasions.

And don’t forget that last-kick equaliser which robbed the Oakwell team of two more points in the last home game with Ipswich Town.

Those dropped points would have lifted the Reds back into the thick of the play-off race!

It emphasises once again the remarkable advances that have been made by the Oakwell Club in the last two seasons and that is to the abundant credit off all concerned.

However, it is a harsh footballing fact that transfer movement always hits the clubs with the least financial resources, and this is what has happened with Barnsley.

In some ways they are the victims of their own success, with wealthier clubs eager to make a claim on their best players.

It must be monumentally frustrating for head coach Paul Heckingbottom (pictured), who now once again faces the task of bringing in players of quality to replace those who have left for pastures new.

Yet the future still looks bright. The foundation is in place for that re-building process, as recent performances have shown.

Critics can trot out the statistics which suggest otherwise. The Reds have won only one of their last 10 matches and the last six have resulted in four defeats and two draws.

It doesn’t paint the rosiest of pictures, does it?

Yet the fact is that in those ten encounters Barnsley have continued to play some pleasing football; they have retained an admirable team ethic; and they have shown total commitment.

The goals for column highlights the main reason for the lack of success in that period. On only one occasion have the Reds scored more than one goal in any game – away to Aston Villa, when they hit three – and four times they have failed to find the net.

It is evident where the priority needs to be in the search for new players – which has surely already begun – in time for the start of next season.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that his side have already accumulated sufficient points this season to earn a place of security in mid-table, Heckingbottom has to try to find some way of stabilising the current situation before confidence begins to crumble under the weight of too many defeats.

And that work starts with the international break, as he intimated in his post-match summary in Norfolk.

“Our lads have come here to a big team like Norwich, who have players they think should be in the Premier League, and we’ve had enough opportunities to have won the game,” he said.

He went on: “Five, six, seven, even eight times we’ve broken them down, but the most difficult thing in football is the end product – putting the ball in the back of the net – and that’s why those players who can do that are worth the money.”

Then he concluded: “During the break we will be working on that end product. We have to.”

He admitted that his side had been below par in the first half but praised the spirited second half fight-back which should have brought reward against managerless Norwich.

After early exchanges, which saw Marley Watkins go close at one end and Alan Pritchard striking the wall with a dipping free-kick at the other, Norwich began to take control.

Adam Davies just managed to grab a low cross from Jacob Murphy, with Cameron Jerome waiting to pounce just behind him; a volley from Jonny Howson cleared the bar; the same player had a speculative long-range effort easily saved by the goalkeeper; and a curling shot from Pritchard swung just wide of the far post.

As half-time approached the Reds finally began to come more into the picture as an attacking force, and they even had the ball in the back of the net when Tom Bradshaw rounded off a move instigated by Adam Hammill, only to find the assistant flagging for offside.

Hammill continued to test the Norwich defence with some mazy dribbles, but just when it looked as though the Reds were going to go in at the break on level terms City broke the deadlock.

On the stroke of half-time Adam Armstrong gave the ball away as the Reds tried to clear their lines, and Jerome’s subsequent cross was rifled home by Murphy.

Heckingbottom must have had a few words with his players during the interval, because they tore into City straight from the restart and the second half was only a few seconds old when Michael McGovern was forced into a brilliant save to deny Hammill’s close-range back-heel after a forceful run by Andy Yiadom.

From the subsequent corner McGovern had to be at his best again to turn an Angus MacDonald header behind for another flag-kick.

Marley Watkins then failed to punish a miscued Norwich clearance, which left him one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but he sliced his shot wide. It was the best chance of the game.

It was all Barnsley at this stage, but they were hit with a sucker punch in the 72nd minute when Davies parried a shot from Murphy only to see the ball rebound off MacDonald and into the net for a most unfortunate own goal.

That calmed the Norwich nerves. They almost made it 3-0 when Davies pulled off an excellent save from Jerome and in the closing stages MacDonald headed a clever Howson chip off the line.

There was still time for the chase-anything Bradshaw to send a vicious volley over the bar from eight yards and substitute Danny Kent to fire wide from even closer, thus summing up the afternoon for his side.

Heckingbottom’s succinct summary was: “There were many positives. When we played how we wanted to play we were passing the ball better, quicker, sharper and penetrating them much easier, and we got good chances from that.

“The negatives were the two goals, which were both sloppy on our part, and the fact that we were very poor in front of goal. In essence, we got it wrong at both ends.”

Norwich City: McGovern; Pinto, Bennett, Martin, Whittaker, Tettey, Howson, Jacob Murphy (Dorrans, 84 mins), Pritchard, Hollahan (Naismith, 30 mins), Jerome (Oliveira, 84 mins).

Barnsley: Davies; Yiadom, Roberts, MacDonald, Jones; Hammill (Hedges, 81 mins), Scowen, James, Watkins (Mowatt, 77 mins); Bradshaw, Armstrong (Kent, 57 mins).

Booking: Pinto (Norwich).

Referee: Darren Bond.

Attendance: 26,105.








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