Before kick-off against Wolves at 3pm in mid-February, eight points was the target I had in mind for the four “season defining” matches starting and ending with home games against two of our closest rivals.
Matches against Wolves have traditionally been big games – particularly those between 2001 and 2003 – but with both sides chasing a play-off berth this time around, the Valentine’s day match was not as close as I, and others, were expecting.
The dominance of Norwich throughout the game was very pleasing.
Since Seb Bassong has come back into the starting line-up City have conceded in just one game and that never looked like changing against Wolves, who barely threatened Ruddy’s goal.
The defence is starting to show a unity and an understanding that just hasn’t been there this season and one would imagine that being able to pick Messers Whittaker, Martin, Bassong and Olsson on a frequent basis can only help that. They were all magnificent against Kenny Jackett’s men, including the much maligned Steven Whittaker.
Bradley Johnson was named man-of-the-match by the sponsors yesterday, which was fully deserved after a fantastic performance, although Alex Tettey and Jonny Howson were just as deserving of the post-match champagne.
I’ve given Johnson a lot of stick for what I felt were very poor performances at the start of the season but he has completely made me eat my words after a string of amazing displays in recent months. He excels when he does the simple things: little passes here and there, effective tackles in the middle of the park and helping the defence out with blocks when necessary.
I was a lot more worried than I thought I would be when ‘the Norfolk Pirlo’ was linked to a transfer deadline day move away from Nelson’s County. With his goal on Saturday, he is now on eight goals for the season and is Norwich’s fourth highest goal scorer. Quite a turnaround and he has completely proved me wrong.
Credit too must go to Lewis Grabban. The amount of hard work and selfless running he puts into the team sometimes goes un-noticed but is just as important as his goalscoring, because if the team doesn’t have players willing to run and drag defenders wide then the space wont open up for others.
With three points safely tucked away after a comfortable 2-0 victory against our Old Gold (and white) ‘friends’ at Carra Rud, we can now look forward to Watford away.
The league table currently looks good from a City point of view but it is also deceptive because Middlesborough and Derby have games in hand. Although currently Norwich are six points from the top, it is probably likely that the leaders will be seven points ahead by the time said games in hand are played.
Watford have conceded a lot of goals at home recently, although their last home defeat came on Boxing day against Wolves. If City can maintain the levels of defensively stability shown in recent weeks – okay, maybe not those shown against Charlton – then I have every confidence we can leave Vicarage Road with at least a point.
But here’s hoping for all three!
I couldn’t write a new column and not write about how things ended for The Messiah at his ‘bigger club’. Despite everything Norwich City achieved while he was here, we were as good for him as he was for us.
I don’t like dwelling on the past but at the time he took over we were in a perfect position to be taken forward. I’m not going to say I was happy Aston Villa sacked him… but let’s just say I had a wry smile on my face when I heard the news.