There was a brief moment in the second half, just after Marco Stiepermann made it 2-0, that almost for the first time I allowed myself to dream.
Anyone who reads this column regularly (cheers Mum) will know I’m generally not keen on looking too far ahead because football is football and it can be evil at times, but to be two goals up and in cruise control against an obdurate Bolton was about as un-Norwich as you can get.
Luckily, for a 20-minute spell in the second-half order was finally restored and some defensive sloppiness allowed the Trotters back into a game that had looked dead to them.
Then Pukki pops up… again.
And, later on, Colin Murray (on Quest TV) fires some stats at us around the probability, based on the last decade, of the top two after 21 games getting promoted.
How the hell are those of us lucky enough to write about our beloved City supposed to be rational and balanced after that? And how are we supposed to be measured when talking about a team capable of playing some of the best football witnessed at the Carra for decades and one that has collected 25 points from a possible 27?
But this lot are relentless. The hurdles come thick and fast yet every single time they find a way. Belief is oozing from every pore and seeing a two-goal lead disappear with less than two minutes of normal time remaining was no cause for panic or even a single dropped head.
Such is the belief and total buy-in of the Farkeball philosophy, they knew if the ball was still shifted in the tried and trusted way another chance would still present itself. And sure enough…
That Todd Cantwell’s clipped cross was the closest this lot get to delivering a Hail Mary says an awful lot about the coaching and how hopeful crosses just slung into “an area” have no place in the Farke armoury. What doesn’t necessarily come from the excellent coaching, however, is the goalscorer’s instinct that oozes – along with said belief – from Teemu Pukki.
The Finn had had a pretty rotten afternoon in truth and was far from his usual self in front of goal, but given one chance in one split-second to win the game, he took it. The strike was unerring, instinctive and the timing perfect. The footballing gods played their part too by teeing the ball up so Pukki didn’t even have to break stride, but so did Jordan Rhodes, who managed to keep Cantwell’s cross alive.
Not since that season with that bloke in charge have we enjoyed such success late on in games, and that ended well.
Of course, there is the 20-minute wobble in the second-half to ponder but I did marvel at the way first Marco Stiepermann and then Daniel Farke countered it in their respective post-match interviews. For Stieperman, it was a case of focussing on the performance level in the 70 minutes that preceded the wobble, for Farke it was all about the response to the second Bolton goal.
From my River End vantage point, it did look as if – possibly for the first time – that at 2-0 the foot came slightly off the throttle and the intensity level dropped, and when that happens it is really difficult to lift it again. That they somehow managed it says as much about the mental strength as it does the technique, and ties in perfectly with the positive mindset displayed by Stiepermann and Farke.
Let’s just hope they are able to keep it, bottle it and use it wisely and sparingly for the remainder of the season, particularly in the fallow periods.
And there will be difficult times ahead. The prospect of us keeping the Real Madrid of Yorkshire at arm’s length for the rest of the season is improbable – as great as that sounds – and right now, while the hurdles do keep on coming, the run of the ball and the rub of the green are undoubtedly with us. But, as the saying goes, you do make your own luck.
The fact City managed to conquer their latest quest with such a youthful and inexperienced back-four when faced with one of the Championship’s most experienced line-ups, added yet another twist to another memorable afternoon. And for Ben Godfrey to perform at that level with just 12 minutes notice was itself quite remarkable.
It would be disingenuous to suggest City didn’t miss the composure and aerial dominance of Timm Klose – he been one of our best players – but Godfrey proved in 95 minutes that he’s deserving of a place in this side. And in his role in the celebrations of Pukki’s goal proved definitively how those who have been on the fringes feel every bit as valued in this group as those deemed ‘regulars’.
And that’s another tick in the box for Farke and Stuart Webber – a task made even trickier as the squad starts to welcome back some of the medium-term injured while juggling the homegrown rule.
Finally, I have to mention Tim Krul again. Among this amazing feelgood factor currently engulfing the club, there remains a faction who appear overly quick to pounce on any perceived error by the Dutchman. It happened again yesterday even though, for me, he didn’t even make an error.
As I said last week, I see his influence on this team as extending far beyond his shot stopping. To pounce on every single rebound or block where the ball doesn’t stick, ignores all of the good things and the organising and cajoling. He’ll do for me.
But that’s a minor gripe from a RiverEnder who is more than happy to ignore the fact only Jordan Rhodes thought to thank us for our support yesterday. For us, the wins are reward enough 🙂
And yes, I am starting to believe.
