Coventry City (H) – The ACN Review

10/01/21

Punt and Hayhoe actually managed to work out which one of BT Sport's extra 153 channels Norwich were playing on so got to watch a convincing victory. Now they're going to tell you about the best bits.....

Biggest Positive

Norwich City won a game of association football in the Football Association Challenge Cup 3rd Round. I (Nick) am 30 years old this year and this is only the 8th time this has happened in my entire life. This is unquestionably a Very Good Thing Indeed.

It’s also remarkable that the head coach can ring the changes, yet the style of football remains very much on brand. This season more than any every member of the squad will have a part to play in the run-in, so it’s vital they are attuned to Farkeball 2.0 (or is that 4.0?)

Weekend Whinge

This season will unfortunately be the final nail in the coffin for FA Cup replays. While the decision to not have replays this season is somewhat understandable in terms of ensuring planning can go well, the way that they have been slowly dropped over the last twenty years has been deplorable and we all know they will not survive beyond next year. While the argument over replays being a bonus for any smaller sides against the ‘big’ teams is a strong one, and in itself that should be enough to retain them, the most important argument is actually something everyone seems to forget: playing the match again until someone wins outright means the team that won was the best team in the tie.

Penalty shoot-outs, on the other hand, do not do this and are actively against the spirit of the game in the first place. It is remarkable that people seem fine to determine matches of huge importance essentially on the skill of the goalkeepers’ ability to save penalties, and this is why replays in the FA Cup were important. They give grandeur to the Cup that, no, you must win the game outright if you wish to win it – that’s what winning the Cup means.

Most often in professional sport, teams and players are actually about the same standard everything being equal – so sometimes finding out how competitors cope with attrition is what really finds out who is the best. It’s why test matches in cricket are still five days. It’s why tennis matches at Wimbledon, up until very recently, could go on forever. It’s why the Super Bowl continues playing infinitely if the scores stay tied. It’s why the Le Mans 24 Hours race is 24 hours. It’s a critical part of sport that football has lost almost completely. It’s not logical to have replays, but the best sport isn’t is it?

Oh, and while we’re whinging, the pitch is looking in incredibly poor nick too. Balding sidelines, sand in some areas and the ball bobbling in places. This is a surface that was replaced to much fanfare only two and a half seasons ago, with an investment reported over half a million pounds and supposedly meant to last for a decade. It was said to be the same semi synthetic surface Wembley stadium uses.

Maybe it’s the recent poor weather which has seen the pitch in this condition, but there’s plenty of work to bring it back to the kind of carpet-like turf City want to play their brand of football on.

Random Star Performer

The boy Barden was absolutely stellar, rightly receiving public praise from Tim Krul after the match. The youngester’s kicking and positioning were excellent and he pulled off a couple of stupendous stops to preserve the two goal cushion. In fact it seems bizarre that Mark Robins tried to rob him of credit in his post match interview by saying everything was straight at him. Still, Mark did lob David Seaman on the first day football was ever invented so maybe we can forgive him this one.

Moment of the Match

Norwich’s longest serving player channeling his inner Zizou, Eusebio, Puskas and more importantly Diego all in one,  as Alex Tettey – yes that Alex Tettey – performed an outrageous Maradona double drag-back turn midway through the first half. The collective “ohhh” from the Norwich bench is up there with one of our favourite things to have ever heard at a football match. They love him. We love him. He loves it.

It’s been said before on this site, but the old dog really is learning new tricks, and the trust now placed in him by the manager and his team mates to actually be a bit more expansive is a joy to behold.

Farke Watch

Farke played this one almost perfectly, with a strong enough team selection that also didn’t risk any of the most important figures who are pivotal to the promotion charge.

Astonishingly, Daniel Farke is the first Norwich manager since Dave Stringer to win four FA Cup ties (thanks @NCFCnumbers) which goes to show how much importance he places on the winning mentality over the need to rest, something I am sure that many of the bigger teams that slipped up today would have wanted to do instead of, y’know, get beaten after extra time against Blackpool.

Summary

A comfortable outing for Farke’s charges – minutes in the legs of Mumba, Placheta and Quintilla plus a confidence boosting goal for the ever willing Jordan Hugill who lead the line well. A fine afternoon’s work.

This was our first look at Sorensen in his preferred defensive midfield berth and the signs were good, with an assured and intelligent display suggesting he could do more than just keep the likes of Skipp and McLean on their toes. The aforementioned Mumba looks every inch a Daniel Farke player and a fee of £350k for his services already looks like a snip. With Ben Gibson also offering composure in front of Barden, now is probably as good a time as any to highlight that the summer recruitment has been excellent. After a couple of poor windows Kieran Scott and his team have rediscovered their mojo.

While it’s a cliche to say every season “we are in with a shout” to go far in the Cup, with Covid-19 decimating so many teams in English football right now and us being relatively unscathed so far, we might not, literally, ever have a better chance. HMS Piss the FA Cup pulls up its anchor and sets sail. Wembley here we come. Let’s all hope we are there…

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