A satisfying win on saturday provided a fair tonic for the three consecutive losses we suffered at the hands of Aston Villa, Swansea and Manchester United (although arguable Villa and United shouldn’t have taken all the points). Sailing into a two nil lead with a couple of clinical attacks we should have made the end of the game more comfortable than we did, and how unfortunate for Kacanilklic that he couldn’t get the third, but we did well and it was a good win.
Schwarzer – 6, only really had to make one save all game and I thought he should have done better than let it come out for Hoolahan (I think) to strike at goal; brilliantly blocked by Hughes. He was very good on crosses, key against a side like Norwich who are so dangerous from crosses – just look at their equaliser earlier this season, a cross Stockale could have claimed – but his kicking was quite poor.
Kelly – 7.5, normally Riise assumes the role of marauding full back, but on Saturday that role was left to Kelly on the other side. Possibly his best performance for us and its the last in a sequence of consistenly good performances. He seems to be really growing into the role after a dip in form earlier in the season. He was often found supporting Duff way in the final third, and was unfortunate not to score when his shot was blocked after he broke into the box. Defensively he was very solid, with good tackling and covering, especially after being so attack minded most of the game.
Hangeland – 6.5, passed the ball pretty loosely and dangerously a couple of times, and his passing seems to be getting fairly complacent recently. Even still, he did ok. and was big on crosses, which as I say are Norwich’s most potent weapon.
Hughes – 7, wasn’t really tested until late in the game but when he was he came up trumps. He made so many blocks and interceptions from crosses and shots when Norwich were pushing forward, although he came off worse when it came to Wilbraham’s goal. Almost scored too, from a corner.
Riise – 6, didn’t do too well really. With Kacaniklic playing out wide (more on him in a bit) compared to Dempsey his attacking impact was limited, because in the first half hour he ran forward with his usual energy, but not so much in the last hour, other than his parried shot. When we were under the cosh he always favoured smacking the ball forward rather than looking up too, which just invited more pressure.
Murphy – 6.5, nice to see him start again. While he didn’t really pick the locks with fine passes he knitted our passing game together neatly and made the odd crunching tackle. We started to concede possession all too easily when he came off.
Dembele – 6, after appearing to start to display his undoubted ability in central midfield in our wins over Stoke, QPR and Wolves Dembele has struggled since, it’s fair to say. After using his mobility and considerable skill to influence our offensive play he’s been quite limited in that regard, although what a shame his shot was blocked on the line! Would like to see him break forward more often and make late runs, but the problem with Dembele is that he seems to struggle a bit when he collects the ball further up the pitch. Much better running from deep.
Dempsey – 8.5, the American sprung back to life with his first goal since the brace against Wolves. Dempsey scored the first with a now typical poachers finish, anticipating the goalkeeper palming the ball out wide before reacting quickly to knock it in with his thigh, and set up the second with an even more impressive speed of thought, recieving the ball, turning and finding duff behind the wing back with a perfect ball. For all of Dempsey’s goals we must remember he has a great eye for an assist as well (like Ruiz’ goal v Bolton, which was very similarly created). He was definately more effective out wide before Pogrebnyak came off, but even after that he was unfortunate to hit the post after a nice shuffle and shot and in the second half he lead the line fairly well. His heading upfront was particuarly eye catching, beating Bennett and Ward to win the ball far up the pitch. However he still remains anything but a centre forward. Left mid is his perfect position.
Duff – 8, like his compatriot Kelly, this was Duff’s best performance of the season. A clinical finish finished off a neat passing move in the first half, and he fired in a couple of dangerous crosses. The confidence in his game was plain for all to see, from his impressive kick ups on the byline to control an overhit ball to the two cheeky little back flicks he did to find Kelly twice in a matter of seconds. He finished up the game having finished the most miles running too.
Ruiz – 7, …and runner up was Ruiz. Playing consecutive games now as a second striker, he seems to be finally playing in his best position. He is much more dangerous in that position behind the forward, where he can find space where it’s seemingly nonexistant (who thought that he could create a shot from that Hangeland long ball when two defenders were converging on him?) and threaten with it too. The through ball to Kelly in the second half was exquisite and he made a number of interceptions of Norwich possession too. His presence in the game waned, and it was no suprise he was subbed, but he is demonstrating more and more just what a talent he is.
Pogrebnyak – 6, ran well upfront before going off injured. Hopefully he isn’t out for too long, because our attacking patterns and shape were definately effected by his absence.
Kacaniklic – 7, Pogrebnyak’s injury offered a chance for Kacaniklic to shine and he most definately seized it. An assured debut, although I was slightly worried at half time because I don’t think he touched the ball in the 15 minutes he was on the pitch. After the restart though it was very different, beating his full back often, favouring the ball from the byline and having the confidence to take on shots from distance too, including an audacious effort which was denied a deserved goal by both Ruddy and the bar. I thought at times he could have done more from his crosses but he posed a constant threat and offered a genuine outlet out wide, something we have had very little of, if at all, this season. Hopefully we see much more of him in the games to come; the loan out to Watford seems to be the making of him.
Diarra – 6, he did ok when he came on. Some good tackles and interceptions with composure on the ball but also some instances which demonstrated a lack of match sharpness like the mis-control which lead to the Norwich goal.
Etuhu – N/A, came on to win the ball and clear it. Fair to say he achieved that.