Jill Waters says
It’s becoming increasingly impossible to keep my feet on the ground. I really thought that we’d blown it yesterday, but this team never gives up, and our fitness levels are paying dividends. I know there’s a long way to go but the belief flowing through the club at the moment is tangible – an amazing turn around from last season. Who’d have though selling Maddison and Murphy would prove so positively pivotal. We now have a squad without a ‘star’, and yet they’re all shining, week in, week out. Long may it last. OTBC
Another good sum up
Players make mistakes but get away with it, a striker misses, He’ll get another chance, people give him room to do thst. But a keeper a totally different story, I would be shouting at Krull had we been middle to bottom of the table, but we are not, We Are Top , so for me Krull is doing his job.
Get off his case and look at his game with a different set of eyes, try focussing on what he does do very well.
We often say if a team don’t play too well but still get a result, it shows something special about them. This must also be the same for players, especially strikers, Our Teemi baby had quiet off colour afternoon, until those final few seconds. That shows a hell of a lot about his character and mind set, I have seen strikers almost disappear with heads hanging so low they can could the grass, when an afternoon like that comes along. But not him, right in the mix to slot it home.
Credit must go to Rhodes too , not getting the first team outings he may have thought he would or even what I thought. Is he complaining ..is he wanting to go back to parent club ? just the opposite he has made sounds of wanting to stay here.
Thought Godfrey had a stonker, a young man chucked in the deep end at minutes notice in his non favoured position, brilliant and heck of a lot of credit goes to Zimmerman seen several times instructing and encouraging Godfrey.
We keep learning more and more about this squad of players.. Trying to keep a level head, without looking in a crystal ball or trying to guess anything. I simply believe WHY NOT . Wolves did .
The finish line gets closer into view each passing game. take one game at a time and enjoy the ride.
Gray stuff Gary. As it stands I think think I may be investing in this seasons highlights dvd for the first time in years.
It seems as though every negative this team throws up, it quickly responds with two thumping positives. Having conquered that enduring bugbear, the goal shy first period with a smart Vrancic finish, in spite of looking a little off the pace it looked set fair.
Stiepermanns super finish appeared to wrap the points up with time to spare… And relax!
As you say, we appeared to take our feet off the pedal. In truth the engine fell out and a sudden aerial bombardment aided by shambolic defending had us on level terms and looking shaky.
Much has been made of the performance of Godfrey, thrown in at late notice to step into the considerable shoes of Klose. Until the late fun and games, Godfrey had looked calm and composed, in control, quick across the ground and had used the ball nicely, as befits a very good midfielder. Now, I realise that questioning Farkes motives and methods is a hazardous occupation and almost expect that in 6 months time our Dan will have unearthed the new Bobby Moore but I just cannot see a centre half in Ben Godfrey. I would have liked to have seen him garner more game time from the bench this season, but as a strong, athletic midfield presence to help close a game. That said, having had no preparation for the starting role with regards to drills, his direct opponent etc. He stepped in and did well.
If anything, it goes to show just how good Timm Klose is and always has been.
Pukki, for the second week running appeared a little off colour. Then he scored a world class injury time winner. Enough said.
With regard to Krul, his handling was sound and he did his best to stop the awful equaliser. His scuffed goal kick shortly after we had retaken the league which went straight to An opponent who ran the ball back at him from halfway caused me to utter some very industrial language.
Total and utter theatre. Ridiculous, frustrating, joyous, dramatic, incredible.
Herr Cutz says
Good defensive players develop a sixth sense when they play together on a regular basis and to lose a key central defender just a few minutes before the game makes a big difference. As you say Gary, Godfrey stepped up to the plate, but it will take a few games for the defence to tighten up again if Klose remains injured. But we won, and if I were an opposition manager I wouldn’t be too sure as to how you stop Norwich scoring, there are so many players creating chances and knocking them in.
Yesterday was my first trip to CR since the Boro game back in Sep that started this amazing run all off.
I can’t add too much more to your account Gary other than to say how impressed I was with Cantwell, a far better and more intelligent player than I originally thought.
A few hairy moments but overall we were always in control and the scoreline should have been far more comfortable, along with my blood pressure levels!
Good read Gary and it sums up the feelings of many I think.
I still can’t believe we can go up. My big fear is what happens when the big boys are thrown forward by opposition teams and how we cope. We are all over the shop and shipping goals.
In defence of Krull, he has been great in this aspect, the defence just need to stop opposition teams kicking it at him from range.
. Hanley and Klose would be good to stop aerial bombardments but harsh on the Zim and Godfrey. In fact a 3 at the back might be best, freeing up the youth to fly up the wings. But the front 4 formation we have played to date is working so well. and we are missing Mo. If he returns will all be well……
Actually I need to stop fretting. We end up winning most of the time whatever happens in the game and it is sooooo very exciting, every Saturday is a treat. I still maintain that the most important signing of the season is the Barclay stand and it’s various supporters groups. Flags, scarves, togetherness and always in great voice. I’m sure that they have won us a lot of points – and thats why last minutes winners keep coming I think. The crowd have a winning mentality and know exactly what to do and when to do it to inspire the players. It’s been a joy.
martin penney says
Without any intended offence to anybody I have always felt the Barclay is the place to be.
