There’s no escaping the fact it did feel like two dropped. Equally, no-one could deny that Sheffield United were good value for their point, having had the better of the second-half after City had shaded the first.
Say what you like about Chris Wilder – and we’ve said plenty – there’s no argument to be had around the quality of the team he’s moulded and, in the same way he and his troops acknowledged that City were at times “outstanding”, we have to be big enough to concede they were more than a match.
The playing styles may have been different but in terms of effectiveness, both teams asked questions of the other and [cliché klaxon] it really was a good advert for Championship football.
For United, while they are happy to shift the ball through the midfield, it’s very much a numbers game, where they use their full-backs and centre-backs to create overloads and get crosses aplenty into the box, and with a Billy Sharp in your side, that will, at some point, pay dividends. For City, it’s more a question of… well… Farkeball.
And in the first-half, it was Farkeball that held the upper hand, even if at no point did it develop into the total domination we enjoyed for those opening 35 minutes against Birmingham City – Wilder was never going to allow that to happen. But there were several flashes of the beautiful game we’ve become accustomed to, just as we’ve become accustomed to seeing them end in a goal.
— Yellows Vision (@yellowsvision) January 26, 2019
When it flows it really is a joy, and whatever happens over the next four months, some of the stuff being dished up right now really is about as good as it gets when you support Norwich City.
For years, we (or maybe just me) have admired the intent but bemoaned the lack of precision, but after over a year’s worth of rehearsals, the timing and technique that went into Onel’s opener made those long hours of watching the ball being shifted slowly and laterally with little or no end product worthwhile.
If only Dean Henderson hadn’t seen fit to save Emi Buendia’s effort late in the half, I could otherwise have been writing about a win, but instead, our little Argentinian’s major contribution came at the wrong end, as his clumsy attempt to close down Enda Stevens ended in the inevitable.
Okay, Stevens may not have needed much persuading to go down, but if it had been at the other end and not been given, the River End would have blown a collective gasket. Despite Tim Krul’s best attempts, Sharp was never going to miss.
Alas, that was almost as good as it got for City and despite edging ahead for the second time, it never felt as if City had proper control of the game after the break. Daniel Farke disagreed – citing City’s control of the game as reason for leaving the substitutions so late (and he knows infinitely more than I) – but from my River End vantage point, it was a one-goal lead that never felt comfortable.
That shouldn’t, of course, detract from the quality of Teemu Pukki’s goal, which came slightly against the run of play but which was still rooted in Farkeball. The build-up was fluid and neat but the finish from the Finn – who had an otherwise ordinary afternoon – was of someone who expects to score every single time he steps onto the pitch.
His opener against Brum last week may have gone in via his nether regions but this one was a top-notch bit of technique, as he wrapped his foot around the ball to drift it into the far corner.
— Yellows Vision (@yellowsvision) January 26, 2019
Has there ever been a better free transfer?
That City couldn’t hold onto the lead was crushing, but whether we like it or not, despite each individual defender playing really well, as a unit they do have a cock-up or a lapse in concentration in them. Harsh but true – and while this remains, along with the struggle for a clean sheet, we will find it hard to put teams away.
A defensive crisis it most certainly isn’t but if there is one area of the team that’s in need of some minor surgery it’s across the back four. As if Farke and Stuart Webber haven’t spotted this – I’ll shut up.
The move made on Christoph Zimmermann by Sharp to lead him to the near post before pulling away to the far was classic centre-forward play, and I suspect my line about Pukki looking like scoring every time he plays is one repeated by United fans in respect of their number 10. Love him or hate him, he’s a handful.
That the Blades chose to stick and not twist was their prerogative, as was their choice to see out the remaining minutes “the Norwich way” – as they kept reminding us – and again, love it or hate it, it’s something that’s all part and parcel. It does seem odd however that the #TwitterBlades had never witnessed the darker arts being employed to see out a game until September 2017. All very odd.
But a point apiece was, as most folk agreed, about right and for us to have maintained that healthy four-point gap was important, so too the fact that West Brom and Boro both have FA Cup replays to contend with followed by, possibly, another tie in the fifth round.
So, not the win we desired but at least Wilder’s post-match yomp across the Carrow Road pitch was not the two-fingered ‘up yours’ he so revelled in last season, and we remain in decent shape with Messrs Leitner, Klose and Tettey all edging closer to a return.
Who knows where this ride is going to take us, but it’s bloody good fun.