When you’re made to feel guilty for celebrating a win it must be time to stop watching football.
Yes, it was a bit scruffy at times. Yes, it papered over some cracks. And yes, our £13million forward-line failed to deliver in front of goal. But, with ‘must-win’ having pipped #hughtonout as Norfolk’s most over-used mantra in the last few days, City did just that.
And so it took an 87th minute header from a defender to settle it. So what. If I had been offered a 94th minute deflection of Howard Webb’s buffed pate to seal the win I would have taken it.
Despite the best efforts of a few Canary Callers, yesterday was a good day for City and goodness knows there have not been too many of those lately.
The cliché kings (I’m thinking mainly of Messrs Hansen and Townsend, but take your pick) are forever telling us that to win titles you have to occasionally ‘win ugly’. Logic would suggest that knack to be doubly valuable when you’re embroiled in a relegation scrap.
In fairness to City there were spells when the football was pleasing on the eye and even in those nerve-shredding closing stages they resisted the urge to launch long hopefuls balls into the Hull penalty box.
It was not perfect of course – often the build-up was too slow and laboured – but no-one hid and no-one shirked. And that, in itself, tells us something about the appetite and desire of those in yellow.
In the aftermath of the Fulham debacle I questioned the technical ability of a few to deliver at the highest level and, while the question marks remain, there was no questioning the grit and determination on display yesterday from one to eleven when the chips were down.
It was a day for guts and on that score none were found wanting.
From a tactical perspective few could challenge Chris Hughton’s decision to go 4-4-2 – with Ricky sometimes dropping off to bolster the midfield – and it was pleasing to see City enjoy more than their fair share of possession throughout.
All too often, when up against a five-man midfield, we get swamped in the middle of the pitch and with one of Hull’s five being a certain Tom Huddlestone my own fear was that he would be the dominant figure in the centre of the pitch.
In the end he made his mark for all the wrong reasons and credit should be afforded to Leroy Fer and Bradley Johnson for making him, Jake Livermore and Robert Koren peripheral figures throughout.
The ball may have been shifted a little slowly at time – for my liking at least – and there was still a tendency to give it away when under pressure, but there was a level of control and comfort to City’s play for the most part.
While Allan McGregor, Hull’s keeper, was not as busy as we would have liked, John Ruddy was a virtual spectator and – those fraught opening few minutes aside – the visitors never looked likely to score. If anyone was going to win it was going to be Norwich; the only question being could they force a breakthrough.
That the goal came from a corner was as surprising as the scorer himself – set pieces this season have been merely a way of getting the ball back in play – but Ryan Bennett’s overall contribution made him a worthy match-winner; the match sponsors for once also making a decent call in their award of man-of-the-match.
And there were other individual performances worthy of note. Jonas Gutierrez, on debut, turned in a promising hour before the legs started to tire and, after a tentative opening, linked well with Martin Olsson down the City left. His ability to know when and where to go pop inside in search of the ball also smacked of someone who is going to offer City something a little different.
Olsson too, who has now made the left-back slot his own, turned in another decent display and proved again he’s equally at home in the attacking half of the pitch.
He and a match-fit Gutierrez could prove a useful combination in the coming weeks.
Of course, a scruffy 1-0 win doesn’t mean everything in the garden is suddenly rosy and the issues that concerned so many at 2:55 still remained at 4:55, but a win is a win and should be applauded. There will be plenty of time between now and the end of the season for said concerns to be resurrected and dissected, but hopefully – for a few days at least – normal service can be resumed.
While there were indeed a few worthy performances on the pitch yesterday the real heroes were in the stands. As mentioned earlier, the pre-match talk was almost exclusively around Team Hughton and its ability or otherwise to take the club forward and there was even talk of banners and protests.
In the event, neither materialised and instead Carrow Road was at its united best from minute one in a collective effort that contributed massively to the win. Even in the darker moments the derision was stifled and the moans were muted; something that won’t have been lost on those on the pitch and who may have feared the worst.
In my Friday piece I wrote of my fear of a Burnley 2006 type atmosphere, but I need not have worried. When the chips were really down Carrow Road delivered and so did the players.
And that can be no coincidence.