Zola still winless as Jerome delivers
TWO first-half goals from Cameron Jerome and Timm Klose gave Norwich their first back-to-back victories since the beginning of October, while Birmingham were condemned to their ninth game without a win.
Jerome’s fine solo run and finish opened the scoring in the 15th minute and Klose added the second two minutes before the break, giving the Canaries control going into the second half after a promising start from Birmingham.
Norwich boss Alex Neil went into the fixture expecting an open game, and explained the decision to match Birmingham’s style of play was partly made with the expectations of the fans in mind.
“We spoke about how it was going to be an open, offensive match for both teams, and the first half could have finished three each or 4-3 because there were quite a few chances,” he said.
“Because you know they’re going to pass it and make the pitch expansive, you’ve got two courses of action. You either try and stop it and get up against them, or you sit in your shape and surrender the ball.
“I don’t think the fans, or me as the manager, would like to see the team play that way, especially as the home team. There’s an expectancy about how we’d like to play and an expectancy about the fans coming to watch the team and what they want to see.”
Birmingham started the game confidently, and the culmination of their slick early play saw Lukas Jutkiewicz head against the bar after being picked out unmarked in the box inside the 13th minute.
That miss was punished two minutes later by Jerome’s solo run at goal, with his touch inside past Ryan Shotton making enough space for him to slot the ball into the far corner.
Recent loan signing Craig Gardener could have headed Birmingham level five minutes later with Norwich failing to pick up an attacker for a second time, but his effort drifted over the bar.
The frailties that have seen Gianfranco Zola’s side go nine games without a win during his tenure were prevalent near the end of the first half as Klose ghosted through the box to thunder in a header unchallenged, a goal which changed the dynamic of the second half.
Despite a promising start for Birmingham it was mainly the home side who dominated the chances. Steven Naismith headed straight into the arms of Tomasz Kuszczak in the 73rd minute, and the Birmingham keeper got down well to prevent Jerome’s late effort from reaching the goal.
Zola is still without a win as Blues manager, and he puts the latest loss down to a first-half performance that saw his team create scoring opportunities buit fail to take them, and allow Norwich chances in equal measure.
“It’s another frustrating afternoon, especially with the way we started on the front foot,” he said.
“We had a great chance and we didn’t convert it and immediately they went on to score.
“In the first half we did everything for us and for them, which is the disappointing bit. But I stay behind the players, because they are doing whatever I tell them to do.
“Sometimes they make mistakes, but this is normal – I make mistakes. But I’m confident that all together we can come out of the difficult moment.”
KLOSE RUN THING: Norwich defender Timm Klose makes his mark at the other end with the Canaries’ second goal