Chris Hughton's caution offers little scoring threat
22 March ~ Facing a Sunderland team who are no longer a "crisis club" is a worry for us Norwich City fans. We can't afford anything other than a win when we face them today, but we all know that despite his league position, Gus Poyet is the kind of strong character we wish we had at Carrow Road, and we fear that if his team can perform at close to their best, we're in trouble. The reason? We simply can't seem to score, with just 24 goals in 30 games so far this season – the third-lowest in the Premier League.
The constant lack of any kind of goal-cushion leaves our inconsistent defence at the mercy of a half-decent opposition attack and too often someone (usually Sébastien Bassong) panics and gives away a needless equaliser. Added to that, none of our strikers seems to want to score for Norwich. Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Gary Hooper and Luciano Becchio got over 70 goals between them for their previous clubs last season. Under Hughton they have mustered just six. We've tried to pin one of them as a scapegoat but now we just shrug and accept that our attacking tactics are inept.
Each home game is now a tense, nervous affair, with players arguing among themselves and fans biting their fingernails as the clock ticks towards 90 minutes while we try to protect another precious one-goal lead. Mutiny is not yet on the horizon but it may well be if we don't beat Sunderland. Surprisingly few fans have voiced their displeasure at home matches so far.
Most people have resigned themselves to the fact that Hughton will be the man in charge until the end of the season. Ironically, that might be our saving grace; David McNally, the CEO, has refused to panic so at least we aren't one of those clubs that, thanks to trigger-happy chairmen, are considered to be in all kinds of trouble on and off the field and certainties for relegation.
Sunderland have games in hand over us, so the last thing we want is to give them three points and the impetus they need to get their battle for safety underway. What we want is for Hughton to return the faith – and patience – McNally and the fans have shown him by letting our players off the leash a little, allowing them to express themselves and show their creative sides against Sunderland. Discipline has kept the "goals against" tally pretty low at home. We just desperately need some "goals for". Paul Buller