Oddly, given that one side won and one side lost, both sides can be pleased with this. Norwich played well in the first half, Pilkington in particular looking dangerous, as well as depositing a tidy onion into the bag used for onion storage. Sunderland, meanwhile, somehow experienced a collective epiphany, remembering that there's this sport, yeah, that's called football, right, and they're a football team tasked with playing football, innit. So they did, and really deserved a point, to the extent that you ever can when you don't get one. But if they retain the attitude for next week and those thereafter, they'll find that things will get better, and isn't that a heartwarming thought for a cold winter night? You don't have to answer that.
Anyway thanks for reading and your emails - sorry I couldn't use them all. Bye.
FULL-TIME: NORWICH CITY 2-1 SUNDERLAND
Happiness meets unhappiness. Life in microcosm, right there.
90+3 min: Sessegnon's feet are far too dainty for Bennett (Elliot variety), who fouls him, prompting to two to bash chests in classic classroom fashion. Gardner's kick is low and hard, but no one can divert it in the desired manner, and Bunn does excellently to hold on.
90+1 min: Sunderland have shovelled almost everyone forward, but Johnson, with the opportunity to cross, overhits his attempt past the back post. But they retrieve the ball, and Sessegnon drills a cross against Garrido, only for the soul-curdling depression of feeling the Rick O'Shea on his boot, resulting in a goal-kick.
89 min: Rose runs at Whittaker, moving inside him and out, but the space behind him is hard to get to, with Bennett moving across to cover it, and he finds himself on the floor. There follows muted appeals for a penalty and muted accusations of simulation. There'll be four added minutes.
88 min: Howson replaces Hoolahan prior to a Norwich free-kick, swung in from the right towards the back post where Bennett nods back - but to Cuellar, who clears.
86 min: Sunderland appear unsure whether or not to keep passing until an opportunity materialises, or to hump the ball forwards and hope it lands somewhere suitable. Norwich, on the other hand, are playing for time, Tettey suddenly finding himself in space and unmarked, but slowing down and giving a square ball with more attacking options in front of him.
84 min: Sunderland move Norwich around, probing for an opening, until Danny Rose loses patience and spanks a shot that's wide and plenty. Fraizer Campbell replaces James McClean.
82 min: Gardner is displeased with a refereeing decision, and Phil Dowd gives some back, as Martin Tyler praises the reputation of his repartee, and he's right: Clive James, Robert Key, Peter Cook and Lord Flasheart all cite him as an inspriation.
80 min: Hoolahan twinkles his feet to earn some space just outside the Sunderland box, sliding a ball through to Holt. He lifts his feet to allow it to pass underneath them, but can't quite arrange them in sequence to facilitate a shot, and a heavy touch sends it through to Mignolet.
78 min: Elliot Bennett replaces Snodgrass.
77 min: Sessegnon collects possession on the left and immediately looks for goal, before sliding it wide to Johnson. His low cross is headed towards Wickham, but a stray foot diverts it behind for a corner. Larsson takes it, clipping, to Rose, not even on the edge of the box, but several hectares further back, and he thrusts into a volley that Bunn spills. One of seventeen attackers following up puts the ball into the net, but at least four of them are offside, and it won't count.
75 min: Philip Sparkes has smelled the erudition and wants in. "Harry Tuttle has it quite right. According to the philosopher Zeno, in order for Mignolet to arrive at the ball he would first half to travel half way there; and from that point, half way again; and so on ad infinitum, getting ever closer to the ball but never quite reaching it. Of course, by the same token, the ball could never cross the goal line, hit the net...or even be kicked for that matter. Nor could I have typed this. I'll stop now.
In matters more prosaic, Norwich exert pressure that peaks with a Hoolahan thump that somebody blocks.
73 min: Someone's turned Sessegnon on. After Wickham wins a knock-down, he flips upside his heed into an overhead kick that goes wide, earning himself a mappoleh from Gardner, who was waiting, unmarked, for a lay-off. Martin O'Neill hops and contorts in frustration. I'd love to watch him play Tetris.
71 min: The speed of Barcunderland's pressing has increased infinitifold, and Norwich aren't finding it especially pleasant. Had they shown the same concern in the first half, they might not be behind.
69 min: Danders around Carrow Road are rising as we speak. The home side's passes aren't quite finding their targets at the moment, and the crowd are reacting with high-pitched consternation.
66 min: Even if Sunderland lose this game, reminding us that they exist outside of concept will make this afternoon worthwhile. Meanwhile, Harry Tuttle is back with more philosophy: "If he was always getting there, he would never arrive", he says of Mignolet.
