Norwich and Newcastle draw in contender for poorest game of the season
Norwich 0-0 Newcastle
THE need for Newcastle and Norwich to add quality to their squads was laid bare at Carrow Road, which played host to potentially one of the most boring draws of the season.
Chris Hughton had a chance to banish memories of Norwich's dismal festive period and get one over on the club that sacked him so harshly in December 2010, but his side only had two serious attempts on goal - a Russell Martin shot that clipped the post and a late header from captain Grant Holt.
With the unfit Holt consigned to the substitutes' bench for most of the match, Norwich lacked a clinical edge up front while the quality of their passing in the final third, and their crossing, was poor.
Newcastle, who had lost their previous four games prior to today, fared even worse in going forward. Papiss Cisse worked hard up front, but he failed to test Mark Bunn in the Norwich goal.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has made no secret of his desire to add new players to his relegation-threatened squad this month, and the Toon boss will surely step up his efforts to finalise the signing of Loic Remy after this performance.
Without Demba Ba up front, Newcastle looked toothless. The only positive for the man who replaced Hughton at St James' Park was that Fabricio Coloccini performed well at the back despite the fact that this week he asked to leave the club.
Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan gave Magpies debutant Mathieu Debuchy a torrid first 10 minutes in English football, beating the Frenchman several times, but without the physical presence of Holt in the box, Coloccini and Williamson dealt with their crosses easily.
Jonas Gutierrez brushed aside three Norwich players as he charged towards goal, but his cross to Cisse was poor.
Bunn was only tested once in the first half when Vurnon Anita laid the ball off to Gabriel Obertan and he fired a sharp volley which the Norwich stopper punched away.
Both teams passed the ball very poorly and the finishing at either end was even worse.
Simeon Jackson, starting up front on his own in Holt's absence, blazed high and wide while Robert Snodgrass' weak header dribbled in to Tim Krul's hands.
Norwich suddenly found the energy they had been lacking, breaking through Wes Hoolahan, who found space in the box after playing a clever one-two with Jackson, but James Perch raced back to steal the ball off the Irishman just before he pulled the trigger.
Pilkington and Obertan nearly reached the second tier with their efforts as the first half came to a drab conclusion.
Norwich came out with much more purpose after the break, but still Krul had little to do. Obertan put in a crucial block to deny Bradley Johnson and Snodgrass threatened with a mazy run, but Coloccini came to the rescue.
Holt and Yohan Cabaye came on as both managers tried to inject life in their respective sides.
The Canaries then almost took the lead from the most unlikely source - right-back Martin - who fired a brilliant volley that clipped the outside of the post.
The Canaries went close again moments later when Snodgrass played in Pilkington, but Krul came out to block the winger's shot and Johnson skied the rebound. Coloccini flashed a well-timed volley wide with 10 minutes left in a rare Toon attack.
Norwich tried hard to grab a last-gasp winner, and they almost got it in injury time when Holt got on the end of a cross but he could only glance over.