“Well we would have taken a point before the game”.
So said the Yellow Army in unison upon the final blast of Mick Dean’s whistle. And it was true.
Yet, as ever, there’s something about conceding a last minute equaliser that sticks in the craw, especially when the performance that preceded it was right out of the top drawer . However hard you try and convince yourself, it is realistically two points dropped – more than just a glancing blow to the solar plexus,
To have have beaten West Ham on their own turf, following a week in which City’s chances were dismissed with the almost customary shrug, would have been massive and a fitting retort to the complacency, verging on contempt, shown by the Hammers towards City on and off the field.
In my capacity as editor of MFW I was invited by Betway, West Ham’s shirt sponsors, to participate – along with a Hammers’ conterpart – in a ‘Fan v Fan Q&A’. I was staggered by their condescending tone:
Q: What do you make of the opposition threat?
A: I don’t know a great deal about Norwich, personally. Their biggest threat appears to be from set pieces.
Q: A prediction for Saturday’s match?
A: I think we’ll win 3-0, with the scorers being Payet, Diafra Sakho and Mark Noble from the spot.
Only a brief snippet, but you get the gist. Oh, and they like Nathan Redmond (and probably wonder what he’s doing at little Norwich).
This complacency appeared to have seeped into their players too if Mark Noble’s wayward pass that allowed Robbie Brady to open his Norwich account was anything to go.
And then there was the non-celebration of the first goal – as if it were just a question of getting one and then the floodgates would open – only for Kouyaté’s equaliser to spark celebrations fit for Premier League title clincher.
I need to calm down…
But the fact is for the opening 30 minutes City gave the Hammers a footballing lesson and but for the profligacy of Cameron Jerome and Jonny Howson (which curiously didn’t make the Match of the Day edit) would have been out of sight before the Boleyn Ground awoke from its slumbers.
The old football adage of taking your chances when in the midst of a good spell rings true at every level, but especially in the rarified air of the Premier League. For all their foibles, West Ham are decent – probably more than decent – and were always going to have a spell themselves.
In truth, having conceded a fairly soft one, Alex’s men did well to withstand the ensuing ten minute barrage and ironically, having dominated for half an hour, were grateful to go in at half-time level.
Yet, probably off the back of said late barrage, the complacency in the East End air took hold again early in the second period – and again City were unable to prosper in front of goal. But, importantly, the performance levels were right up there – just as Alex, Frankie and Gary had planned them on the fields of Colney.
Right now there is a composure and calmness about City when in possession that we have not seen for some time and, while it didn’t always come to the fore at Anfield, a healthy combination of attractive passing and incisiveness going forward is going to trouble more opponents than just West Ham and Liverpool.
When we’re on it we look like a good side – one that’s quite at home in the Premier League.
Alex’s desire to play Wes at the Boleyn meant Redmond – him of the green-eyed East Ender – was this week’s sacrificial lamb but upon his arrival it was clear he too was on it.
His goal was a thing of beauty and came at the end of a sustained period of City pressure. For it to have been the winner would have been fitting and the result of the manager’s prophecy, who told him prior to him entering the fray that he was going on to score the winner.
Dieumerci Mbokani – the recipient of the new best song in football – too made an impact when coming off the bench and must be edging ever closer to a start. Also the decision to swap Wes for the steady hand of Gary O’Neil when looking to see it through to get three points was logical enough. What followed was just a mixture of rotten luck and ugliness.
Big John will probably question this morning why he didn’t get a more decisive punch on the ball, but if there is one player you don’t want to be facing when the opposition are looking to “launch it” it’s Andy Carroll. And sure enough.
But it was a point, a good point, and to have produced a performance like that against occupants of the top three bodes well for what lies ahead.
We’re going to be just fine.
The last word must go to Daniel Kelly (aka @DK_NCFC) who, in yesterday’s tweet of the day, summed up perfectly the feeling of thousands: “Outrageous performance again, proper heartbroken 🙁 Love you @NorwichCityFC“
And so say all of us.