Date: 5th April 2010 at 3:02pm
Written by:

We speak to Norwich fan and message-board user ‘DionForPM’ on his thoughts and predictions for today’s match at Carrow Road between County and the Canaries.

County could be relegated today if results go against us and we (as predicted) take a beating.

Firstly, what were you realistically expecting/hoping for at the start of the season considering the worry from your fans of Bryan Gunn managing the team?

The team was a mess after coming down from the Championship. Half the players we had in returned to their clubs from loans and plenty more wanted to leave. Gunn brought in some decent players and we performed reasonably well in the pre-season friendlies but deep down most fans new he wasn’t the man to take us back to the Championship, a feeling confirmed by the horrendous 7-1 defeat to Colchester on the first day.

I’ve a feeling I said we’d finished 6th at the start of the season. We certainly had the squad but not the manager and I felt play-offs would have been adequate with a whole season under Gunn. Fortunately we’ll never know how it would have gone.

What exactly has Paul Lambert changed at the club to get you firing straight (by the looks of it, no jinxing!) back upto the Championship?

It took a few games to truly get us on track but Lambert discovered what his best XI was and stuck with it. Tactically his best move was to utilise the talent of Wes Hoolahan, our most creative outlet, by putting him at the head of a diamond midfield and allowing him to dictate games. The poor players that started the season in the team such as Tudur-Jones, Whaley and Gill were quickly identifed and dropped and Lambert was quick to give the youth a chance.

Another great attribute to our side at the moment is their never-say-die spirit. We’ve actually lost more games this season than Charlton in 5th but our insistence on going for the win at every opportunity this season means we’ve only drawn seven and scored late winners against Brighton, Walsall, Southend and Leeds recently. Lambert’s effective use of substitutes has helped us greatly in this regard.

Off the pitch, Lambert’s inspired a real team spirit. He appointed Grant Holt, our best player and ring leader this season, as captain, whilst the coaches brought in, Culverhouse and Karsa have made us look more solid at the back. Lambert is always quick to praise his players in post-match interviews and there seems to be a real togetherness about the side not seen since the early Worthington era.

The Tranmere defeat on Friday looks like a bit of an anomaly, and despite the terrible refereeing, the general consensus seems to be that Tranny deserved the win. What went wrong?

In all fairness, not a lot. Norwich’s only real mistakes were not coming out of the blocks quickly enough and allowing Tranmere to score those two early penalties, and Doherty’s poor backpass to put Thomas-Moore in to win the second pen. Once we were two down and playing with 10 men we really weren’t that bad but with our gung ho attitude there was always a chance we’d concede more.

Take nothing away from Tranmere who put us under a lot of pressure and defended well, but after a quarter of an hour the game was only going one way.

County fans will obviously be keen to hear about the exploits of Michael Rose and Oli Johnson – how have the two adapted in the higher-profile surroundings?

Let’s start with Johnson. He may not be the most popular among Stockport fans but he’s already becoming a cult hero at City. His first contribution in a Norwich shirt came against Huddersfield where he carried the ball past three players and unleashed a 25 yard shot just wide. Since then he’s played the role of supersub brilliantly, coming on to score in our demolition of Colchester and crucially getting two goals off the bench when we played awfully against Southend. Johnson’s shown he has a good touch and an ability to beat players and I’d certainly say he’s someone worth bringing off the bench if we’re in the Championship next year.

Rose unfortunately has not fared so well. The signs looked promising when he scored on his debut but defensively he’s often guilty of lapses and his service with long balls to the front man is pretty lamentable. He’s also occasionally of poor positioning which has cost us a couple of times. His long throw can be a weapon and he’s a good crosser of the ball from what I’ve seen but I think we’ll have to send him back to you for next season as he’s not good enough for the level we’re aspiring to.

Who have been your key players this season?

So many to choose from this year. Holt will probably (and deservedly) get player of the year award for his goals and all round contribution and Chris Martin’s support act to Holt has seen him transformed from the player we loaned out 2 years ago. Then there’s Wes Hoolahan who’s arguably the most dangerous player in the division ons his day and has turned countless games for us this season.

Gary Doherty and Darel Russell have really turned themselves around and responded superbly to being out of the team early in the season and Korey Smith looks like a real talent in the centre of midfield, he could play at a higher level. Final mention goes to Fraser Forster, a loanee from Newcastle who’s proved himself an excellent shot stopper in his time here, another surely destined for bigger things. Sorry if it looks like I’m listing the whole team here, we really have a had a good year!

Any key players missing that may give County a boost tomorrow?

The word is that Hoolahan could be missing which would be a boost for County if true, many teams have stuck two men on him this season to nullify his threat and we’d certainly look less dangerous without him. Smith may still be missing from Friday in which case Stephen Hughes will play but otherwise our only absentees are long term.

Prediction for tomorrow?

I’m not normally a hugely confident Norwich fan but we lost without playing badly on Friday and I think the players will want to respond from that. Top v bottom matches can have a habit of producing shock results but I think we’ll have too much for Stockport today. We’ve not given anyone a hiding in a while and I think this could be tighter than a lot of people are predicting but we’ll run out 3-1 winners with a couple of late goals.

Thanks to Dion for his quick and brilliantly-written answers!