When City lost at home to angry Sean Dyche’s Burnley back in the bad old days of Project Restart I suggested we open talks with Notts County fans to borrow their song.
It really did feel like the wheel had fallen off our barrow.
We (typically) lost that game, ended it with nine men, were adrift at the bottom of the league and without a prayer.
Last night had shades of 18 July – with one striking similarity but two humongous differences.
Yes, Emi Buendia saw red again (not literally last night) but even with the kitchen sink, the kitchen units, the worktops and the contents of all the cupboards thrown at us, we still somehow won.
And while Dyche’s contempt amounted to him kicking sand in the face of a team destined for the drop, Michael O’Neill was left talking up the “best team we’ve faced” and one that included “the best striker in the division”.
While the wheel may have fallen off, we still managed to get across the line. Unbelievably so.
The fallout could be costly but, for now, we should revel in what was undoubtedly the best win of the season so far.
Daniel Farke’s Monday lunchtime injury bulletin was of the X-rated variety – ten names on a list of injuries that varied to short to long term – so we knew the starting XI would have a slightly unfamiliar look, but even with Alex Tettey making his first start of the season and Josh Martin making his first start [full stop], there was a pleasing flow to City’s attacking play before it all started to go belly up.
Tettey showed no sign of the rustiness that could have been expected, while Martin showed no nerves, no fear and an understanding of Farkeball borne of hours and hours of coaching on the fields of Colney.
Different personnel, same pleasing passing rhythms on show when it clicked.
But there is a different, more pragmatic feel to this iteration of Norwich City; one that has sacrificed some of the swash and buckle for a defensive solidity that can help grind out ugly 1-0s.
That’s not to say the pleasing passing patterns have gone anywhere. As demonstrated perfectly by last night’s first goal, the ability to shift the ball sweetly and at speed is still there when the time is right.
Most notable, apart from its beauty, was the appreciation by Buendia of those who collectively created that opportunity for him. No me-me-me self-indulgence from the Argentinian but instead the epitome of a team player who looked like he was enjoying himself.
Looked. Past tense. He didn’t enjoy the final half-an-hour.
But Emi did hang around long enough to serve up a second goal for Teemu Pukki who, ominously for the rest of the league, is starting to resemble a 2018-19 vintage. The excellence of Buendia’s beautifully weighted and executed through ball was only matched by the Finn’s unerring left-foot finish.
So far so good but the first sign that things were about to go awry came when Krul signalled to the bench that his race was run. Whether it’s a full on muscle pull or just a strain, it’s not one that’s going to go away in a few days.
Enter Michael McGovern.
Minus the calming presence of Krul, it did feel just one defensive howler away from unravelling, although in fairness there was a rare sense of unease at the back last night, even from minute one, probably due to the simple fact of Stoke being a decent side.
City’s third may have gone a little against the grain, but it mattered not. Despite Stoke responding to what was clearly an O’Neill half-time rocket, Martin’s pass and Pukki’s perfectly timed-run ended with the Finn using his left shin to excellent effect.
But even at 3-0 it was still twitchy and nervy. I couldn’t work out why at the time. (Must have been my sixth sense telling me Emi was about to do an Emi).
The first booking was harsh and having gone through one central defender, the Argentinian was simply stronger as he challenged the other. The audible screaming and yowling – one of the most infuriating aspects of empty stadia – may have played its part.
The second booking, also accompanied by said yowling (intensified by Stoke realising Emi was on a yellow), was unfortunately a no-brainer for referee Eltringham.
But this wasn’t the petulant, niggly Buendia that saw red against Burnley. This version was motivated and in the zone. An error of judgment, a costly one but – if there is such a thing – one that came from a good place.
In the words of a wise man, he’d won us the game but then went on to almost lose us the game.
That Tyrese Campbell pulled a goal back before City had even cleared their heads was merely the start of some industrial scale buttock-clenching.
Pukki’s withdrawal due to a tight hamstring – hopefully only precautionary – left City with precious little presence in the final third but there was also the problem of getting the ball there in the first place. It wasn’t happening.
