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.