Strength to strength! Jon Punt was present at a football game that raised his spirits, and explains how that feels to the rest of us.
City switched to a 3-5-2, which worked for large periods of the game and suited the way in which they deployed the press. Two conventional forwards were able to try and nick the ball high, or at least force the opposition back into central areas – where Rachel Lawrence, playing as a central attacking midfielder, was waiting to cause further nuisance.
When in possession of the ball, Norwich’s wing backs looked their best attacking outlet, with Tomlinson often taking full advantage of the space afforded to her in wide areas.
Given the men’s team were playing at home with a fairly similar kick-off time, meaning a conflict of interest for some, it was amazing to see 340 supporters turn out and be rewarded by an all-action first half. Norwich came blazing out of the traps and were unfortunate not to be three goals to the good by the time they managed an opener. The crowd fed off all the positive play, getting right behind their team.
And yet it’s always post-match when you see how special The Nest can be. Players and management interacting readily with young fans, encouraging them to be part of team photos and making sure they spend time with every girl or boy who wants their attention. Good humans doing good things after some good football. All is good.
Those in attendance at Carrow Road for the last home game of 22/23 might recall Alice Parker’s brace, both of which were long range raspers. The opposition that day? Ashford Town, and she hadn’t netted for the Canaries since.
Turns out Parker only scores worldies against Ashford, then. The first was a superbly executed drive after some excellent interplay, which will be up there in the ‘full on thunderbastard’ of the season awards. The second a superbly taken free kick, catching the keeper out after a cross looked the more likely outcome. Parker spoke post-match about late-night training sessions at Colney in the week perfecting her shooting; that hard work paid dividends.
Coasting at 4-0 with 85 minutes played, it suddenly all got unnecessarily nervy when Ashford grabbed two goals from nowhere, both of which were entirely avoidable. Defensively Herdman might not wish to play these concessions back; wholesale second-half changes had disrupted his side’s rhythm but the scoreline could – and should – have been more emphatic.
Hero of the match
Almost impossible to look beyond Parker for her two-goal salvo, which came within about two minutes of each other. Outside of her goals, she almost opened the scoring with a 30-yard effort that smashed the bar and offered a continual outlet, while never neglecting her defensive duties until her withdrawal late in the match.
Word for Rachel Lawrence and Megan Todd too, who made absolute nuisances of themselves all afternoon, and on another day would have had a couple of goals apiece.
Our post-match takeaway
City can be classified as serious promotion contenders now. A well-coached, physically fit unit, playing high-intensity football that’s easy on the eye. Ashford are the only side to take points off league leaders AFC Wimbledon this season, and yet Norwich brushed them aside with relative ease. Sterner tests are to come in the weeks ahead, but all signs point to this team being made of the right stuff.