Maybe we’re not done after all.
There looked no way out of this mess in the direct aftermath of Old Trafford, but in true footballing tradition, in true Norwich City tradition in fact, one win later and the world seems a more positive place.
It may not have been seismic in the greater scheme of things, said world didn’t tilt on its axis, but in the circumstances that scrappy, hard-fought win meant a lot. 99.9 percent of us will, after recent home games, uttered something along the lines of “I’d give anything for a scrappy 1-0 instead of playing well and drawing”.
Well, that’s what we got, although there were moments and spells when the flowing, progressive football did shine through. We also did the Norwich City thing of making heavy weather against ten-men, not least because we didn’t change our shape to exploit it.
But seldom has must-win been more fitting, and defeat, even for the #NCFC Survivers (as opposed to the Exiteers), would have dented their unerring belief almost to the point of oblivion. But we’re still alive and kicking… just.
A positive result in north London on Wednesday and even this grizzled old cynic may start believing again.
That City made hard work of winning a game that could and should have been comfortable is almost a given – and is in truth symptomatic of why they find themselves in this predicament in the first place – but on this occasion, they were able to find a way to get the job done.
Bournemouth were dire, let’s be honest, and if City had failed to get three points against relegation rivals whose form is actually worse than their own, it would have been curtains, but as the saying goes, you can only beat what’s put before you and the Canaries did just that.
En route, they collected a rare clean sheet, scored a penalty(!) and denied the Cherries a couple of classic along come Norwich moments in the form of a goal (they’d not scored in three games) and, potentially more painfully, a goal for the goal-less Dominic Solanke.
The afternoon’s only blemish was the red card for Ben Godfrey, which in hindsight was the correct decision and was, for once, correctly handled by VAR and the officialdom.
That Paul Tierney made the decision with the help of Eddie Howe and various members of Bournemouth’s backroom staff chirping in his ear shouldn’t detract from the fact it was still the right one – even though my failing eyesight convinced me, via the on-screen replay, that the original yellow was correct. I was wrong. Tierney was right.
But, as Daniel Farke pointed out afterwards, we have to count ourselves fortunate that, after our early-season injury crisis, we finally have three fit centre-backs to call on. And Grant Hanley could have counted himself unlucky that it was he, and not Zimmermann, who started on the bench yesterday.
If only they could build on that clean sheet and make us hard to beat for the rest of the season because the debut of Ondrej Duda suggested that one thing we won’t be lacking down the home straight is attacking thrust and invention.
For Duda to slot into the 10 role so seamlessly, almost as if he’d had a full season to acclimatise, was quite something and the assured, composed way he played one and two-touch to find his feet and get used to the tempo of the Premier League was class personified.
I questioned the worthiness of bringing someone in who was effectively getting himself a four-month shop window at considerable cost to the club but having watched him play, not only will he make us a better side, he’s also going to entertain us along the way.
I was wrong… again.
Duda’s footballing intelligence in a congested area of the pitch, where Marco Stiepermann and Kenny McLean have both struggled to make a big enough impact, has the potential to be a perfect fit, with his ability to dovetail with Emi Buendia, Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki already making a marked difference.
As City debuts go, his was right up there and but for Steve Cook’s outstanding finger-tip save it’d have been a goalscoring debut.
But his wasn’t the only good performance. Cantwell is maturing into a Premier League player before our very eyes. Dereham’s finest has always had rock-solid technique but has added energy and desire to those eyes-catching qualities, making for quite a package. He’ll be on many a PL recruitment wish list whichever league we end up in next season.
So too Buendia who, for all his defensive foibles, just looks more and more at home in the Premier League as the season goes on. The biggest compliment I can pay is that he plays the game with the abandon of a kid in the school playground, one who also happens to be most skillful and naturally gifted footballer in school.
We’re so lucky to have been able to watch him play in a yellow and green shirt.
