Norwich City’s reward for this evening’s dramatic 2-1 Capital One Cup win over Tottenham Hotspur was… a home draw against Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa.
Whoever is writing the script for Canary boss Chris Hughton certainly knows how to add a twist to the tale.
Equally in delivering Lambert a return trip to Norfolk after last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Villa Park, they also know how to put bums on seats when it comes to a quarter-final cup draw; tickets for the Lambert Reunion gig will be like gold dust as Norwich eye the prize of a semi-final berth at the expense of their old mentor.
It would also be the last draw that the Scot would have wanted.
He will know as well as anyone the reception that is likely to await back in Norfolk as the Canaries move into uncharted cup waters on the back of this evening’s late success.
It has been a full generation since City reached the last eight of the competition. And after this evening – both in terms of the final result and the draw it then delivered – you do begin to wonder whether Wembley beckons.
Certainly Hughton was well aware of Lady Luck’s involvement tonight after Norwich’s crucial leveller took an in-off via Jan Vertonghen. Others might argue that the manager pulled a huge result out of the fire with three, smart substitutions – Alexander Tettey prompting the own goal; Grant Holt then forcing the half-save which Simeon Jackson then converted for the winner.
“The first goal takes a deflection – we haven’t had one of them all season,” Hughton noted afterwards, yet to be made aware of who and what would lie in store in the quarters.
“Sometimes you need that little bit of fortune, but you’ve got to be in the right place,” he added.
Gareth Bale’s 66th minute strike had looked to be taking Spurs through in a game that took the better part of an hour to fire into life.
When it finally did, it did so with a vengeance as two goals in three minutes put the home side back in command of the game only for Marc Tierney’s ill-timed tackle on Kyle Walker to give Clint Dempsey the chance to send the game into extra-time from the penalty spot.
Mark Bunn’s inspired save, however, kept City’s late lead intact and booked their place back at Lambert’s table – with player and manager alike insisting justice had been served.
“I thought the lad [Kyle Walker] made a meal of the penalty. Marc Tierney says he didn’t touch him,” Hughton told the BBC afterwards, after guiding his new charges to within sight of some serious cup glory.
Long gone are the doubts of the early autumn as Norwich struggled to find the results to match their performances – and, indeed, delivered one too many non-performances.
Now Hughton’s star is firmly in the ascendant and should he deliver a place in the last four – and all at Lambert’s expense – the former Spurs hero will be well on his way to commanding new respect amongst the Yellow Army.
“Once you start hitting the quarter-finals you are not so far away from a final,” he said. “So yes, it’s a good feeling for the club. I’m pleased for the club because it’s been a long time.”
Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas was generous enough in defeat, but will know that his side should have had more than enough quality to see the game out after Bale’s strike. For whatever reason, however, Norwich appear to be enjoying the last laugh on the North London club these days – inspired by that famous Easter away victory last season.
“It’s a pity to see the game slip from our hands,” he told reporters afterwards. “We had a good performance with good chances. It’s difficult to take – in the end we congratulate them.
“Norwich did well to get back into the game – credit to them. In the end, they took their opportunities in the final minutes.”
One final thought: this from Tuesday’s comment piece…
“In fact the way football tends to work, you wouldn’t bet against a Villa v Norwich quarter-final re-match; the Law of Sod would just lurve to engineer that re-union gig…’
Funny ‘ol game.