64 min: Sessgnon collects a pass with a touch so dextrous as to send Bennett halfway to Hull, while he segues into the box and hits a right-footer across Bunn, who is able to push away. That was an acceptable save, but Sessegnon ought to have made it harder for him.
63 min: Sunderland almost equalise again, Whittaker kicking Gardner's low shot off the line following a corner. It really does look as though an equaliser is imminent - and immanent, too.
61 min: Matter-of-time dept: Kilgallon's contact on the hideous open net he just managed to avoid bursting happened, apparently, because "he hit it too well."
59 min: Delicious miss! Sunderland win a free-kick not too far outside the box, significantly right. Gardner somehow exhorts the ball to travel left and then right, its flight tormenting at Bunn as it chuckles past him and onto the post. With no one anywhere, the rebound falls to Kilgallon, who, for embarrassment best known to himself, miscues over the top from a centimetre, almost leaning into his celebratory run and jig as he does.
57 min: Pilkington picks the ball up forty or so yards from goal and Larsson isn't mithered to get in the road, so he pulls away and shoots from just outside the box, Mignolet saving to his left. "He was always getting there", we're told, which is probably a self-evident truth. Or is it?
56 min: Sunderland have Norwich pinned back - Johnson in particular is looking dangerous along the left. But they could handle piling more men into the box for when the ball comes in.
53 min: Sunderland are into this now, which is good of them, and Norwich have noticed. Things are becoming scrappy - whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen - and McClean wins a corner off Bassong, which Larsson will swing in from the left. It's low, and McClean manages to flick it behind him, despite lying on the grass, possibly conversing with it - what are they saying to one another, do you think? - and Cuellar is unmarked behind him, clumping in a shot which is blocked. Sunderland then flurry some more, until Norwich eventually clear without ceding any further shots.
50 min: Johnson clips a ball in from the left towards Holt, who is literally ganting on winning the knock-down - which he just about does, only to discover his offsideness immediately afterwards.
48 min: Bardsley finds Sessegnon outside him on the right, ball slipped through nicely, and he crosses to where Wickham is lanking, but Whittaker is in sharply to prevent what wold have been the equaliser.
46 min: "Make some noise for your team, Norwich Citeeeee!" exhorts the stadium announcer, part kids party entertainer, part hip-hop hype man. Where would football supporters be without ilk of this ilk reminding them of their secrets? Where? Carlos Cuellar is down, feathered in the back by Grant Holt's knee.
46 min: Connor Wickham replaces Stephen Fletcher, who has minor ankle knack.
"A bit harsh," chides Rohit Bazaz. "Jonny's world champion". Yup - he's very good at triatholising indeed, like Craig Gardner's goal was very good indeed - just not as good as the original.
Charles Marshall is not best pleased. "Gardner's goal pretty much sums us up. A momentary realisation of potential. The team is full of good players who look terrible. It's like watching a pub team made up of players who used to be great but can't do it any more."
A Momentary Realisation of Potential sounds like a Pink Floyd album, but then what combination of words thrown together doesn't?
Half-time joy: Here's a North Korean accordion quintet playing Take On Me, obviously.
Well, that was not quite as expected. Norwich began well and Sunderland began distressingly - we expected that. And we expected it to continue, which it did - but what we didn't expect was Craig Gardner's minor golazo, which will make it an interesting second half. Yes, interesting. I promise*.
*I do not promise.
HALF-TIME: NORWICH CITY 2-1 SUNDERLAND
45+2 min: Gardner's goal was not dissimilar to this one by David Beckham, though not as a good. Its Jonny Brownlee, you might say.
GOAL! NORWICH CITY 2-1 SUNDERLAND (Gardner 44 min)
Adam Johnson struggles past a challenge or two along the Sunderland left, stretching into a pass that finds Gardner on the left edge of the box. Ball approaching his left foot, he twizzles his body into a low shot that power-scoots into the far corner - that was really rather good.
44 min: True fact: Norwich goalscorer Anthony Pilkington once scored against Manchester United.
43 min: Sunderland are knocking it around again, with all the edge of a velvet sphere. Johnson tries a cross, Bunn grabs it easily, and it all begins again.
42 min: Martin O'Neill is pacing.
GOAL! NORWICH CITY 2-0 SUNDERLAND (Pilkington 35 min)
This is a very nifty effort. Johnson takes possession from Tettey and hits a first time pass from well inside his own half, finding Pilkington - who scored against Manchester United, you know - in the inside-left position. Kilgallon is playing him onside and gives chase, only to be stepped inside in order that a right-footed rasper be blazed past Mignolet and into the far corner, halfway up.
