When I saw our team selection at 2pm on Saturday to take on Wolves in the FA Cup Fourth Round at Molineux I took one look at the Norwich City midfield and thought: oh, blimey.
Pierre Lees-Melou, Billy Gilmour and Kenny McLean with Kieran Dowell loosely in the mix as well. Physically about as lightweight a unit as we could field, probably.
Josh Sargent was apparently not feeling too good before the match and Dean Smith decided not to risk him so the front three [loosely again] became Milot Rashica, Adam Idah and Pepe Placheta, who got the nod over Christos Tzolis to replace Captain America.
Again not a lot of physical presence amongst them apart from young Idah of course, who is learning the art of “putting himself about” on a performance-by-performance basis.
Looking at the back four Sam Byram came in for Max Aarons and behind them was one Michael McGovern, who you would be forgiven for thinking might have been more than a little ring rusty through lack of game time.
At this point, I retreated into my default setting by telling myself: “It’s only a cup game, but I wouldn’t like to see this particular outfit together on the pitch at the same time in the Premier League”.
The boys from the Black Country put out a side with only John Ruddy [remember him?] coming into replace Jose Sa between the sticks from their last PL triumph but we coped admirably, albeit with a miserly 35% possession.
In fact, we actually had the better chances through Rashica and Dowell, whose sublime one-two with substitute Teemu Pukki was worthy of the goal that the old devil Ruddy managed to prevent by pushing his strike away with that giant left paw of his.
The match-winner came from a Gilmour free-kick which the man who temporarily “borrowed” the Town Crier’s hat and bell popped in with a header from distance while big John could only remain rooted to his line as it looped over him and into the far corner.
Natural born worrier as I am I could not have been more pleased with the performance and indeed the result at the final whistle.
We’re not exactly Fifth Round regulars but we’ve deservedly made the round-of-16 this season.
Dean Smith largely agrees with me. I know that because he said afterwards:
“It was a really good performance from the players today. I thought on the counter we looked a real threat and we created some really good chances in the game.
“It’s always nice to see a set-piece go in. Kenny always makes those runs and he’s very good at it, it’s a great little flick.”
Mayor McLean was equally upbeat, adding:
“It feels good to be winning games. When you see the fans, it gives them something to cheer about and they will have had a good journey home, I’m sure. Everything feels better when you win so we have just got to continue doing that as much as we can.
“Cup competitions are quite special and you want to do as well as you can in them and I think you could see that from the performance today everybody was desperate to get the next win and it is good that we have managed to do that.”
And the reward for our stoic, low-key heroics is the inevitable trip to Anfield of course. If we hadn’t have drawn the Reds it would have been away to Chelsea or Citeh. Home to Peterborough or Stoke? It was never really on the cards, was it!
So another win, and on the road as well. And another clean sheet – Tim Krul, Angus Gunn and now Michael McGovern have all achieved one of these this season, which must be a bit of a stat in itself for those that are inclined to ponder these peccadillos.
It’s back to the regular job on Wednesday against Palace now. One thing is for sure: we won’t be short on confidence.
Deep down I know we won’t win the FA Cup, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with a real classic: