The last-minute goal – it’s something I personally hate to love and it’s an opinion shared amongst many fans.
If you’re a Norwich fan, you’ve most definitely experienced at least one.
You’ve most definitely experienced the sitting on the edge of your seats, thinking it was all over and despite all perseverance, it just wouldn’t come.
You’ve most definitely been that person clasping your hands, praying and whispering – hoping someone will hear – you may in fact be the one yelling knowing someone would.
You’ve most definitely experienced being deafened by a commentator’s scream as they try to explain what had just happened, while they attempt to contain their own excitement surrounded by fans going berserk.
And if you’ve been a Norwich fan, you’ve most definitely experienced one of the best feelings of being a football fan – even if you’re watching on from the distance.
A last-minute goal makes an equaliser feel like a winner but when it’s a consolation goal, one against you or one after you had scored, it’s a feeling you despise – you feel robbed, you look to blame the opposition, the referee, someone.
We’ve seen it in 2011/12 against Manchester United when we thought an 83rd minute Grant Holt goal was the equaliser, only for Ryan Giggs to score in the 89th. We saw it in 2016 when Sebastien Bassong’s 92nd minute equaliser against Liverpool was only bettered by Adam Lallana’s goal three minutes later. And we saw it against Leicester City when the Canaries looked to have turned a corner after International Break and looked to get a draw against the Champions, only for the Foxes to score in 89th minute.
On Saturday, a 1-1 draw against Hull City felt like a win. Nelson Oliveira’s 96th minute goal would continue their unbeaten run that looked to have been ending – it’s been an important run threatening to oppositions and hopefully intimidating to next Saturday’s opponents. Earlier in the season, he scored an equaliser against Fulham in the 88th minute – the passion fresh in our memory.
In my time as a Norwich fan, I’ve always known City to be “that team” – sometimes months go by without a last-minute goal but then when it happens, it’s that unforgettable moment which you put down as “typical Norwich”.
They’ve had their fair few over the seasons and each one makes the moment even better.
In 2009/10, Norwich scored 22 goals after the 80th minute, with Grant Holt on hand to provide 6 of them. And although many of his last-minute goals came as top-up goals in hefty thrashings on their opponents, goals in the 90th minute against Charlton to make it 2-2 set City off on a run of results in League One, which would see them win promotion. Within that season, Holt and Gary Doherty also added in the 80th and 84th minute to beat Brighton 2-1.
The next season would see Holt accompanied by Simeon Jackson – a player who gained his reputation of scoring some of the most important goals in City’s history, yet also scoring some of the latest. Although his most important will live in the memory as he sealed back-to-back promotions for his team against Portsmouth, his goal in the game beforehand lives in the memory for a different reason.
April 25, 2011 – Norwich vs Derby County entered extra time 2-2. Queen’s Park Rangers had drawn against Hull City 1-1 – it would be enough for them to become Champions if the result at Carrow Road stayed the same. QPR fans invaded the pitch at Loftus Road to celebrate promotion, BBC’s Final Score shown the pictures but then the commentary went something like this:
Damian Johnson (at Loftus Road): ….But they wait here for that result at Carrow Road
Gabby Logan (in the studio): Which has just changed. Let’s go to Tony Lockwood, there’s a goal…
Tony Lockwood (at Carrow Road): Absolute Pandemonium. Five minutes of time added on and in the last couple of minutes, just bundled over the line, Simeon Jackson claims his hattrick.
He had put their plans on hold – they later revisited the scenes at Loftus Road to see masses in confusion. Although unlikely City would be awarded Champions that season, it gave fans hope for another 90 minutes – even if they were diminished the following week.
His last-minute goals the following seasons saw City pick up a draw at Fulham in the 90th minute, a 2-1 victory against West Brom, and in the 2012/13 season seeing their efforts against Tottenham Hotspurs go rewarded as an 84th minute Jan Vertonghen own goal was complimented with an 87th minute winner from Jackson to make it 2-1.
The following season would see City score 18 goals in the latter stages of the games, and although this dropped momentum over their three years in the Premier League, in their Play-off season, 19 goals came within that timeframe. Last season, it was 13 goals.
Every fan wants a last-minute goal to mean something, to change the result and Norwich fans have seen a fair few changed results.
In 2010-11, Holt’s last-minute goals saw wins against Scunthorpe, Coventry and Reading. Whilst Andrew Surman and Henri Lansbury also turned a 1-1 draw into a 3-1 win within 2 minutes both sides of the 90 minutes.
In 2011/12, Norwich changed a guaranteed Blackburn 3-1 win into a 3-3 draw at the hands of Bradley Johnson and Grant Holt. Whilst Steve Morison gave fans something to cheer about in a 3-3 draw against Arsenal in the 85th minute.
And most recently – April 2, 2016, Norwich vs Newcastle at Carrow Road – Norwich had stopped their winless streak a week before at West Brom but had conceded a late penalty in the 86th minute against Newcastle making it 2-2. Relegation was starting to become realistic. And then the twist in the tale happened in the 93rd minute – a Martin Olsson winner. It gave hope ahead of a gruelling couple of weeks in the Premier League and although City would see 5 defeats in 6 games and wish a fond farewell to the top flight, the last-minute winner gave fans hope when it’s at its lowest.
That’s the thing about last minute winners (or the equalisers which feel like winners) – they come when all hope is lost. They come when fans are starting to make their journeys to their cars. They come when fans turn off their radio’s or plan out their full-time speech on Twitter or Canary Call. They come when everyone around you are saying “Maybe next game”, “Our chance at promotion is over” or “That’s us relegated”
But they reward fans too – that indescribable feeling rewards fans.
In May 2015, days before City’s Play-Off Final win, Southend United played Wycombe Wanderers in the League Two Play-off Final. The 90 minutes had ended 0-0, but when Wycombe went ahead through an own goal in extra time, all hope was lost. Southend fans were filmed leaving the ground, many already on Wembley Way. And then with just 10 seconds of the game remaining, Southend’s Joe Piggott scored – forcing many of those who had left to make a U-turn and sprint, in hope they’d be able to get back to watch the penalties. They eventually won 7-6 on penalties.
I don’t know if those fans made it back in to see their team promoted to League One but for the fans watching others around them leave, they got to see that moment and I can only imagine a smirk grew on their faces.
People have their reasons for leaving early. But I stay.
Whilst Will Smith used the line “Not until the fat lady sings” in Independence Day, I wait for that final whistle, that final cheer from the crowds, for the players to show their appreciation and for that feeling of “did that just happen?”
A last-minute goal could ruin a game but it could make it.
And I’m not going to miss it.