But he needs a structure around him – a team of Emi Buendias would be a nightmare – and among those other good performances yesterday was one from Sam Byram. The ex-Hammer has never failed us and offers the solidity and grit in the team that, crucially, provides a base from which mesmeric Argentineans can unleash their wizardry.
For Jamal Lewis to be kept on the bench speaks volumes for Byram’s contribution and how he is perceived in the Colney corridors of power. His will to succeed is clear and infectious and shouldn’t be underestimated in a team that’s now not short of strong characters.
For that, I also give you Tim Krul who, among others, has taken on additional roles in this Great Escape attempt. In his case, it’s cheerleader, bouncer and mentor but if we needed some fake passports or a tunnel to be dug, I’m pretty sure he’d be up for that too.
So, a good day, one of the few, and while the odds are still stacked against us, there is a glimmer of light at the end of that tunnel. This isn’t over.
Julian Roberts says
Tettey always seems to go un noticed but i felt he kept things ticking along nicely. Good write up Gary.
Gary Gowers says
Very good shout Julian … should’ve mentioned him. Was as steady and reliable as ever.
His technique has actually improved under Farke. If only we could knock five years off him. He’s still our best defensive midfielder and athletic enough to compete in the premier league.
He’s one of those players who you tend to notice when he’s not playing.
John Holland says
Agreed, so much more has been added to Tettey’s game under Farke. I know refer to him as a ball playing midfielder which definitely wasn’t the case a few years ago
I think under this current regime Tettey is playing the best football of his career with Norwich. I think his passing has improved considerably and he really seems to be enjoying his senior status and is a very good leader
Colin B says
Good read Gary.
I doubted the wisdom of paying to bring in Duda on a short loan. However, what do I know. Having seen his quality I think he will link well with Emi and Todd and bring more out of them to create chances. He has an eye for goal too so I hope he can soon get on the score sheet.
I agree Bournemouth were poor. They are in really poor form just lumping the ball forward. I can see them in the bottom three. We need a couple of others to have a bad run to give us a chance. We need to score at least one more goal when we get in the lead as I can’t see us getting lots of clean sheets. We still have some tough games to come against top half teams.
We need a miracle to survive but we still have hope.
Dave B (2) says
Its going to be some challenge, both Shearer and Wright said that neither us or Bournemouth would make it in their efforts to extend our tenure to 2021, killjoys the pair on’em. Let’s be honest, if we’d blown it yesterday we wouldn’t have deserved to keep our place BUT, that didn’t happen and we have been given a chance, probably only a slither of a chance, but a chance nonetheless and there is no time like the present. In three days time we have the chance to be taken seriously; if we can get a point we might just get the ball rolling. The Hotspur have not won a league game since Boxing day and that is way back in the last decade in my book and they are floundering without their ex Norwich talismanic hero. They won’t want to be seen as the laughing stock and might just fancy a six nil win but I can’t see that happening to be honest, there they were, last on MOTD last night with Vertonghen sitting on his backside bemused by the fact that he had gifted the opposition a penalty. Eriksen looks like a shadow desperate for some Italian sunshine and their fickle fans may already fancy a change of manager. Son and possibly Moura are the ones to watch out for. There’ll be a good Canary contingent in the stands and one or two who have crept in amongst the home fans. Dream on Yellas
Good read Gary, and nice to wake up this morning with a positive NCFC vibe. When we didn’t score a 2nd l thought it was going to be a late Bournemouth comeback and a single point again. But we scrambled to a very welcome 3 pts and some hope to cling on to.
Maybe come the season’s end we’ll be saying wasn’t Duda an inspirational signing. But as for debuts l’m old enough to remember Laurie Sheffield scoring 3 in his first game though that may have been his NCFC career high point.
Dave B says
I was standing in the river end for that one, black shorts, open terrace and two bob to get in. I think it was against Derby
Jim Davies says
While not disputing the eventual correctness of the red card decision, it was just typical of our luck that it happened in the first game after it was decided that referees should look at the monitor for red card offences. Tierney’s initial decision was a yellow. In previous games, that decision would have stood. I don’t think it’s right to change the parameters half way through the season.
