Evening all. So it's the Black Cats against the Canaries, and we all know what that means …
… essentially, Sunderland use their craft and ingenuity in an attempt to breach Norwich's defences, only to keep getting caught on the counter attack.
Several things strike me about that video:
• Tweety Pie is an exceptionally annoying, smug git. Why we're supposed to root for him I don't know
• That old lady needs reporting to the RSPCA. She has a tiny garden full of massive dogs. She feeds them by throwing their food into the yard. And she keeps her tools – saws and the like – in a place easily accessible to her smug budgie.
• Cats don't half get a raw deal in cartoons. Sylvestre, Tom, that one in the Flintstones … the ones in an American Tale are depicted as evil hell creatures … the only one who gets a fair shout is TopCat, and even he lives in a bin.
Anyway, the teams are in. No changes for either side:
Sunderland: Mignolet, O'Shea (C), Richardson, Bramble, Brown, Larsson, Elmohamady, Vaughan, Gardner, Sessegnon, Bendtner.
Subs: Turner, Cattermole, Wickham, Colback, Dong-won, McClean, Westwood.
Norwich: Ruddy, Naughton, Tierney, R Martin, Barnett, Pilkington, Bennett, Hoolahan, Fox, Johnson, Morison.
Subs: Rudd, Crofts, Vaughan, Holt, Surman, C Martin, De Laet.
For some reason, this feels like a big game to me. Not in the grand scheme of things perhaps, but it's a weathervane game, one that might give an indication which way each season is heading. It's perhaps the biggest game between the sides since
the FA Cup semi-final in 1992 but I can't find any footage of that the 1985 Milk Cup final:
That has to be one of the spawniest goals ever to win a major trophy. No? Enlighten me …
Click, clack, click, clack … Out come the teams at Carrow Road.
Peep! Right, off we go. Norwich, kicking from left to right, get things underway.
1 min: Elmohamady scoots down the right, but his ball into the box fails to find Bendtner.
2 min: Norwich haven't had a kick in the opening 120 seconds and they've not been out of their half. Sunderland very much on the front foot.
3 min: Norwich rattle forward and Kieran Richardson, playing left-back ("He could be a future England full-back," said Gary Neville pre-match), makes a mess of his touch and presents the ball to Morison. He's crowded for space, but still forces Mignolet into a save at the second attempt.
5 min: Barnett with the hail mary over the top, Bramble misses his header and with Mignolet in no man's land, Hoolahan scoops his lob over the bar. Good chance that.
7 min: City force a couple of corners. Sunderland heads meet both.
8 min: Fox rakes a superb ball out to Pilkington. The former Huddersfield man zips in a cross and Mignolet does well to collect as Bennett comes charging in.
10 min: Sunderland looked a little shaky at the back thus far. Bennett's pass out to the right can't find Naughton on this occasion.
12 min: Vaughan is dropping deep into midfield and trying to orchestrate things for Sunderland. I think he's a handy little player, but I'm not sure he's good enough to run a team like that.
13 min: "Don't want to be annoying," begins John Cains. Why do I feel a "but" coming on? "But Steve Bruce scored only one own goal on his debut for Norwich. It was an absolute cracker after about five minutes against Liverpool with the final score 3-3. Last minute dodgy penalty for Norwich. Mark Lawrenson brought down Mick Channon (No wonder he slagged off Norwich last week on Match of the Day). Cue windmill celebration. And here is the documentary evidence to prove it." I blame Barry "Purveyor of Duff Bruce Information" Glendenning.
16 min: All a bit scrappy at the minute, a midfield maelstrom.
17 min: "As a young Norwich fan living in Sheffield at the time I was offered a ticket to the 1992 semi-final on the proviso I did a charity collection before the match," writes Phil Withall. "Five hours shaking a bucket at disinterested drunks later I received my ticket. Spent the next two hours sat in the Sunderland end, quietly sobbing. Great days …" Naughton whips in a cross, Bramble heads clear.
19 min: Hoolahan scutters forward. Richardson puts a stop to that nonsense.
20 min: Good news for Norwich fans: City haven't conceded a penalty yet. Bad news: there's 70 minutes still to play.
21 min: Big chance for Gardner. Bendtner rolls the ball across the edge of the box, the former Villa midfielder scoops over.
24 min: Either Carrow Road is very quiet today or Paul Lambert is very loud. You can here plenty of the City manager's thoughts from the touchline. To be fair to those in the stands, there's not been a great deal to get excited about thus far.
26 min: Fine volleyed effort from Bendtner, comfortably palmed away by Ruddy in the Norwich goal.
27 min: O'Shea hits the first defender with his cross from the right. Ho, and indeed hum.
28 min: Mignolet is off his line quickly to larrup away a through-ball. Re: Vaughan's capabilities as a field boss," writes Paul Taylor. "I assume that a well-skilled player can handle most positions, from a physical point of view (save shooting on goal, which seems to be a quite rare ability.) Is it the mental tasks of assessing the opposition and thinking three passes ahead (à la chess?) that come into play there?" I think there's a whole host of things that are crucial in that position, the ability to dictate the play (rather than having it dictated to you) being key. Never seen Vaughan doing that before, but perhaps he's got his chance now.