I’m not part of any official group (as such) but me and my mates wouldn’t be anywhere else.
But then again some folks I know quite well prefer the City Stand or the River End or the Snakepit (which is basically an adjunct to the Barclay anyway)
I guess it’s horses for courses.
You know you’re nearly a pensioner when a few of you collectively move from the Lower to the Upper – but it’s still a cracking atmosphere:-)
Alex B says
Always had an ST in the south stand and it was always a great atmosphere and in the late 60’s always stood in the Barclay.
As you say Martin horses for course’s and it is where you as an individual feel comfortable, last time in the Upper Barclay was v Leeds and Efan Ekoku and that was a good game
Derek P says
Gary, I don’t see why you see it as “improbable” that we will keep Leeds off the top. They are not as good as us, yes they gave us a thumping at our place but we have improved immeasurably since then. They are as good now as they are going to get.
Interestingly, the Sky obsession with Leeds fed into Sky Sports News when, during their highlights reel, they said that “for most of the afternoon” it looked as if Leeds would return to the top. I made it about 3 minutes!!
This is a special group we have here and we definitely have momentum. We have strength in depth and we are a club all pulling in the right direction. We will take some stopping.
Alex B says
A very good read as usual
As for Godfrey’s late call that could have worked in his favor as he wouldn’t have ghad time to fret about pkaying out of position.
Krul a few years ago was on every top teams as the goalkeeper to get and a terrible run of injuries knocked his confidence, I still hope his handling of the long shots and punching can improve otherwise he will always be prone to errors but in this league he is doing a good job but he needs to have a back up keeer that will push him Mcgovern isn’t that man he knows he will be gone in the summer possibly to Preston under A N as Rudd is making some howlers.
Rhodes is showing Oliveria how to act in a difficult situation and I just hope he gets his rewards with more playing time and goals.
As mentioned before the whole squad is buying into the game plan and we still have a few players coming back from injuries and getting up to speed for selection so D F will have a few difficult decisions to make and in doing so lets hope it doesn’t up set the plans.
Tranfers in and out could be very interesting the board needs to hold their nerve but with Klose out of contract this summer and a reasonable offer comes in will the club risk letting him go or lose him for nothing that is how the self financing model works.
Keith B says
What is all this nonsense about Godfrey “playing out of position”?
I think Alex Neill always said he was a centre back in the making and Farke clearly sees it the same – why else was he the designated centre back cover on the bench yesterday? I’ll wager that he’s been training in that position at Colney. Yes, at Shrewsbury, in a league where ball-playing centre-backs are probably somewhat rarer he gained a lot of useful experience playing as a holding midfielder. That doesn’t mean he has to stay there for ever.
As far as I can see when Tettey cannot play it is not Godfrey who is earmarked as his replacement.
Good stuff Gary, and some great comments as always.
The wonderful journey on what seems to be becoming an unstoppable juggernaut continues – regardless of how many curve balls are thrown at us. We just stick in another youngster; actually score before half-time; revert to type to concede two sloppy goals, but this is different…….As long as there is time on the clock we WILL score! What a cool finish that was by Mr Pukki!
Oh; and given the comments by Sky Sports; Mr Murray on Quest, et al, presumably the Real Madrid of the North are the only championship club who have to suffer injuries??
O T B C
GY yellow says
I think the comments from Parkinson were very interesting saying he watched how Millwall and Rotherham scored and followed the same route one strategy. One to work on in training I feel with heading and second ball attack key elements for our fantastic young fullbacks.
David Bowers says
“And, later on, Colin Murray (on Quest TV) fires some stats at us around the probability, based on the last decade, of the top two after 21 games getting promoted.”
I haven’t seen these comments, but once upon a time I wrote a piece for this site (can’t find it now) that said…
“Early position means little with Adams and Neil both in an automatic promotion spot after 10 games, neither achieving automatic promotion. Only after 25-30 games were Norwich consistently within a couple of positions of where they eventually finished.”
This held true last season, for Lambert, and for the Neil’s relegated season. So really we only need to hold top spot for 4 more games and we’re definitely going to be promoted.
You can see our positions here: https://imgur.com/a/Wfor9xo
David Bowers says
And points accumulation: https://imgur.com/a/FNRw7os
The points accumulation makes particularly pleasurable reading!
Coming round to my way of thinking Gary – nice piece again mate. This side now exceeds my expectations but I must say that the celebration after the second goal did have a spark of arrogance about it and whilst every good team or player needs it to succeed, I think that the fact they were pegged back to 2-2 won’t do them any harm in chasing the dream that they and we all desire. What a finish again though -such self-belief to never knowing that they are beaten. Don’t you just love Teemu Pukki, not his best game but never stopped running and what a finish.