A tropical sunset-drenched penalty finish in our favour? Don’t mind if we do! Maddie Mackenzie was there to capture the moment.
Ah, cup games. It’s such a strange mix: on the one hand you’ve got the youngest of children attending their first game, on the other there’s the teenagers out for their first unaccompanied match and desperate to make the most of it. There was a surprisingly healthy balance today – I can’t speak to the singing section in the South Stand, as you could hear from the Barclay B block were the discontented howls from further down the stand whenever the scattered Birmingham fans dared to pipe up. Although they traveled in small number the Brummies held their own after the first two goals, but I was surprised by the noise level from the home fans. There’s been far quieter league games in the last 12 months.
10 changes, with only Jacob Sørensen keeping his place from the team that faced Wigan. I don’t have any complaints: we’ve still got a fairly large squad with plenty of players needing run outs, and it was a pleasant surprise to see Jon Tomkinson and Liam Gibbs after their absence from the subs’ bench on Saturday. In hindsight I’m glad Pukki didn’t make an appearance, as he’s looked throughly fed up with life throughout preseason and during the last few games, so will hopefully have benefitted from having the burden of being Norwich’s primary goal scorer alleviated for the night.
In terms of standout performers Danel Sinani impressed. He’s been such a fringe player during his time at the club that most of us assumed he wouldn’t have a role to play under Smith but with an assist, a goal, and a lovely penalty, he showed a clear desire to impress and create.
Even typing this makes me feel disloyal: I really like Liam Gibbs. He did get caught out of position a few times but overall seems to love the gritty side of the game that some of our recent midfielders have shied away from. There have been calls to do a Max Aarons and chuck him in the first team and I can see the benefits, but the imminent return of Hayden may well mean he’d be better served by a loan move. Either way, Gibbs looks very likely to live up to his potential in a Norwich shirt.
2-0 up against Birmingham and we needed penalties to get the win. There are excuses; it’s only a cup game, the team was rotated, the floodlights were too bright. Take your pick. It seems as if the moment we show improvement in one of our areas of struggle we immediately fall to pieces somewhere else. I don’t want to read too much into it. We were all over Birmingham, who played at a fairly similar level to Cardiff and Wigan, but moments of defensive naïvety almost cost us a badly needed progression in the cup.
I feel as if I’m getting deja vu, harking back to the final days of Farke: the pieces are there and they’re relatively close to clicking. I hope they do, as there’s a sense that patience will rapidly wear thin if the more worrying patterns continue.
Marcellino Núñez, you cheeky minx. He was still on the other side of the world a few days ago, yet in only his second appearance in yellow and green he Panenkas the keeper and celebrates before his penalty even hit the back of the net.
Credit to our man Adam Brandon: he said we were on to a winner there and it doesn’t look as if he’s going to be proved wrong any time soon.
It’s not been an easy couple of weeks to be me. In fact, after the Wigan game, I actually muted all various misspellings of ‘Sørensen’ on Twitter, such is my inability to handle seeing him criticised. Yes, I’m weak, I know.
I don’t actually think he’s been that bad for these first few games – of course I’m horrifically biased. Admittedly, I can see that he sometimes lacks the necessary speed of reaction to operate in midfield, and I have always preferred him playing as a defender. His style of play seems to suit the fullback position well, as he loves a pinpoint cross and taking the ball around a winger while benefitting from having the play in front of him. That was where he played against Birmingham.
He was doing well. I’ve adopted a new strategy of giving him stick every time he so much as underplays a pass (look, I don’t know why my brain does these things, there’s a twisted logic somewhere) so I spent much of the first half yelling at him to actually try and beat his man/win a tackle.
Then he scored and I lost. My. Mind.
Actually, that’s not accurate. I can’t really see what goes on at the other end of the pitch, so was appreciating the insane goal without having a clue who scored it. My brother kept nudging me – “I’m sure that was him?” – but it was only when my WhatsApp/Twitter notifications started going mental that I ACTUALLY lost it.
Jacob Lungi Sørensen. He only scores worldies.
Watching Norwich at the moment is confusing. There are times when we play some really sublime football, our Premier League flops linking up well with our past outcasts to create a new, ragtag team of title contenders.
Then our centre back forgets he’s on a football pitch and we concede a goal we’d be embarrassed to score, or our captain gets an unnecessary yellow card, or we have 70% possession and only manage a 1-1 draw.
There’s been a lot said about Dean Smith and I don’t want to tread over old ground. We all have our own opinions on our head coach and, whatever happens over the next few weeks, the only thing we can do is hope our squad finds their missing spark.
The only conclusion I can reach from this match is that we’ve progressed in the cup, which is mostly a good thing. It provides a much needed opportunity for squad rotation (just don’t mention the fullbacks) and might allow the motivation of a win to bleed into our league form. A cup run is always good for morale, so here’s hoping this one goes on for a good while yet.