We’ve long established that football is a daft game. Last night was just further confirmation.
After having played some good stuff at times over the last three game, which yielded a single point, last night was disjointed and bitty yet enough to secure City their first three points of the season and a clean sheet.
In his post-match mumblings, our ex, Alex Nel, was probably right to feel a little hard done by and confirmed that his game plan – to frustrate the Canaries and let a tetchy Carrow Road crowd do the rest – was not a millions miles away from earning them the win.
Indeed, if Darnell Fisher hadn’t blazed over with the goal at his mercy in the first half and if Callum Robinson’s shot had gone in off the underside of the bar instead of bouncing to safety in the second, it would have induced hand-wringing aplenty with added angst and anger.
But, much to Alex’s understandable annoyance, unlike Saturday, last night City came out on the right side of the ifs. Ultimately, they were overdue some good fortune.
Whether this will provide just some light relief before returning to more Championship grind or if it’s the kick-start to City’s season we’ve all been waiting for will only become apparent in the weeks to come, but regardless it was a result, if not a performance, to savour.
That for 80 minutes City laboured mattered not one iota when referee Gavin Ward blew his whistle for the final time 15 minutes later, and the relief around the old place was palpable. The mood was buoyant – unlike the second-half moment when a cacophony of boos greeted another cumbersome touch from Alex Tettey.
But it says something when the opposition manager – as Neil confirmed afterwards – looks to use a negative Carrow Road crowd as a mechanism to inspire his team and as a source of inspiration for them.
We need to do better too.
The moaning and groaning in the River End as City persevere with that “tippy-tappy cr@p” is starting to get more than a little bit tiring, especially given that Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber clearly have it embedded as the new ‘Norwich way’.
It’s not about to change. That’s how they will play. It will be too slow at times but it will get worked patiently through then thirds, and it will involve the centre-backs passing it between themselves until Alex Tettey, Mo Leitner or whoever else may slot into those roles can work an angle so the ball can be shifted in a forward direction.
Sometimes that angle won’t be there, and they’ll roll it back to Tim Krul, and no matter how loud you shout, “GET IT FORWARD!”, they’ll do everything they can to resist hoofing it aimlessly in the direction of Jordan Rhodes.
Sometimes this method will work, sometimes it won’t, but that’s the style of choice and until Stuart Webber is no longer of this parish (which hopefully will not be a thing for some time), that’s how it is going to be.
That’s not to say there wasn’t stuff to cause anxiety and for those 80 minutes it was nervy and without flow, but City did always look as if they had a goal in them, mainly through the energy, pace and hustle and bustle of Onel Hernandez.
His linking up with the fit-again Jamal Lewis – whose return has added balance to the side – was City’s main source of threat in the first half; the best chance being the one he teed up for Leitner just before the interval, which was skied into the River End.
The second half threatened to meander in much the same way as the first but was ignited by the introduction of Emi Buendia on 66 minutes for his first taste of Championship football. In the words of my uncle, he “lit the place up”.
A trick here, a dropped shoulder there, the little Argentinian offered something different and did enough in just under half an hour to suggest, given time, he can add some genuine potency to City’s attack.
Ironically, given all the talk of the “tippy-tappy cr@p”, it was a sweeping cross-field pass from Christoph Zimmermann – on for the stricken Ivo Pinto – that finally unlocked the Preston door, but not before some nice control, a trick and a nicely weighted pass from Lewis had given Teemu Pukki a sight of goal.
The finnish from the Finn ( 😉 ) with his ‘wrong’ foot was unerring, and was another reminder of his knack of finding the back of the net. While others tense up in front of goal, Pukki is at his most relaxed – a handy trait.
That Tettey was able to end his own horror show with an absolute corker of a volley was an unlikely, but hugely welcome, twist to what could have been another awkward evening. Credit to the Norwegian though for the self-deprecating way he appraised his night’s work and made little of what was a brilliant strike.
So, in the end it was a good one, even though for long spells it didn’t feel like it. And now we face Leeds and their 50,000 strong travelling support in rather better fettle than we began last night.