With Stoke dominating possession it was hard for City to get out and as a result that backline dropped deeper and deeper until virtually camped on the edge of McGovern’s six-yard box.
Christoph Zimmermann giving Nathan Collins a freebie from an in-swinging corner for the Potters’ second was far from ideal either, and at that stage it was hard to see us hanging on for point let alone all three.
But this group is made of sterner stuff than that half-@rsed bunch who waved the white flags in unison during Project Restart. The new personnel and the summer refresh have turned a bunch of losers into a squad of winners.
Stoke will argue that McGovern rather than Lee Gregory was culpable for them having a third goal chalked off but despite being unable to to barely get out of the defensive third, City somehow managed to see it through.
Quite where this leaves us when it comes to cobbling together a starting XI for Saturday can wait until Friday – probably Saturday morning – but, for now, let’s marvel at three of our hardest earned points for some time.
In the second tier, away trips don’t come much tougher than Middlesbrough and Stoke, and to have emerged, even with a depleted squad, with six points was quite the achievement.
The weeks ahead will be tough, McGovern is capable but no Krul and we potentially face going into some games with no out-and-out strikers, but what last night proved is that this squad has regained that belief they can win any game in any given set of circumstances.
And that’s priceless. Especially when the barrow is wheel-less.
Colin B says
Hi Gary. Agree with your view of Emi. I think there is no doubt we have the best goalie in the division, best attacking midfielder and best striker. In my opinion the best right back too. However, we maybe without three of them for the next game. We have a decent replacement for Krul in McGovern. We have Vrancic or Placheta to come in for Emi. My big worry is Pukki because in the short term we only have U23 strikers and Drmic. Whilst I have read the EDP article on Leitner and Drmic I fail to understand exactly where Farke is coming from with Drmic as he played him at the tail end of last season. There may well have been a bust up but surely it is in the best interest of Drmic to get game time and for Farke to have a recognised striker to back up Pukki even if it is short term. Obviously there is more to this than meets the eye.
It was pleasing to see Martin get a start and grab his chance. He looks a player that will do well. Although in a different position he could do what Max Aarons did when he got in the team and cement a place for himself.
We need to get through to the transfer window in the top 6 and then assess what we need in terms of signings (loan or permanent), loan call backs, etc. The nucleus of this team is capable of a top two finish.
Stephen Godbold says
7 “away” games, 5 wins and 1 draw and we’ve already played Bournemouth, Bristol City, Middlesbro and Stoke. However the luck has fallen on both sides that is some performance. No game is easy, but some are (on paper at least) easier than others. We can hope that our home form will improve with fans and that our “reserves” are as good as or better than everyone else’s first team.
Gary Field says
I’ve got to be honest, the sight of Tim Krul hobbling off left me with the feeling that this was a defeat, despite the subsequent result, such is the man’s influence on this collective unit.
For the moment, I’m fingers crossed that the prognosis isn’t as bad as I feared last night because any long term absence could have a significant impact on City’s success, or otherwise, over the rest of the season.
Gary Gowers says
Hard to disagree with that, Gaz. His influence on the team extends far beyond his shot-stopping and even his ability to use his feet to get the (Farke)ball rolling. #PrayForTim.
Perfectly summed up Gary. The last 15 minutes were absolute agony.
Essentially 5 “centre halves” if you count the somewhat spurious claims that Sorensen and tettey are such, camped in our box as stokes second wave of substitutions threw the kitchen sink at our goal.
As the third goal was being celebrated my first thought was that pukki and buendias work was done and that we should wrap them both in cotton wool in readiness for a repeat performance on Saturday. Alas farke did not share the vision.
In fairness, the bench, unlike stokes did look a bit threadbare, a kid goalkeeper, a rookie striker, a clearly unavailable rupp and a gap where Lenny McLean should be sat.
Suspensions are the last thing we need right now.
However, this was an evening of sublime and ridiculous in equal measure.
