It’s nigh on impossible to avoid comparisons with the previous regime and, as hard as I try, I still find myself harping on about similarities between then and now. You’ve probably noticed.
I even vowed, early on in the season, to stop using the L word… but have long since knocked that daft theory on the head.
Yesterday’s late-show threw up another one; that never-say-die spirit that so often produces a late twist. Sebastian Bassong’s 91st minute equaliser was the epitome of the team’s second half performance and came courtesy of a sublime deep, looping, in-swinging free-kick from the left foot of Javier Garrido.
The joyous scenes, as Bassong and co celebrated in front of an ecstatic Yellow Army were in stark contrast to 45 minutes earlier, when an understandably frustrated travelling support watched their deflated team trudge off. To have gone in at half-time just 1-0 down was a result in itself – and I’m sure they knew it. If they didn’t, there’s little doubt that Chris Hughton (and Messrs Calderwood and Trollope) would have told them so in no uncertain terms.
For those of us who’ve watched and played the game, the first half showing – coming as it did off the back of the Manchester United spine-tingler – didn’t come as a complete surprise. I’ll avoid the Lord Mayor cliché, but to produce such a lack-lustre 45 after previously scaling the heights isn’t unusual. Akin to those who under-perform on a Saturday following a mid-week Champions League win I guess.
In fairness, having rid themselves of the hangover, they set about their task with far more purpose; no doubt buoyed by an unequivocal half-time ‘briefing’. Sounds familiar doesn’t it.
One of the many strengths exhibited by Team Lambert (here I go again) – at least while they were in the comfort of a Carrow Road dugout – was their ability to have a tangible impact on a game. How often did we see the half-time transformation of a team that had produced a less than impressive first half showing?
Lambert’s much fabled ability to motivate was often at its most potent between 3:45 and 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon, and for Team Hughton to display something close to that yesterday was heartening to say the least.
Such was the turnaround, when the equaliser did eventually arrive, most neutrals (including the MotD crew) agreed that it was little more than City deserved. Most of the things that went wrong in the first period – giving the ball away; individual errors; standing off; gaps at the back – were corrected in the second. All of a sudden, the verve and tempo returned and we looked a team again – even though we were still grateful to some late profligacy from Naismith and Jelavic, when presented with an opportunity to clinch the three points.
David Moyes argued – fairly enough – that his side could, and should, have been out of sight by half-time; but they weren’t. Instead that lethal cocktail of poor finishing and last-ditch defending gave City a sniff; the faintest of chances… and they took it. And it’s starting to become a habit.
Unbeaten runs of six games don’t come along too often in the Premiership – at least not for those of us outside of the elite – and when they do they certainly don’t arrive by chance.
Hughton and his team are getting things right and, in doing so, are gradually ticking the ‘Lambert’ boxes.
Some will point out the fewer goals scored compared to the same stage last season (10 v 19) but, personally, I’m content that this is a reasonable price to pay for a tighter, more solid set-up. David McNally hinted at Thursday’s AGM that the January window may throw up an unheard of name from the continent to add some firepower… we’ll wait and see on that one.
The one tick that is missing, for now, is an away win. Tick that particular box, and those who still remain unconvinced will be running very short of negatives.
Amidst the euphoria that accompanied last Saturday’s triumph over Sir Alex and his troops, one especially cheeky tweet popped up on the #NCFC timeline – one that struck a chord, with me at least.
I’m fairly sure that the individual concerned had his tongue lodged firmly in his cheek when he typed ‘… I’m now more convinced than ever that Paul Lambert was a stepping stone for Norwich, not the other way round…’, but did he make a valid point?
When IT happened back in May, we were all convinced that whoever came in (Guardiola and Mourinho apart) would amount to a step down; such had been the fairy-tale impact of Lambert. But now 13 league games in – and with second season syndrome to contend with – there’s no question the momentum is still in a forward direction.
Add a League Cup quarter-final into the mix, and things are shaping up very nicely.
We’re not there yet but, if this continues, how long before we’re asking… Paul who?