And there’s me moaning we’ve had no ‘YouTube’ moments this season…
Thankfully good old Alex Tettey’s howitzer has provided one and if season 2013/14 does, as predicted, fade quickly in the memory, there’ll be at least one moment of brilliance recorded for posterity.
But it wasn’t just about Tettey’s goal. It was also about folded sheets of cardboard.
One should never decry the power of the clapper. Love them or hate them, there’s no denying they do add a certain something to the atmosphere – and as a River-Ender I should know.
While the Barclay and Snake Pit are more than capable of generating their own noise, the dear old N&P (and the Jarrold Stand for that matter) needs a little help on occasions. Step forward the clapper. Artificial noise it may be; annoying they most certainly are; but if they help…
In truth of course it was the players who created the atmosphere and from minute one it was clear they were ‘on it’. For all our perceived faults (didn’t you just know Shearer would have to wade in at some stage) the Carrow Road crowd is a knowledgeable beast and was quick to seize upon the Canaries high-tempo, high-intensity opening.
And that set the tone for the afternoon. The tackles were snapped in, the ball was zipped around with precision, the movement was good and, crucially, the game was played on the front foot with intent. In short, the very antithesis of the St Mary’s performance.
For the second week running Chris Hughton made five changes. Last week it evoked a horror show. This time round it worked like a dream and credit to the City boss in that regard. He was rightly pilloried for last week’s performance so it’s clearly just that he should be applauded for getting it right.
The changes made to the starting XI were of the bold variety and immediately signaled an attacking intent. To play two up top AND Wes Hoolahan was a massive call and one that, had it back-fired, would have been dissected by pundits and supporters alike. But it did work… beautifully. Fortune did favour the brave.
I wrote in my match preview of the high regard in which Wes is held in the North East and he didn’t disappoint. He was magnificent yesterday and those dancing feet were at their at their mesmerising best.
Much of the pre-match talk was around how the Dubliner would be accommodated in an XI that included two other strikers, most agreeing that if Hoolahan were to be deployed as a left-winger it wouldn’t work.
Many have tried and failed in their quest to get the best out of Wes as an out-and-out winger but we needn’t have worried. Instead, while his defensive duties involved providing support to Martin Olsson, Hughton offered him virtually the freedom of the pitch, and he used it superbly.
And while Wes was the heartbeat of the side, the supporting roles played by Messrs Snodgrass, Howson and Tettey meant the midfield functioned probably better than it has done at any time this season. First to every loose ball, victorious in every 50/50 and in complete control.
The return to fitness of Howson can’t be underestimated. Clearly it’s taken him a few weeks to gain full match fitness but he looks to be there now and we’re a better side for it. His ability to not just cover the ground and do the dirty work , but also prompt, probe and create proved priceless yesterday; those thrusting runs through the middle something that has been absent from the City armoury for most of the season.
But it’s almost unfair to single out individuals as yesterday’s was a team effort in every sense of the word. While Ricky continues to divide opinion – and he does desperately need to take one of his chances sooner or later – he certainly put in a shift, and Elmander without question chose yesterday for his best performance in the yellow and green.
The goals may have, rather typically, come from midfield but those two – and Gary Hooper late on – contributed massively to the victory.
So, when it really mattered, Hughton again pulled a rabbit out of the hat. He seemingly saves his best for when the chips are on the floor. The trick now is clearly not to rely on Carrow Road must-win, clapper-ridden occasions for such performances, but to make them the norm. If not the norm, at least more frequent.
It’s easy to get a little euphoric after such an important win (I think I just did) but as we’re often reminded, ‘it’s all about the next game’. Yesterday’s elation will soon subside and all eyes will focus on the Liberty Stadium; the likelihood being another nail-biter.
The seven point buffer from the relegation zone looks healthy enough if you ignore the ‘games played’ column but with a few below City having games in hand there is still plenty of work to be done.
But just for now we should enjoy the moment, or moments. There have been all too few special ones this season but yesterday provided a few. From the spine tingling ovation afforded the 92-year-old war veteran through to the results of our relegation rivals filtering through it was a rare day of few negatives.
Even Alan Shearer’s, “I sometimes wonder what they expect down there…” was insufficient to get the heckles to rise… and that just about says it all.
We asked them to “Never mind the danger”. Yesterday they delivered.