I hope the rest of the Championship enjoyed their practical masterclass from Norwich City on Wednesday evening. Entitled How to draw the sting from the Bees, the lesson was constructed by Daniel Farke and carried out to virtual perfection by his senior students.
The application all over the pitch was plain to see and although we had a couple of hairy moments we also could have, yet again, added to our single goal margin of victory. No, let’s make that should have.
It would be churlish to hurl blame at Teemu Pukki for failing to take a hat-trick of chances, bemoan a weak header from Ben Gibson straight at Brentford’s excellent keeper David Raya or castigate Onel Hernandez for scuffing a chance. That’s the nature of football and certainly a microcosm of Norwich City’s season so far.
But surely it’s now time to truly and exclusively concentrate on the positives?
The move that led to Emi Buendia’s strike was wonderful, with Mario Vrancic drawing a defender away to allow Emi to run across the box from the right to finish into the corner of Raya’s net.
Pukki’s second failure to finish in a one-on-one with Raya denied Emi what would surely have been the assist of the season when a wonderfully curved through ball from deep set him racing through. Fair play to Raya, who stood up and stuck out a big paw to save on the stroke of half-time.
The second half produced one of the best 45 minutes of Norwich City game management I think I’ve ever seen. I hope Gary forgives me for using the term [I don’t like it either] but I can’t think of an alternative either. Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley reduced Ivan Toney to one angled shot across goal which saw Tim Krul doing his best impression of Dickie Bird indicating a wide.
I personally believe that Kenny McLean had his best game yet in a Yellow shirt and the efficiency of himself and Ollie Skipp in screening the back four has been crucial since Farke paired them earlier in the season, originally when Lukas Rupp was injured.
We didn’t $hithouse – we’re Norwich, we never do that.
But we did use up every available trick in the book to run down the clock in a genteel, Daniel Farke type of way.
Tim Krul seems to know exactly how long to dawdle over a goal kick before the likes of referee Tim Robinson will produce the yellow card. Farke’s substitutions, apart from Rupp for Vrancic to create a 4-3-3, were very late and obviously designed to deny Brentford the opportunity to build up a head of steam. Jordan Hugill’s first task was to run the ball into the corner – the idea was there, if not the execution.
All was well as the fourth official hoisted his *four minutes* board but there was time for one final drama. Brentford had finally forced us to sit deep to deal with the inevitable kitchen sink time.
In came a cross. Bryan Mbeuno claimed he was shoved to the deck by Hanley but Mr Robinson wasn’t interested. There was still time for a last hurrah with Raya joining in for a set-piece but a fine block from Skipp in the melee sealed the win.
This is what man of the match, Mayor McLean, told Sky Sports afterwards:
“There are 12 games to go so we will see what happens. It was always going to be a tough game but we dug in and got the job done.“Emi’s a joy to play with and he just keeps producing – we’re lucky to have him really. I think he’s the standout player in this league – I don’t think anyone would argue with that.
“I think we are conceding a lot less goals and we’re harder to beat, harder to play against,” he added. “I don’t have the words for Skippy – this season he’s played every minute. Outstanding.”
And that to me epitomises the mutual respect amongst out players, as if we didn’t know all about that already.
On a night where Swansea and Watford both won we are now 10 points clear after 34 games.
I’ve been waiting to end an article with this for a couple of weeks now. I think it’s time. I know which MFW regulars will enjoy it most.