3 games unbeaten, having conceded only once, City's ship has steadied again. Jon Punt, aided by the occasional Andrew Lawn titbit, reviews a welcome start to 2018.
Random star performer
Tommy Trybull was indeed super, and rarely gave the ball away. Post-match talk of a new contract offer being in the pipeline is excellent news.
However, two Norwich academy products were sensational on the left side of the pitch. Jamal Lewis was confident and assured on his full home debut. The fact he stood up ably to his task and won a number of physical duels with the battle hardened Morison demonstrated the faith his manager has placed in him. Lewis also offers genuine balance to the defence, courtesy of the fact he is more restrained in his forward forays while Ivo endlessly goes plundering up the pitch.
In front of him Murphy was a constant threat, possibly fuelled by the confidence he had in the man behind him to offer protection should his risk taking not pay dividends. Josh in full flow, playing with the freedom he needs to flourish, could be a major asset in this division – we now need to see more of these displays.
Moment of the match
For sheer comedic value, Lee Gregory’s perfect executed dummy which fell to, well, precisely no-one was right up there. That said, City’s winner has to take the spoils. It had all the hallmarks of Pritchard’s winner at St Andrews just a few days previous, chief creator turning scorer this time as Maddison slammed home.
This strike was better than its second city cousin though. Pritchard was on the turn as his reverse slide rule pass, beautifully threaded 2 defenders and played his younger counterpart into space. Maddison had much to do when the ball arrived at his feet, but crucially didn’t need to break stride and the fact he nonchalantly swept the ball into the corner with the minimum of fuss demonstrates his soaring confidence levels. His current form will surely mean suitors come knocking this month. Whether City actually have the resolve to fend off big money bids will be the subject of many column inches between now and the end of January.
Much emphasis has been placed on the rotation employed by Farke at the Pirelli. Budding tracksuit managers were keen to make the case for not changing a winning team, even though they’re not privy to the fitness levels or sports science which potentially suggested the likes of Tettey, Pritchard, Lewis and Maddison weren’t physically up to 2 games in 3 days.
Logic might have dictated perhaps playing one of Maddison or Pritchard in the away fixture, with the other ready to turn out for the remaining fixture. Whether that would have provided a greater yield from the 3 festive fixtures is anyone’s guess, but 7 points from 9 is a good return and probably leaves Farke feeling vindicated.
Biggest positive to take
This could just be the start of another run. While Birmingham, Burton and Millwall were never likely to have provided the sternest of tests, City are now 3 games unbeaten. It’s a base to build from, and keeps the doubters at bay for another fortnight at a minimum.
It was also a very solid defensive performance with Millwall’s only threat coming from a hopeful long-range looper from Steve Morison, which seemed to surprise even him and, it must be said, came from Gunn following crowd pleas to “get it forward”, when his lumped clearance was routinely gathered up by Millwall’s dominant centre-halfs.. That’s now 1 goal conceded in 3 games.
While Norwich were marginally the better side in a fairly uneventful opening 45 minutes, the over reliance on Pinto as the focal point for most of their attacks was a worry. Ivo is an ever willing runner and shows the kind of commitment fans crave, yet his end product is questionable at best. He needed support and it took a slight change of emphasis during the second half to provide it.
The first half saw the visiting fans openly mock the home support, starting with the recent cringeworthy, but possibly necessary, reintroduction of “3-2-1” for On the Ball City. IN fairness, they were right, the crowd were largely silent, waiting for something to happen rather than trying to play a part in it, and the booing for James Maddison choosing to backpass to Angus Gunn, rather than over complicate a situation was poor.
This was followed by a section of the Barclay, who had ignored the efforts of the usual quorum at the back of the Block E to vocally support the team, to only raise their voices to tell Millwall their support was fucking shit. Donald Trump would have been proud of such a complete lack of self-awareness.
However, as the team raised their tempo so did the more vocal sections of Carrow Road, leaving everyone feeling that sense of ‘togetherness’ Daniel Farke has been at pains to highlight of late. Also pleasing was hearing Murphy’s efforts properly recognised when he was withdrawn for Marley Watkins, some old wounds might just have started to heal on that front. Is he one of our own again yet?
At half time there was a palpable sense of deja vu creeping in as Morison’s wonder strike seemed destined to settle proceedings, providing a second ‘Along Come Norwich’ moment in the space of a few days.
The subsequent response from the players deserves credit. As soon as City equalised it felt like the match was there to win and a moment of quality from two of our finest settled a contest which could easily have been thrown away in weeks gone by. It might also just herald better times are around the corner.
It’s still baby steps for now, and the quality of opposition shouldn’t be overlooked, but there was a more cohesive feel to Norwich’s play that the home fans sorely needed to see on display.