Norwich City delayed Brighton’s claiming of The Championship crown on Friday evening as they ran-out 2-0 winners at Carrow Road. David Stockdale’s bizarre own-goal brace ensured that we didn’t suffer the indignity of seeing our former boss celebrating on home turf.
Rather unbelievably, City were victorious despite failing to register a single shot on target: a statistic rather befitting of a strange match. Strange in the sense that we didn’t concede, even stranger in the sense that Ryan Bennett was faultless.
Perhaps the most useful thing to take from the victory is that we did so without Alex Tettey. It has been assumed for too long that a natural central defensive midfielder is always required. Very rarely this season has a City starting line-up not featured at least one of Tettey or Mulumbu. When played, their role has been to shield the defence and keep the ball ticking over. Obviously, our defensive statistics would suggest that this ‘shielding’ has not been up to much. Furthermore, if we are looking for someone ‘to tick the ball over’, we have far better options. As such, many City fans have been wanting us to adopt a different, ‘CDM-less’ system. One rare occasion that we did so this season was in our 2-1 victory at Nottingham Forest back in September. Uncoincidentally, one our best displays of the season.
The Howson-Dorrans pairing was key to victory
Last Saturday’s victory at Preston saw the return of the Dorrans-Howson pairing that worked so well at Forest. Much to my delight, Alan Irvine stuck with the pair for the visit of Brighton. Both of the games produced three points and this is in no small part down to the midfield switch-up. For all of Tettey’s talents (athleticism, breaking-up of play), distribution is most not one of them. In contrast, Graham Dorrans is probably the best passer of a football in the squad. Thus, it is no surprise that things suddenly start to look far more fluid with the Scot involved.
There has always been some doubt over Dorrans’ defensive abilities. Against Brighton, however, he more than proved that he has the ability to do the ‘dirty work’. Dorrans was creative going forward and, as opposed to Tettey, he was constantly trying to make things happen. It is no coincidence that Howson delivered his best performance in recent weeks alongside Dorrans.
Of course, there are times, particularly away from home, when not playing a natural centre-midfielder will leave us vulnerable. I am not saying that we should religiously stick with the Howson-Dorrans partnership, but it should definitely now be seen as a genuinely viable option.