I learnt a few things yesterday…
Firstly that when the chips are down the Carrow Road faithful will still stick with those in yellow and – a few individuals aside – will always rise above any short-term views on who should or shouldn’t be in charge to roar the team on to a win.
Secondly, the current crop do have some ‘bottle’. Those of us who doubted their desire after last weekend were left with egg on our faces and, true to Russell Martin ‘s word, they showed solidarity with each other and their manager when it really counted.
Thirdly, Chris Hughton does indeed have the tactical wherewithal to change a game at half-time in the way that other bloke did so successfully.
Fourthly, some people are not happy unless they’re miserable
Fifthly, Sam Allardyce is a poor loser.
And finally, I’m way out of touch with ‘the kids’.
OK… so the last three I already knew, but the others served to reaffirm my belief in Hughton and the class of 2013/14 – a belief that was given the severest of tests after events at the Etihad.
Of course – as one ‘Canary Caller’ so delighted in reminding us – we shouldn’t get carried away with one win, and there’s clearly still a lot of hard work ahead, but if we’re not allowed to rejoice in a stirring win like yesterday’s there seems little point in going to football in the first place.
But how many of us saw it coming at half-time?
Despite Anthony Pilkington’s best efforts to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by Hughton, the first half developed rather too quickly into a backs to the wall affair, with West Ham’s midfield sextet dominating possession; the drain on confidence of the 7-0 thumping soon coming to the fore.
Where once there was an Alex Tettey to break things up and set City on the move again, yesterday’s opening forty-five saw Leroy Fer and Jonny Howson horribly swamped and having to survive on scraps of possession.
Typically when they did get hold of the ball, passing options were few and far between and with the ball not ‘sticking’ to either Johan Elmander or Gary Hooper it made for hard going. In fairness to our friends from the East End they did knock the ball around nicely and made far greater use of the green stuff than we’ve witnessed thus far in the Allardyce years.
I guess when you have a youngster of Ravel Morrison’s ilk even Big Sam can see the benefits of keeping the ball on terra firma but it was telling that the England Under-21 starlet, after a sparkling first-half, found himself only a peripheral figure in the second.
Of course, during that torrid opening forty-five the youngster made his mark on the game with the Hammers’ goal but not before Guy Demel had rattled Ruddy’s crossbar as City wobbled.
But, to their credit – and as hard as it was to watch – not one of Hughton’s men hid and, despite being on the receiving end throughout, being just one down at the interval when it could have been so much worse provided Hughton and co with something to build on.
And whatever “tweaks” the manager made at half-time worked like a dream. While not giving away too much of what was said, Hughton did admit he’d demanded more urgency from the players and that was borne out by the ever-decreasing influence of Morrison, Downing and Noble.
Instead of being stretched to the limit, Howson and Fer all of a sudden found themselves on the front foot and with Hooper and Elmander at last having an impact on the game the pendulum slowly started to swing.
With Carrow Road sensing the shift in momentum it was telling that that, on this occasion, it was the players who lifted the crowd rather than vice-versa.
The lucky break that has been so conspicuous by its absence in recent weeks arrived in the form of Jaaskelainen’s double error and with Hooper smashing the penalty home in such unequivocal fashion it set the tone perfectly for the rousing second half.
And from there on in the players didn’t disappoint.
Howson and Fer’s stranglehold of the midfield continued and when the former’s thumping drive cannoned back off Jaaskelainen’s crossbar, James Collins’ impersonation of a clumsy centre-back was Robert Snodgrass’ cue for *that* free-kick. And it was no more than City deserved.
Fer charging into the box and opening his City account in injury-time was no more than the icing on the cake, but the scenes that followed – with players, coaches, kit men, physios, tea ladies et al celebrating wildly in front of the home dugout – was more heart warming than a Disney film at Christmas.
The ovation afforded the players at the final whistle again made the hairs on the back of the neck stand and was a nice little reminder that when we’re all pulling in the same direction we still have a little something about us.
Of course there are still those who choose to poor cold water on the win by questioning the quality of the opposition – probably the same group who yesterday wished for a City defeat – but a win is a win and never was it more needed and ultimately more deserved than yesterday.
Naturally, one win doesn’t make a season – the bloke from Canary Call will be quick to remind us of that – and another defeat in Newcastle in two weeks time will quickly render it a one-off, but if the belief can be seized upon who’s to say they can’t embark on a mini-run similar to that of last November.
After several rotten ones, yesterday was a good day. Let’s make the most of it.
Or to put it another way, as tweeted by Josh Murphy after the game: ‘BOOOM! That’s what were about’ …. whatever that means.