After the trauma of St James’ Park it would have been nice to have cruised home to a comfortable win – a boring but comfortable 1-0 would have sufficed.
But no. Not City.
For all of the much discussed faults of this iteration of Norwich City it is anything but boring and when the Alex Neil era finally comes to an end and the journos offer their final summation, ‘dull’ and ‘mundane’ are unlikely to feature.
And at least we came out on the right side yesterday. While Wolves don’t possess the same quality as Newcastle – and weren’t good enough to exploit the jangling nerves and the wavering belief – there was, this time round, some good old fashioned guts on display.
That Timm Klose was there to steward and head and block in those nervous closing minutes was probably the decisive factor, but it was a rousing collective effort; one that was much needed after the trauma of midweek.
To have thrown away another lead in a game that should have been long dead and buried would have been mortifying ahead of another international break, and the impact of said hammer blow on the psyche of management and players would have had a potentially long-term effect.
But, against the backdrop of a half-empty (but still angry) Molineux, City prevailed and have returned to second-place in the Championship table while still trundling along in second gear.
It was a performance that, as is typical of a side that’s yet to really ‘click’, was not without errors and indecision but equally was one that had a couple of first-half chances been taken – and there was a positive glut of them – would have taken the game out of the reach of the Old Gold.
And it was telling that, in a less than ideal scenario, the best Wolves had to offer wasn’t enough; even when faced with, as Sky’s commentary team hinted endlessly, a City defence riddled with self-doubt.
In the Premier League the chances that came and went unconverted would have been sufficient to consign us to defeat – but the Championship is a very different beast. Another opportunity invariably comes along.
Messrs Hoolahan, Jerome, Dorrans, Brady, Dorrans and Murphy (Ja) all passed up presentable opportunities to add to their season’s tally, the latter’s in sitter territory, but with City having roared out of the blocks in unfamiliar fashion there was an element of comfort as they went about their business before half-time.
And after a tricky few weeks, during which his belief in front of goal appeared to dip, Cameron Jerome’s swagger has returned.
Buoyed by that fine effort at St James’ Park, the character that bullied Daniel Ayala so beautifully at Wembley appears to be back and with a goal ratio of only just under one in two looks again capable of plundering the 20 goals he did in 2014/15.
And to think how we agonised all summer over signing a ’20-goal’ striker.
Interestingly, an unseen side of Jerome revealed itself in the pre-Molineux presser at Colney when he spoke in glowing terms of Jacob Murphy’s hot scoring streak and the small role he’s played in it by encouraging the youngster. For all the talk of leaders or lack of them in City ranks, it seems Jerome plays his own part in literally leading the side from the front.
And there was certainly do doubting his dominance in the air as he brushed aside a powder-puff challenge to head powerfully past Carl Ikeme; Wes’s beautifully driven, first-time cross offering him the ideal opportunity to give City the early lead.
That we had to wait 71 minutes for number two was a disappointment, particularly as Wolves finally found some momentum in the second period but when it finally arrived Robbie Brady’s exquisite left-foot curler – after some fine hold-up play from Jerome – looked to be have secured the points.
By his manager’s admission, Brady has struggled to hit the heights this season – possibly borne of a Euro 2016 hangover – but the signs are good and to see him using that left foot again to such good effect bodes well.
There’s been much talk of City operating at only 70-75 per cent right now – if/when Brady joins the party for good, it will add another 10+ and could be the difference between the top two or otherwise.
That Dave Edwards was given the freedom of the City penalty area to give the hosts a sniff was horribly inevitable – and for all Ivo Pinto’s impressive forward forays, he does need to offer better support to his centre-backs – but when crunch time arrived Nouha Dicko thankfully, on this occasion, fluffed his lines.
To have then seen it out in such dogged fashion will have allayed a few fears about bottle and brittleness, and it’s good for once to enter an international break off the back of a win.
The final word is my dad’s: “Don’t let them tell you otherwise boy, at this level we’re a good side“.
And that’ll do for me.