30 min: Pilkington wins a corner, but Fox's corner might as well have been taken by an actual fox.
GOAL!!! Norwich 1-0 Sunderland (Barnett 31) Brilliant, brilliant stuff from Elliott Bennett. The former Brighton midfielder plays a superb one-two with, I think, Morison in the inside-right channel, zooms away from Larsson and squares to present Leon Barnett with the simplest of tap-ins.
33 min: The home crowd launch into I Just Can't Get Enough. Hopefully not this version.
35 min: Pass, pass, pass from Norwich before Naughton looks for the killer ball and can't quite find Bennett.
36 min: Fine defending from Naughton as Bendtner almost gets in behind the Norwich backline. Sessegnon hoofs the loose ball over the bar.
37 min: Elmohamady wins a corner …
38 min: … nodded away by Tierney.
40 min: A particular bright spot for Norwich – they've played very well this evening without relying on Wes Hoolahan. Fox and Bennett have been the stars thus far.
41 min: Steve Morison, playing up front for Norwich this evening, is wearing the No5 shirt. The world has gone mad, mad I tells yer. Elmohamady wangs his cross behind for a goal kick.
43 min: As it stands, Norwich are ninth in the Premier League. Two years ago this week they were 14th in League One. And now they've got a corner …
44 min: … and after a bit of a fluttery semi-scramble, Mignolet collects.
Peep! After Bendtner volleys wide, Chris Foy brings the first 45 to an end.
Half-time email dept.
"John, I'm very disturbed by your comment about cats in cartoons from the preamble," begins Asher Klein. "Firstly, of course cats should get the short end of the stick—they're cats, and they're inherently evil. But you're forgetting the two exceptions that prove the rule: the unbearable ThunderCats (can anyone tell me what that snickering cat-lizard thing is? Also any of the half-man-half-cats?) and the sort-of-awesome-actually SWAT Kats, a short lived show about two vigilante mechanics/F-14 pilots in a place called MegaKat city. Confused? This handy video explains everything." I think "explains" may be stretching it.
"Dear John," begins the polite Artie Prendergast-Smith. "Re: 41 min. At the weekend I went to a college football match here in Chicago where the home side's striker wore No3. In terms of madness, though, that paled in comparison to the fact that not one obscenity was directed at the referee by either players or spectators throughout the whole 90 minutes. Seems they still haven't quite gotten the hang of this football thing..."
Football these days dept.
"I just caught the last few minutes of the first half and was wondering if you could enlighten me as to why Sunderland are playing in their blue away strip?" writes Mark Gillies. "Norwich's 'keeper is in red, but surely he could have changed? Honestly, football these days."
Peep! Fatboy Slim's Right Here, Right Now rings out from the Tannoy as we get underway. Honestly, football these days. I was at Fratton Park on Saturday and the PA system was jiggered and unable to play music, pre-match, post-match, mid-match or at half-time. It was blissful.
47 min: "Re Sunderland change strip - they're "the blue cats" for Canal+ ce soir," writes Philby1976 on Twitter. "This joke is yet to get old, apparently." Mignolet claws (see what I did there) away a dangerous cross.
GOAL!!!! Norwich 2-0 Sunderland (Morison 48) If ever there was a bullet header, this was it. Tierney gets to the byline, strokes in a cross and Morison does fantastically do get the jump on Brown and thunder his header past the helpless Mignolet.
50 min: There was something pleasingly old-fashioned about that goal. The sort of strike you'll hear described as a "proper centre-forward's header". It's a long road back for Sunderland now.
51 min: "I also get unreasonably/irrationally annoyed by players in unsuitable squad numbers," writes Tim Bailey. "William Gallas wearing No10 at Arsenal was an infamous recent offender. Perhaps even worse, though, is when a team 'retires' a shirt, thus taking that number out of circulation forever. In the MLS, Real Salt Lake recently retired their no. 9 shirt in honour of Jason Kreis, who managed a mighty 17 goals over three seasons. Now nobody else in the entire future of that club will ever get to wear one of the coolest of all the football numbers. What a farce." I quite like the whole retiring shirts thing as long as there's a good reason for it. It's a nice gesture in tragic circumstances particularly, though that goalscoring tally doesn't quite seem to fit the bill.
53 min: Bennett zips a shot wide. Sunderland might get a hiding here if they're not careful.
55 min: Morison wriggles down the right and wins a corner off Titus Bramble …
56 min: … taken short to Hoolahan, shuffled across the box … it all falls a bit flat when Morison attempts a backheel with no Norwich player in the vicinity.
57 min: "Re shirt numbers: the argument ends with Ossie Ardiles wearing No1 in the World Cup 1978," writes Gary Naylor. Honestly, football, er, those days
58 min: Larsson gives the ball away and Morison is through! He hasn't quite got the pace to shake off Bramble and in the end the Sunderland defender does just about enough. "My sons current favourite is hypo-chondri-cat," writes Terry Gallagher. "A Warner Bros classic (that Thundercats nonsense doesn't really count). chilling psychological warfare inflicted on the poor moggy. Only a sociopath would side with the mice ..."
