I have two confessions to make…
Firstly, to my shame, I was unable to make it to Carrow Road last night; relying instead on ITV4’s actually quite good coverage.
Secondly, I cried.
The sight of Cameron McGeehan thumping his penalty into the roof of the net and the raw, adrenalin-fuelled celebrations that followed were just too much for this silly old fool.
A lump in the throat quickly became a tear in the eye as those lads – off the back of 94 gruelling minutes – somehow managed to edge themselves ahead in the most thrilling of circumstances; McGeehan’s badge thumping capturing the mood to perfection.
Holty knows a thing or two about late Carrow Road dramas and – as Sam Matterface [ITV’s commentator] constantly reminded us – he’s been sharing this know-how with the academy lads. No wonder therefore the skipper was seen beaming like a Cheshire (or should that be Cumbria) cat as the rest of the ground erupted.
Clearly there is still much work to do – the swagger with which Chelsea played for large chunks of the first half was enough to worry even the most optimistic of City fans – but to have achieved a lead at all was one massive achievement.
Physically advantaged, technically more advanced, internationals aplenty, the youngsters from the King’s Road have been assembled at a massive cost and from a worldwide scouting web, and at times it showed.
Yet City – superbly marshalled by Neil Adams – hung in there when the going was tough and did exactly what their manager asked of them. Bodies on the line; last-ditch tackles; goal-line clearances; a master-class, in fact, of what to do when you’re under the cosh – the bravery of Harry Toffolo and Kyle McFadden epitomising everything that was good about last night.
And still they carried a threat going forward; the pace and trickery of the Murphy brothers a constant thorn in the side of a cultured and sturdy Chelsea rearguard.
Adams spoke afterwards of his slight disappointment at the way his charges sometimes surrendered possession – and he’s right that at times the passing was a little wayward – but given the occasion it’s hardly surprising.
For what it’s worth, I think playing away from home may suit the City lads. They certainly have pace in the side in abundance and are suited to playing a counter-attacking game. Indeed for long spells last night they played like the away side, and it turned out OK.
So, while there’s still much to do – it’s only half-time as dear old Sam reminded us – they’ve given themselves a chance; a chance to create a little bit of history and match the legendary Class of 1982/83.
Much has been made of the 21,000+ crowd, and there’s no doubt to attract such a number for a youth team game on a Monday night – that was also on live TV – is one heck of an achievement, and speaks volumes of the appetite of Norfolk folk for a successful football team.
It’s also fair to say that tickets costing £2 helped… so credit to David McNally and co for making the perfect call. However, those who chose to compare last night’s attendance with the average attendance of those not far away are a little off the mark on this occasion.
All in all, another of those fantastic Carrow Road evenings that come along every so often, and which remind us why we all (or you all on this occasion) do it.
Some will no doubt, in the next few days, demand that Saturday’s crowd matches the noise and verve on display last night, but there’s no need. As always the Carrow Road crowd will be ‘up for it’ and will be eagerly awaiting something to latch on to.
Rather than the crowd be inspired (we’ll do our bit regardless), my wish is that Holty has saved a little bit of that magic dust for his colleagues on Saturday; and we can see that same level of passion, nerve, commitment but, most importantly, that under-rated quality called footballing intelligence.
The lads showed plenty of it last night – and that’s one of many reasons why I never made it. That, and the fact I’m far too much of a softy!
On the Ball City…
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