Sorensen, the square at peg in a round hole ever. Nothing about him suggests left back. Tall and rangy, all right foot and fairly one paced. He has performed miracles from tHe moment he was pitched into the fray. I love him already. Perhaps the Adam drury type left back, who sits in and concentrates on his defensive duties is beetr for our system than a mark Bowen, who is all about attacking?
A fantastic result, which could and should have been even better in terms of the final scoreline.
But, please, stop getting injured.
Jim Davies says
I got very twitchy in the last 20 minutes last night, that had 4-3 defeat written all over it, but somehow we got through it. Pukki’ second may have come off his shin, but the bobble that caused it was unfortunate, though not costly, after the way he’d taken it round the keeper. Nice to see he’s got his confidence back.
Emi was unlucky with the first booking. He looked to me as if he’d realised he wasn’t going to get there in time and tried to pull up, but the defender’s carry-through caught him, and made it look bad. After the number of times he’d been fouled, the referee probably thought he was out for a bit of retribution.
As for Stoke’s “third goal”, I think their player was deliberately backing in to McGovern to prevent him catching the ball. Overall, I think the ref had a decent game.
The Krul injury is worrying, both for him and us. We’ll just have to sweat it out and hope it’s not too serious and long term, though the omens aren’t good.
Jim Davies says
Meant to also say, Tettey was magnificent. Seemed to be everywhere, and was like a magnet for the ball. My man of the match.
Alex B says
Last nights game we went through every emotion possible.
Buendia must learnt not to see so rash in his tackles and realizes that other teams will try and wind him up to get a reaction.
The Coventry game will be interesting in more ways that one especially for team selection.
Farke wanted 5 subs as he had a large squad now he has injuries and suspension we will have to see how he handles the next few games.
If Pukki got injured, Norwich has very little hope. It does not matter if Norwich backup strikers are healthy or not, because there is so huge level difference. If you listen other teams managers they all the time complains that Norwich happen to have Pukki. All those Norwich fans who believed that Pukki has lost his confidence, its proved as complete nonsense. He has been same player all the time and with same confidence, but he likely have forced to play as injured too which of course infects to every players game. Norwich does not have enough money to buy higher level striker to backup Pukki, so solution is that Pukki have to play in every game. In highlights Pukki got tackled very badly after his pass in attack which ended to 0-1 goal.
Today Stoke has made goalkeeper signing, they signed Pukkis close friend Niki Maenpaa. Maenpaa is ok experienced goalkeeper. Tim Kruls injury will surely affect to Norwich, striker and goalkeeper are most vital players because in football even clearly worse team can win if they have top players in those game areas.
martin penney says
You are completely right about Pukki of course. We have literally no back-up for him at the moment and yes, his confidence is in full effect.
All strikers take knocks and Teemu sees to be as tough as they come. Even the Stoke manager Michael O’Neill admitted last night that Pukki is the best striker in this division.
I’ve heard of Maenpaa but know very little about him – when it comes to Finnish goalkeepers us Brits only recall one easily – Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Jussi Jaaskelainens son William Jaaskelainen plays in Finland u21 and for Crewe as goalkeeper too. Todays football he has size problem as 183 cm when nowaydays teams are looking for goalkeepers who are at least 190 cm tall. Jussi played long career in english football and I assume he still lives there. Antti Niemi might be other finnish goalkeeper who you remember, played for Southampton and Fulham.
Martin, I have seen about your articles that you have long history with english football. So, I give for you very very difficult trivia question about english league football. Who was first finnish player who played in english 1st division? You can use that question as sure banker to help winning football trivias.:-) From Norwich history as a name I remember Martin Peters. Later Justin Fashanu of course, Martin Oneill played in Norwich too?
martin penney says
I have no idea who the first Finnish player was to play in England – I’ll have to Google it and put it in an article next week if I can find the answer myself!
Yes William J does indeed play for Crewe [I didn’t realise he was in your under-21s] and you are so right about current height requirements for goalkeepers. Our Tim Krul is 6’4″ while deputy McGovern is 6″ – just. McGovern would probably be rejected at the top level these days although he is an established Northern Ireland international with many caps.
As for our better known players who have left Norwich for many €s you might have heard of Chris Sutton. James Maddison or Ben Godfrey?
