Football eh? City's worst performance of the season, gains them their best result. Andrew Lawn reviews a night at the Carra that was anything but pretty, but it ended in relief-fuelled joy.
We did a win. Was it pretty? No, but while the performance was in stark contrast to the swashbuckling West Brom showing, this was ultimately solid, professional and successful.
Moment of the match
By my reckoning there were about 5 minutes between Preston thumping Tim Krul's bar and the ball kindly dropping the right side of the line and into the path of Jamal Lewis, rather than the gaggle of Preston players arriving in the box, and Teemu Pukki steering City ahead, courtesy of another kind bounce off an upright. Those 5 minutes could be massive in the future of Daniel Farke and Norwich City.
As this season has proved, fine margins play a big role in the fortunes of Championship clubs and just maybe this could mark the spell of City enjoying a good run in that regard.
Random star performer
Alex Tettey. Bear with me.
The Norwegian was the personification of this performance and in many ways, the fact Tettey's and City's performances were so closely aligned proves the importance of our smiling assassin. For 80 minutes Alex (and by extension City) were awful. Simple passes were going astray, simple tackles were being lost and as the game ticked into it's final 15 minutes myself and fellow ACN/Barclay End Norwich'er Thomas Markham-Uden were segueing from agreeing that this was the worst we had ever seen AT play into debating if Jordan Rhode's flicked header to no-one constituted a first real touch of the ball for the hitman.
Then we scored.
Suddenly everything changed. Passes were finding their targets, tackles were being won and Alex Tettey was smashing in unstoppable left-footed half-volleys from 25 yards. Everyone there, including the man himself, could see Tettey had, had a shocker, but both he, and the team, deserve big credit for hanging in there, not conceding at then having the ability to turn it around and win the game.
All the fuss being made about this pink dressing room business.
EVERY CLUB DOES SOMETHING SIMILAR.
An unpopular opinion this may be among the naysayers, but Farke deserves a lot of credit from this, for 2 reasons.
1 - His substitutions and formation tweak midway through the second half, released the (self-imposed) shackles. With Zimmermann joining Klose and Hanley, Jamal Lewis was freed up to gallop forward, ultimately finding himself on the edge of the Preston box and in a position to lay a perfectly weighted pass into the feet of Teemu Pukki, whose cool finish could prove oh-so-important. The switch also allowed impressive debutant Emi Buendia to come off the flank and find himself in the pockets of space between the lines, which Alex Neil found impossible to counter.
2 - Those self-imposed shackles, which may have been difficult to watch, but resulted in the first clean sheet of the season. Many, myself included, expected City's reaction to the late Brammall Lane heartbreak to be a rip-roaring and angry. Instead, illustrated by his post-match comments Farke showed the composure to go the other way and batten down the hatches, ensuring we had a base to build on and wouldn't need to score 3 or 4 to get something from the game. Ultimately, he was right.
The first 30 minutes were excellent as the carnival atmosphere created by the singing section continued to infect Blocks D and E of the Barclay Lower, who despite the team toiling, continued to chant long and loud. Gradually the enthusiasm drained away though and by the time the keep-ball triumvirate of Tettey, Klose and Hanley spurned another decent opportunity to go in-behind the Preston backline, the mood was fast turning sour.
Ironically the moment that brought the most discontent ultimately led to our first opening of the second half as a crossing opportunity was finally worked and a fizzed cross was diverted behind for a corner, which lifted the mood again. Pukki's goal lifted the nerves and between that and Tettey's winner, there was time for a full-ground rendition of OTBC. By the time AT was wheeling away and stripping off to celebrate his worldy, the Barclay was back in party-mood.
This was not great. In fact this was poor enough that at full-time I remarked that just as I often think players don't deserve the abuse they get, they were not really deserving of the adulation here.
That said, we won. It was turgid, stodgy and difficult to watch, but we won. We actually won.