I’m not really a betting man, but if Ladbrokes were offering odds on the most quoted phrase prior to kick-off on Tuesday my 50p would have been on… ‘I’ll take a defeat tonight if it means we’ll beat Wigan on Saturday’.
All true and laudable; yet totally illogical of course. If only it were that easy.
Now that the first part of the deal has been sealed, courtesy of Paul Lambert’s sprightly young things in claret and blue, it’s down to Chris Hughton and his boys to make sure part two is delivered.
A win on Saturday and we can all trot back across Carrow Bridge happy in the knowledge that it was all worth it. That a defeat, even against him, was a reasonable price to pay for a result that takes us probably five wins away from safety and all the new found riches that it will ultimately bring.
Unfortunately, as we’re all acutely aware, football is far from the exact science we’d often like it to be – quite the opposite in fact. It has this amazing habit of bringing you down to earth with a bump, the minute you start getting too carried away.
Tuesday night was a classic case. A ten game unbeaten run, a home tie against an ordinary side, the team in fine form and another chance to sing that, ‘It could have been you…’ song. What could possibly go wrong?
As it happened we could have few complaints. Despite a lot of huffing and puffing we were second best in most areas of the pitch – Hughton and the players were big enough to admit as much – and it was clear to all that the battle for superiority in the central midfield was won hands down by Delph and El Ahmadi. Minus the services of a scampering Wes Hoolahan, the crucial link between striker(s) and midfield was missing, and the ball retention suffered as a result.
Having said that, few could argue with Hughton’s ‘two up top’ philosophy on the night – with Steve Morison, in my eyes at least, having put in a decent shift. To have gone with a lone striker in a home cup-tie which had to produce a winner would have no doubt been seized upon by some of our Canary Call friends.
That we missed the wizardry of Wes is not in question… who wouldn’t. My feeling is that without him we just need to find another way of playing; one that doesn’t rely on the ‘number 10’ role acting as the hub through which everything flows.
For their part, Villa looked a million miles away from the shower that barely turned up on the final day of last season and were only marginally better at Villa Park back in October. The Lambert effect is clearly starting to work and now minus most of their ‘big names’ he’s moulding them into something akin to our class of 2011-12.
Some of our number got a little uppity over his reaction to the goals but – in the cold light of day – was it so different to the way he celebrated any goal during his City tenure? I didn’t notice too many of us holding back in our celebrations of Morison’s goal for fear of being disrespectful to the old gaffer.
Villa beat us fair and square, and he’s one of them now – why shouldn’t he celebrate. In fairness, he didn’t ‘give it large’ in the way he did upon his return to Colchester.
So our foray in the League Cup of 2012/13 is over but with an FA Cup ‘local derby’ to look forward to in the New Year who’s to say we won’t go on a mini-run in that competition too – Hughton seems to have bucked the cup trend so far. With the Yellow Army likely to number in excess of 5000 when we make the relatively short trip to Peterborough, we can expect quite an atmosphere – especially if one Adrian Durham (Peterborough’s ‘celebrity’ fan) makes himself known.
For those who are unaware, the gentleman in question is a presenter on TalkSport and who – on the back of our splendid win at Swansea – still insisted that Norwich are ‘one of the worst Premier League teams ever’. The same presenter also confidently predicted that despite our ten game unbeaten run we’ll almost certainly be relegated.
Whilst I appreciate that part of the raison d’etre of a talk show host is to generate debate, it still irks… even though I know it shouldn’t. I blame the yellow and green blood.
On a positive note, the Wigan game provides a perfect opportunity to banish the pain of Tuesday evening, particularly with Hughton today confirming that Wes and Alex Tettey are both back in contention.
It clearly falls into the ‘winnable’ category, but let’s not be over-confident. We know to our cost where that can lead.
I’d hate for us to give that Durham bloke some ammunition.