Most of us would have taken a point if offered it pre-match but, as ever, City’s route to that point took us through the full gamut of emotions:
Agony inside a minute when Perez put the Toon ahead.
Ecstasy when Big Cam led the charge to put us 2-1 ahead.
More agony as City clung on via Ruddy, post and crossbar.
Heartbreak at the defences were finally breached by Lascelles.
Relief (and the ability to breathe again) following Andy Madley’s final whistle.
And in between every feeling possible that’s ever been induced by a football match.
It was thrilling, breathless stuff and upon the final countdown few could argue that Newcastle were worthy of at least a point. For most of the second-half it was all hands to the pump type stuff and, in truth, it took a ‘John Ruddy of old’ performance to see us hang on.
But hang on we did.
Of course it was an evening in which we lost ground on those in our sights – Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday both eking out 2-1 wins – and our chances of fifth or sixth narrowed slightly but with regard to forward momentum nothing has changed.
In terms of time on the ball, last night was one of the rare Championship occasions when we came off second best and for a spell in the second half as the back-four retreated deeper and deeper and as Mo Diame entered the fray it was the Alamo, with City being offered the meagrest of scraps to feed off.
But something has changed since that spell that’s still painful to even think about. Where once there was brittleness and half-heartedness, now there’s durability and fight. Belief too has been added to an armoury that was deficient in many things, and for all the technical difficulties that again revealed themselves in the centre of our back-four, there’s still heart.
And in the Championship that counts for a lot.
That Timm Klose’s playing the fool occasionally seeps from social media on to the green stuff is definitely a cause for concern however, and last night there was no burly six foot plus centre-forward to blame – not even Daryl Murphy.
Russell Martin too reminded us again why many have their doubts as to his long-term suitability to the centre-back role but both dug in, were brave, and put their bodies on the line when it counted.
Yet there’s much work to be done on the fields of Colney and to have to endure kamikaze defending on such a scale for the next 14 games will be almost too much to bear.
But enough of the negatives – there were plenty of positive aspects of the performance to focus on and it was encouraging that even with a squad riddled with injuries and changes (some enforced) there was no discernible change in intensity.
Cameron Jerome’s leading the line was a thing of brutal, lung-busting beauty and was him back to his best.
Following the second goal a River End comrade (nice one Rob) quipped that a month ago Cam would have missed from 10 centimetres 🙂 but to see him hit the net, lay on a tap-in for Jacob M and bully Messrs Clark and Lascelles all evening was the culmination of an almost perfect lone striker performance.
That one solitary Canary Caller deemed him ‘lazy’ was as incredulous as it comes. Fair play to Rob Butler and Greg Downes for putting him straight.
And given the unsettling news around Nelson Oliveira’s ankle injury, Cam’s return to his top form couldn’t be more timely.
Mitchell Dijks was another who thrived on the night and in tandem with a very ‘steady Eddie’ shift from Steven Whittaker the threat out wide from the Toon’s talented and expensively acquired wingers was kept to a minimum. But it was heading in a forward direction that the Dutchmen really excelled, especially in the first-half when City had a little more of the ball.
The sight of him twice doing to Matt Ritchie what the late, great Jonah Lomu did so famously to Tony Underwood in the 1995 Rugby World Cup was entertainment personified and was rounded off with him giving the Scot a clip round the ear when he tried to better Dijks with words rather than actions.
Unlike Yanic Wildschut, who again found the going tough, Dijks has hit the ground running and some. I suggest we make the most of his services over the next three months because, for obvious reasons, it’s hard to imagine him being here too much longer.
So, ground lost on the pack but as far as nail-biting entertainment goes last night was right up there. We’re naturally grateful for Ruddy’s brilliance for the point but it was another small step in the right direction and there’s once again an inescapable buzz about the place.
A win against Burton and it’s still all to play for.
Finally, a quick reminder about the Norwich City Supporters Trust AGM tomorrow night, which will be followed by Chris Goreham, Rob Butler and Robin Sainty leading a debate entitled “The State of the Canary Nation”.
The AGM itself starts at 7.15 pm in the Norfolk Lounge at Carrow Road with the debate following at 7.45pm. Both are open to all with free entry (although only members can vote at the AGM).