60 min: Sunderland finally get their collective foot on the ball, until Gardner allows it to dribble out of play.
61 min: Bendtner is looking a hugely isolated figure here, but he's snaffled himself a chance. Johnson dillies and dallies, dallies and dillies and the big striker pounces only to be denied by a superb save from Ruddy.
63 min: End-to-end stuff now – Bennett stings Mignolet's palms from distance, Martin (quite what he's doing up there I don't know) blasts the rebound wide.
64 min: "Coolest cartoon cats ever," suggests Mark Gillies. "And boy am I glad the internet's around to prove I didn't imagine it." Samurai Pizza Cats might have been more use than the Black Cats this evening. They've been poor.
66 min: A stony-faced Steve Bruce is preparing to introduce Ji Dong-won and ex-Ipswich man Connor Wickham. "BOOOOOOOO!!!" respond the home fans.
68 min: Larsson and Stephane "Jesus Jones Intro" Sessegnon were the men to make way. And Wickham is almost on the scoresheet immediately, Elmohamady's cross finding the teenager six yards out, but his header (in fact it may have struck his arm) goes straight into the waiting hands of Ruddy.
70 min: O'Shea sends a cross deeper than the Mariana Trench.
71 min: "Your correspondent failed to mention that Jason Kreis was the first player to sign for the fledgling Real Salt Lake after a lengthy successful spell in Dallas," writes Michael Day. "More recently, as their coach, he led Real Salt Lake to an MLS Cup win over the favorites, LA Galaxy and under his stewardship they became the first MLS team to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final. Still probably not enough to deserve having a number retired, but that's the kind of thing they do over here."
73 min: Vaughan opens up the Norwich midfield and finds Ji down the left, his cross flickers with danger but Johnson coolly nods back to Ruddy.
75 min: Ji's cross is headed away by Pilkington. Someone in the office has clearly had enough of events at Carrow Road – there's a TV with Martin Clunes' vehicle Doc Martin on a few desks away.
76 min: Vaughan wallops in a low shot, but Ruddy gathers comfortably.
77 min: Pilkington is replaced by James Vaughan, the excellent Morison is replaced by Grant Holt. And I've just had an email with the subject line: "Why does Steve Bruce have a job?" "Why does Steve Bruce still have his job?" writes Michael Meagher. "This is his third season in charge. They're all his players and it's clear that he is unable to motivate those players across an entire season. Surely the powers at Sunderland know that they could do better?"
80 min: Doc Martin's in his surgery. Looks like there's trouble afoot. Oh, sorry wrong screen. Norwich have got this sewn up. Sunderland offering very little.
82 min: Miriam Margolyes is looking in a bad way. And Doc Martin is nowh… what? Oh. Holt gets a whack from Bramble, but concedes a free-kick in the process.
83 min: Carrow Road again launches into what future generations will surely know as The Saturday's I Just Can't Get Enough. Crofts replaces the excellent Bennett.
85 min: James Vaughan easily shrugs off Bramble and weaves towards the area, before skewing his shot narrowly wide. "Re: Artie Prendergast and 41 minutes. The NCAA has a zero tolerance profanity rule," writes Mike Jones. "Even profanity not directed at anyone will get you a red card. Hence my keeper shanking a punt laterally into the crowd and muttering [A BAD WORD] Done. My entire team needs retraining somehow, probably a hopeless cause after 15 years of English-style football."
GOAL!!! Norwich 2-1 Sunderland (Richardson 86) Out of nowhere, Norwich are now facing a nervy last five. The Sunderland full-back picks the ball up on the left corner of the box and spanks a fine drive into the bottom corner, possibly via a Barnett deflection.
88 min: O'Shea bashes into Tierney with his boot up. Yellow card. Norwich's defence breathes a sigh of relief.
89 min: Norwich are down to 10, and not because of a red card. James Vaughan, minutes after coming off the bench, is down with a leg problem and hobbling off. He's had plenty of luck in his career thus far – all of it bad – and here's another slice. A minimum of five added minutes to play.
90+2 min: Richardson whips in a corner, Norwich scramble clear.
90+3 min: "How can any cool cat conversation not include Fritz?" wonders Scott Orton. To be fair, it wasn't really supposed to be a cool cat conversation but anyway. Naughton and Ruddy have been booked for time-wasting.
90+4 min: Sunderland lump a free-kick into the box and it's panic stations. Bodies flying, Wickham volleying at goal but scooping the ball up, Ki flying at Ruddy but not making contact with ball or keeper.
Peep! Peeep!! Peeeep!!! A roar goes up as Norwich celebrate a huge win that takes them ninth in the nascent Premier League. And of course it's immediately drowned out by that traditional Norfolkian football ditty Samba de Janeiro. Honestly, football these days.
That is a genuinely important win for Norwich. If they are to stay up, then home wins (not draws) against (apologies for the forthcoming phrase) teams like Sunderland are essential. And that's exactly what they've gone and done. Thoroughly deserved it was to. Right, that's it from me. Thanks for all your emails, cat-cartoon-related or otherwise. Stick around on site to have your say on Richard Rae's match report imminently. But, from me, cheerio!