34 min: Roughly, the teams are now going backwards and forwards, exchanging attacks mounted solely for the sake of it.
32 min: Gary Naylor is not happy, and why would he be? Just what, exactly, is to be happy about? "There was a time when in the lower reaches of the Premier League (or Division One), teams may have been a bit crap, but they could usually defend and know roughly what they should be doing individually, even if they lacked the skill /athleticism to do it. Now the lower half teams seem to base their game plan on Little more than running forward and hoping for the best - even the team at the
top seem to be getting by with that this season. Coaches have never had more information and resources - and less idea what to do with them. Big Sam is becoming a mini-Mourinho simply by standing still while everyone else falls away."
it's an interesting one, this. I'd say that the quality of the top few teams has decreased miserably, but the teams below them have improved a bit, and pretty much every team has a player or two who can do interesting things. Agree about the defending, but.
30 min: Sunderland, robots in disguise. Thusly thinks Craig Trainor, who moans "I think if we're going to compare this Sunderland team to a film it would have to be transformers. Completely flat, lacking in any ideas or imagination and phoned-in abysmal performances from people capable of better. And that's from a fan (of Sunderland not Transformers).
Fair, though Sunderland do at least appear to have the capacity for improvement. Appear. Appear.
28 min: But they arrange a shot on goal, winning a corner on the elft and waiting for Norwich to serry themselves in the box. Then, Larsson clipped the ball to Rose, on the edge of the box, left of centre, and he half-turned into a shot that Bunn was pleased to grab.
26 min: Here's the thing with Sunderland: they're not actually all that bad. And yet, here they are, so very, very bad. Most clubs of their size, would expect to have had at least a cup run, but not Sunderland, and they've not even won a derby since October 2008. There might not be a worse team to support.
25 min: Sunderland have moved the sphere from one to t'other a few times now, but without threatening even the merest offence.
23 min: After minor technical issues, here's Ryan Dunne on life after football for Martin O'Neill: " I appreciate that a Glorious Glasgow Rangers fan like myself isn't the most obvious source of reliable information on a former Celtic manager, but I thought Martin O'Neill, although having a degree, turned his back on legal training for a career in fitba? (A bit like Joey Barton and philosophy, presumably). That said, I do remember reading that MO'N is famous for attending high profile trials (e.g. the Yorkshire Ripper one) in the public gallery. Perhaps, if he gets fired from Sunderland, MO'N could get a Being: Liverpool style Channel Five Programme, but focusing on O'Neil solving crimes, Columbo-style (but with a tracksuit instead of a raincoat.) They could call it Martin O'Neil Investigates!
I'd watch it.
20 min: Cuellar saunters a backpass back to Mignolet, who scuffs a clearance to where Snodgrass is loitering, forty yards from goal, dead centre. He assumes a trot, weaving towards Kilgallon, who wisely does nothing, waiting for Gardner to arrive and crowd him out.
19 min: John O'Shea is doing his coaching badges, apparently.
17 min: Matthew Kilgallon is totally devoid of eptitude this afternoon, shanking an attempted clearance somewhere over his shoulder. Affronted, Sessegnon shows him how it's really done, and places a shot out for a throw-in.
15 min: If football teams were film characters, Sunderland would be Guy Pierce's character in Memento - they have completely forgotten what to do. Perhaps they need to start tattooing coaching manuals on their body parts. Anyway, any mo for any mo?
13 min: Bradley Johnson hitchkicks into the back of Sessegnon, and receives not a booking. This fails to find favour in the eyes of the aforementioned, who dispenses liberal complaint.
12 min: Norwich swarm forward again, a pack of killer canaries, and Sunderland really aren't sure what to do with themselves. A corner, then another cross towards Bassong, but the ball finds its way behind before Norwich comes again.
GOAL! NORWICH CITY 1-0 SUNDERLAND (Bassong 8 min)
Norwich win a free-kick on the right, about thirty yards from goal, and Robert Snodgrass whips one in towards the back post. But somewhere just before there gathers a general throng of bodies and Johnson gets his head to the ball, which takes a knock off Cuellar's arm. And before Mignolet can move - he'd pondered coming, then retreated - Bassong karate-kicked in front of him to poke home from a yard or two.
6 min: Harry Tuttle emails in on Clichegate: "A tired trope, such as recursion, is almost a cliche. So it's almost a cliche to say it's almost a cliche to say it's almost a cliche."
5 min: Norwich lump it long, and Kilgallon is grasping at Holt without even the good manners to affect misdirection. None of the officials mind, and the game proceeds.