I agree that Duda looks as though he could be a good investment, even if it’s only for a few months. He made some really intelligent runs into space behind their full backs, but no-one in yellow seemed to notice. Maybe they’ll learn. Shame about missing out on a goal, though if Ian Wright has his way, that effort will feature in a “save of the season” competition!
6 wins – 18 points – and we have a chance of staying up. No one is relegated in January – it is in our hands what happens from now. One crucial signing could make all the difference.
Gary Gowers says
Good shout, Tony. Yes… one more crucial signing could tip the balance.
PS Wilson seemed very sprightly after Godfrey’s tackle. How was that a red yet Zimbo being put out for 3 months by Haller did not merit anything. There is no logic using VAR in isolation. if Haller’s tackle merits nothing then Godfrey’s can be no more than a yellow.
martin penney says
Good shout Tony.
I nevertheless reckon Ben G deserved a red having seen it on TV although I didn’t feel that way at the time.
As for Haller – you’re spot on.
But that is the point – we all saw Haller’s tackle on tv – which changed the game and our season yet nothing eventuated even though it was late and more than dangerous. If you look at Godfrey’s tackle isolation you therefore come to the wrong conclusion. And Wilson was more than chipper to carry on.
martin penney says
Same referee as well
Jim Davies says
My son said to me at half-time, “Tierney will be looking for any opportunity to even up the numbers.” Unfortunately, Ben gave him that opportunity.
Couldn’t agree more Tony.
VAR reviewed Aubameyang last week and he got red, but, somehow Haller escaped ANY sort of punishment, and then went on to score the opening goal.
If his misdemeanour had been correctly punished, we would have had a free-kick in a defensive position and the whole game thereafter would have been different.
Similarly with the throw-in at Villa which should have been ours, but was erroneously given to them!
As Farke says, it’s the supposedly little things which come back to bit you big time!
O T B C
John Holland says
We will probably need a minimum of 35 points to stay up. Of 7 home matches 2 are against top 3 sides but the other 5 offer some hope especially as we play them when they have little to play for. This means we need to pick up at least 3 away points. Newcastle and Watford are better teams than when we played them earlier in the season so it looks like we will need to grind out a few shock results away from home. VAR rears its head again and I also thought it was yellow when I saw the replay at the match but I can see why it is red having seen it more closely later, I would ask why the Sheff Utd red card against us was overturned in light of this red card though. A final thought on VAR why did it take so long to review the handball by Cook? You can see the ball deviate as it went past Cook and VAR would not have had as good a view as the officials as to whether contact was made. I have heard people say it was checking for offside but the screen stated handball, others said that it was reviewing a handball in the build up by Cantwell, again there was nothing to suggest a handball by anyone in a Norwich shirt in the immediate build up especially by Cantwell. I do remember seeing Cantwell control the ball close to his arm but that was many minutes before, how far back do they look? Do they go back to the last break in play?
Yes valuable win but it was only struggling Bournemouth and we could only score one goal against them and not from open play so still a lot of work in the final third to do in my opinion ….must say im gutted we not looking for another CB and defensive midfielder unless that is what rupp is ?? And yes gary why cant a german coach be flexible with our shape feels similar to alex neil no plan b very blinkered . Anyhow enough nitpicking sorry enjoy your sunday 😉
Gary Gowers says
Ha! Fair comment, Jim. My uncle commented on the walk back to the car that by not tweaking our shape slightly to exploit the extra man, Farke missed a trick. All Bournemouth did was to leave Wilson even more isolated but defensively they stayed the same and so did we.
This is so true. Farke keeps misreading the have after 60 mins. Hernandez on would have pegged them right back. However, the talk all week at Colney was of defensive solidity so I’ll give him that.
Alex B says
A good Sunday read while watching Engkabd slowly demolish South Africa.
