Blimey, that was unexpected!
In his preview piece, Stew quite rightly pointed out that there was no way of making a rational prediction ahead of our trip to Blackburn, given our tendency to seamlessly flit between the sublime and the awful.
Of late, of course, the awful has held the upper hand but every so often – like at Millwall (a) – they find from somewhere, a performance that both lifts the spirits and has us believing all over again.
Yesterday was one of those.
And with City beating Blackburn after Millwall had dropped two points at home against Luton, we’re again dragged back into the battle for the playoff places – a battle that looked dead and buried just six days ago.
When the quirks of the Championship and the inconsistency of Norwich City collide, this is what you get.
There is a lot of water to still pass under the bridge before the denouement of this crazy season, and so plenty of opportunities for them to break our hearts, but as of 5pm on Saturday, 7th April we were officially back in the mix.
Whether merely a coincidence or a significant factor, it’s a fact that the side that concluded proceedings in Ewood Park was a youthful one. Not wholly by design, but it was. And it had an energy about it that’s not been evident for much of this season.
The loss of our two first-choice centre-backs necessitated a pairing of Lungi Sorensen and Andrew Omobamidele to see the job through and it worked. The loss of Kenny McLean through injury – potentially a season-ending one – triggered a recall for Liam Gibbs and it worked.
You could even argue that a front line led by Josh Sargent at the expense of the departing Teemu Pukki played its own part in the win, albeit Pukki, the wily old fox that he is, was still able to play a vital role (at both ends of the pitch) in those closing minutes.
There were some heroics, as tend to be necessary when you win away in the Championship, and in addition to Pukki’s vital clearance there was a Sam McCallum header off the line and some more fine work by Angus Gunn, but it felt a step up on last-gasp lunges and bodies on the line type stuff.
This time there was calmness. Composure even. Qualities not readily associated with the Class of 2023.
All too often, when leading a game and when the opposition stirs into life, we wilt. But yesterday they didn’t, even in the most extreme of circumstances.
This was Millwall (a) but less harum-scarum. This was Millwall (a) but with added poise.
And the goals! Two of an ilk hitherto unseen in these parts in 2022-23.
Who knew Liam Gibbs had an electric turn of pace that can take him clear of lumbering centre-backs? And who knew he had the composure to clinically bury one in the top corner in a style that Pukki himself would have been proud of?
Not me anyway.
Nor, come to that, did I forsee one of Lungi Sorensen’s qualities as being the ability to pick out an onrushing midfielder with a perfectly dinked, timed, and weighted through ball.
Again, such moments of quality have been horribly elusive this season.
And to prove it wasn’t a fluke (or one off the shin), Sorensen repeated the feat just ten minutes into the second half in the move that concluded with Gabriel Sara fizzing another into the top corner of Pears’ net.
His first-time pass into the path of Onel Hernandez may have looked simple but was, again, beautifully weighted and enabled the world’s most joyous Cuban to take it in his stride and scuttle off into space on one of his trademark runs.
By then, Onel had also cottoned on to the delights of fluid, well-timed passing, and rolled one perfectly in the stride of Sara, whose lung-bursting run had been too much for any Blackburn midfielder who was supposed to be tracking him.
The Brazilian’s finish was exquisite. And Brazilian.
From thereon in it was a battle and not helped by losing Ben Gibson to what looked like a tweaked hamstring. He was to join the stricken Grant Hanley in the Ewood Park medical centre after the skipper departed just before halftime with what looked for all the world like a ruptured Achilles. As I write, that’s yet to be confirmed.
But they saw the job through. When the defences were breached – and it wasn’t too often – Angus stood tall. So too Master McCallum. And it was all rather enjoyable.
We were greeted at the end with one of those all-too-rare but heartwarming scenes of players and travelling fans applauding one another. The mutual respect and harmony was palpable. And lovely. So too the incessant backdrop of the City Elite drum, which played its own part in one of the good days.
When we’re all pulling in the same direction we can still be quite a force. When. And it all stems from what we’re watching on the grass.
At Ewood Park, we liked what we saw. And a few of those who stepped up yesterday could yet be the future. Most agree that in order to add energy, oomph and desire to this team, its ageing core needs to be humanely dismantled.
Yesterday felt, to me, like the start of that transition.
This is football though and this is Norwich City. We know only too well the fragility of this current crop, and yesterday could quickly be rendered futile if they’re unable to follow it up with victory on Monday against Rotherham.
But, having lambasted them continually for their lily-liveredness, it’s only right to laud them for a good performance.
So, well done, lads. We enjoyed that one. Cheers.