I’ll try your question on MFW readers when I know the answer myself 🙂
Keith B says
I only picked up the game fairly late into the second half. You’d have thought we were in the relegation zone and heading for defeat judging by some of the comments on the Archant feed.
Connor Southwell stated that Krul would have saved both goals. He seemed very keen to be as negative as possible about McGovern, as did many commenting on there. Obviously McGovern’s not as good as Krul – nobody who is would be willing to sit on the bench week in week out would they? But streuth; he comes on for a rare appearance with no warm up, and for the last half hour has only 9 men in front, not 10. Give him a break.
The general opinion seems to be that we got lucky with their disallowed effort but looking at the highlights I think the freekick was given as much for Gregory obstructing Zim as for any contact on McGovern. There were a lot of bodies in there and it was possibly a bit of a guess by the ref on the basis that something just didn’t look quite right.
A big plus was Josh Martin’s performance. Farke seems to have a knack of knowing just when a youngster is ready to take his chance. It happened with Lewis, Godfrey, Cantwell and Aarons and recently Mumba – all too briefly in his case unfortunately. Looks like Martin is the next who can grasp his opportunity. Could be one or two others to follow too.
It’s just a shame though that since Rob Green we haven’t really brought through our own keeper; Lewis, Rudd, Steer, Mathhews – none of them ever quite got good enough to make a serious challenge for the position. Could Barden be the one?
Hard to disagree with any of that Gary.
Although, having the benefit of a slow-mo replay, IMO no way was Emi’s first booking even a yellow.
The defender was studs up, and it was just momentum that took Buendia through.
If anything a yellow to Stoke and a free kick to us, but as you say, in BCD games it seems that whoever yells loudest gets the decision.
Yes, we will miss Krul; any team in this or most other leagues would. But some of the comments elsewhere about Michael McGovern were just way over the top. He’s an international goalkeeper, and it was unfortunate for him that Stoke are now managed by his ex-international manager…..who obviously knows McGovern’s weaknesses.
Let’s face it, last Friday most of the Canary nation would never have believed we would get 6 points from these past 2 games. Farke’s boys do seem to find a way, regardless of the challenges placed before them!
O T B C
Jason M says
Amidst many tight finishes this season, that was the most agonising, and I don’t think I’ve felt that tense since the dying minutes of the Man City game or the shoot-out at Spurs. How we held on, I’ll never know, and thank god we did, because a Stoke leveller could have shattered morale in a big way.
Emi showed last night why he is brilliant for us and also why he is still with us. Just before his first yellow, he had gone in hard on someone and the alarm bells began to ring. I was literally texting my fellow canaries that he needed to be subbed in case he saw red when…he saw red! The fortunate thing is that it is for only one game, but whilst some refs might have ignored the first yellow, others might have given a straight red for the second. Basically, you could see it was coming at some point.
Losing Krul is the nightmare I dreaded (the amount of injuries now are unprecedented, possibly since the Walker/Rioch eras of the late nineties).. Funnily enough, for all the opinions on McGovern, it still feels that after four years, we still don’t really know him. His only real run in the team was at the beginning of the 2016-17 season and it really has been the odd cameo since. It doesn’t bear thinking about if he got injured too. Right now, it feels like any Norwich player could be heading to the treatment room.
Roger Cole says
We are getting a lot of muscle strain injuries. Is it a concidence that Hanley and Aarons (who withdrew or were withdrawn from International duty) are ok but Krul, McLean and Pukki (who did play Internationals) are either injured and out until Christmas at least or being taken off with twinges (Pukki)?
Secondly, the embargo against Drmic or Leitner playing is a self inflicted punishment by NCFC power brokers. Delia needs to step in, bang heads together for the sake of the club that she owns. And/or we need to pull players back from loans unless the academy lads are deemed good enough to start. The fact is that Drmic is at least as good/worth a shot than Hugill, who even though he is a good lad he doesn’t seem up to giving Pukki a real day or two off. Drmic was a good fit with Farkeball. Hugill?