My wife said that city are like the hero of Don Quixote tilting at Windmills and she could well be right wind a little wind in the right direction who knows what could happen.
Not sure city gave much room in bringing too many more players we must be near our overseas quota and with the papers suggesting Lewus could be off to Crappy Palace that would damage our hone grown numbers unless we added a couple of Championship players (Rhodes) into the squad but would that be a benifit to them or the ream in general.
I asked David Freeze yesterday on the inline commentary what odds he would give me that Aarons, Lewis, Godfrey, Pukki, Tettey, Buendia, Hernandez, Cantwell would all be at city for the start of next season he replied with 1,000,000/1 now that would be a good bet but not being a gambler I wouldn’t waste my money lol.
Onwards and upwards
Thanks Gary; what a hard fought 3 points that turned out to be.
When you look at the Bournemouth players yesterday, and take into account some of the fees they are supposed to have paid for them, it really makes one wonder at how much our current squad is worth.
Billing at some 15m; Solanke 15m-20m, and surely Callum Wilson has to be one of the most expensive referees ever to have set foot on a pitch?
He was constantly in the ref’s ear; got away with grabbing Tim Krul’s arm when TK was trying to throw the ball to Aarons, and continually niggled at our players and the officials all game. In a number of ways he was lucky still to be on the pitch when taken out by Godfrey, but although it’s hard to admit to, it WAS a red card.
And why did it take so long for VAR to confirm Cook had handled? Heknewhe had doneso, and walked off initially without any complaints at all.
We now have an even stronger glimmer of hope, but being NCFC fans we all know what hope does!!
O T B C
Keith B says
They would surely be looking at more than the handling offence. Now they’ve got VAR they must look for anything else that may have been missed in the build-up. Imagine if they didn’t and MOTD or Sky picked something up. “They’ve got VAR, why aren’t they using it?” Etc. etc.
But to do so is going to take time – you cannot check for fouls/handballs/offsides in the lead up to a goal or award of a penalty without looking through the footage at least a couple of times. Just think how long the TV pundits can sometimes look at an incident themselves, and still not come to a unanimous decision.
It seems like an age for the crowd – twiddling your fingers for a couple of minutes does – but I don’t seriously see how it can be sped up.
The truth is that players and managers don’t really want VAR. When decisions aren’t falling their way you often hear them pleading for “consistency”. What they actually mean is they want decisions to be consistently in their favour – they don’t care whether they are right or wrong. The problem is that VAR increases the chance of decisions being right, which isn’t always what they want.
After the game Daniel Farke was totally straight about Godfrey’s red card yesterday. But do you really think he was glad VAR was there to confirm it, rather than it being left as a yellow? Which do you think he would he prefer? Correct decision, or Ben Godfrey available for the next 3 games?
I’m not over-impressed about the way the FA go about things but the fact is with VAR they’re never going to win.
Using it takes time, kills the atmosphere for the crowd and, even if they can’t admit it, displeases a manager if a dodgy decision in his favour is overruled.
Not using it, now that’ it’s available leaves them open to abuse for not taking advantage of technology, and at the mercy of TV pundits with their access to multiple camera angles.
Stephen Godbold says
Unfortunately I don’t think this result changes much, but it’s nice to win. I doubt that even 35 points will be enough and I don’t think we’ll even get there – but let’s at least keep it alive for as long as we can.
Those games against Sheff Utd, Wolves, Spurs and Palace were the ones that really killed us.
On the upside, we have to play many potentially winnable games at home. Aside from Liverpool, big teams away. Fine, lose them or get a decent point. Otherwise, some teams that can be beaten all to come to CR. LETS DO IT
Andrew H says
Timing of Liverpool game at Carrow Road may see them rest some players as they have a Champions League game 3 days after – away against Atletico Madrid
Bernie Owen says
Coo, we beat Bournemouth. 11 v 10 for about an hour. Excuse me if I don’t get too excited..
But a wins a win . Now if we can get 4 points from the next 2 games something special may be on the cards.