3 min: Kilgallon steps up as the ball's fed into Grant Holt, who spins him - oh, the ignominy - and is forced to introduce him to the grass, earning a yellow card.
2 min: Whoever had two minutes, you win the Pilkington sweepstake. Oh, we are spoiled. Bassong finds Hoolahan, who spins into momentary space, before Bardsley shuts him down.
1 min: Off we pootle.
Are you amped? Fatboy Slim is on, players are huddling, obligatory Delia shot - apparently she's involved with Norwich - and the cryptically-named AB is amped.
"I've always liked MON," he excitables, "he is ostensibly 'manager alchemy' being a combination of thoughtful intelligence and perma-vexed jack-in-the-box who would die for your club until the day he walks out of it. Anyway, he's in my top 5 of 'managers who I'd like to experience a half-time rousing from', and if you're not sure what i mean by that, it's my own business I'm afraid. BUT! What's gonna happen to MON's trajectory when he loses this game, as i predict..? He's a qualified lawyer isn't he? I see him as the next Erin Brockovitvh representing the poor and downtrodden using his own brand of righteousness. Unfortunately, he's going to be wearing his tracksuit while he does it."
Sweepstake: number of minutes it'll take a commentator to mention that Anthony Pilkington scored against...wait for it...intake of breath...Manchester United, only another team in the same league as them.
The players are tunnelled....
Here's Matt Dony with an email: "'Almost' become cliche? Almost? Really? Almost?" I confess to not being precisely certain what he's getting at here, but here's a poser: can something almost be a cliche, or is it either cliche or not? Riddle me that, party people.
Niall Quinn invokes the divine: "please God in January" he hopes that Sunderland might improve. Oh dear. He also informs us that "Norwich is uniquely positioned in its geography", an aspect it shares with every single other place ever to have existed upon the face of the universe. Though perhaps Hill Valley 2015 and parallel-existence Hill Valley 2015 might claim otherwise.
So, Norwich are unchanged - all you'd expect from a team unbeaten in seven games. For context, only Manchester City have avoided defeat for as long. Sunderland, meanwhile, have only mustered two wins in thirteen games, but don't have the options to mess around, so McClean replaces the Cattermole, and that's it.
Norwich (4-2-3-1): Bunn; Whittaker, Bassong, Bennett, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Pilkington; Holt.
Subs: Rudd, Martin, Howson, Jackson, Morison, Elliott Bennett, Barnett.
Sunderland (4-4-1-1/4-4-2 depending): Mignolet; Bardsley, Kilgallon, Cuellar, Rose; Johnson, Gardner, Larsson, McClean; Sessegnon, Fletcher.
Subs: Westwood, Campbell, Wickham, McFadden, Colback, Vaughan, Bramble.
Everyone's friend: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
Martin O'Neill didn't get on with Robert Chase? No way! But it's true.
That Norwich jersey, though - what a total, underrated classic. Anyone whose eyes remain unmisted with the mention of Poll Withey - well, shame be upon you.
Norwich and Sunderland, Sunderland and Norwich. Words to bother the gag reflex of even the hardiest souls, on account of the 1985 Milk Cup final - one of the heinousest crimes perpetrated in several hundred years of football history. Reducing grown men to bitter tears, it was especially taxing if you happened to be a hyperactive six year-old, under pressure from a visiting friend to find alternative entertainment.
"Are you watching all of this?"
"I want to."
But only by proving an ability sit through a whole game was the right to attend one earned. It later transpired that this could be circumvented via the performance of a tantrum the morning after discovering that your dad had sneaked off to watch a 1-5 defeat at Watford without telling you, but who was to know? Not Me, I, Me, nor any other pronouns (reflexive and otherwise).
It won't be as bad. It can't be as bad. Let's all break out into a spontaneous Yes Cartwheel to make sure.
Preamble Who are you? Who do you want to be? Where are you going? What sort of hateful creation knows the answers to these questions? Well, Norwich City do, but Sunderland AFC most assuredly do not. Yet, paradoxically, Norwich would happily be Sunderland, all established and secure in their perennial middle-class mediocrity - and who could blame them? Who?
And perhaps Sunderland would even swap with Norwich too, for the thrill of not knowing, for a thrill of any description. There are plenty better things in life than a punch in the face, but at least they remind you that you're participating in one.
John Cleese's line in Clockwise - "It's not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand" - is used in sports writing with such frequency that it's almost become cliché. So Sunderland can at least take some small succour in how comprehensively they've defeated it, because for them, the hope has all but vanished. Do not disturb: waiting to die.
Attention Norwich: Sunderland are your glorious, glittering future.