Heft. Graft. Victory. Progress. Jon Punt reports back on a phenomenal result against considerable opponents.
One change to Herdman’s side, with last year’s player of the season Ellie Smith coming in for Rachel Lawrence. But despite the relatively small tweaks personnel wise, there was a huge shift in focus for the team.
Last week was all about high press, intensity and setting traps. That would have been a kamikaze way to go about a cup tie against a side which had quality all over the park, boasted a squad full of semi-professionals and are riding high in the Southern Premier Division. With that in mind, Norwich set up to be compact, frustrate and to defend their box in numbers, hoping that their quality going forwards could nick a goal and they could hold onto that lead. The wing-backs became de facto full-backs in a defensive five which was meant to be hard to break down. They executed perfectly, it was a tactical masterclass.
If you listened to the pre-match murmurings around the Nest, many people (including me) expected a very difficult afternoon where keeping the scoreline respectable would have been an achievement in itself. Enter Ellie Smith with a characteristically dogged driving run, losing her marker and then powerfully slotting into the bottom corner past the flailing limbs of the Hashtag keeper.
This was the catalyst for blind hope suddenly turning into a crumb of expectation – that built and built into a full cake of joy by full time. Lovely old job.
From a City perspective, there is nothing to complain about; this was a near-perfect performance. However, when it came to the referee I am unsure how she magically managed to freeze time while the additional minutes she’d added played out, responding to players that there was two minutes remaining on about three separate occasions all within the space of approximately 120 seconds. It mattered not, the team held out, and that delayed final whistle felt all the sweeter for it.
The summer arrival of Sarah Quantrill was heralded as a bit of a coup. Experience of higher divisions and involved in setups at some really big clubs, along with the extra juicy morsel that City had pinched her from those lot south of the border. It’s in games like these were her presence will be felt more.
Quantrill shepherded her defence expertly all game, offering a level of assurance amongst an almost constant barrage of pressure. Her continual marshalling of the wing-backs to get set into position as the opposition threw players forward in wide areas made a real difference, which was coupled with some really calm handling and a stupendous full-stretch save right at the death to effectively ensure City’s progress.
However, the second-half cherry on the top was the absolute shithousery to run down the clock. Quantrill had clearly been reading the Timmy Krul playbook of wasting time, dropping herself to the floor at every conceivable opportunity and straining every last second out of her goal-kicks. That eventually led to her receiving a yellow card with seconds left to play, which the referee quite deliciously decided to take about two minutes issuing, and probably wasted even more time than Quantrill could have hoped.
Honourable mention for Ceri Flye too, who managed to get on the end of any aerial bombardment Hashtag decided to throw her way. As brave a performance as you’ll see, earning herself a boot to the face in the latter stages. This girl is made of iron; launch a washing machine into the penalty area and she’d probably head it back with interest.
Potentially a record attendance at the Nest. Which in truth was probably more than the recorded number, after most of the Dussindale and Needham Market players joined the crowd with their own FA Cup encounter concluded on the adjacent pitch.
When Smith put her side one up in the tenth minute it was probably the loudest The Nest has ever been, but the volume cranked up to eleven after the final whistle. The team spoke afterwards of how much it spurred them on to have a crowd help them over the line; this was a proper Cupset built on players and fans willing the win into existence.
Shout out for the Hashtag flag bearer who wouldn’t shut up all game <Bart Simpson at least you tried cake meme>.
To completely change tactically in the space of a week, when the team have probably only had two training sessions to get their approach in order, is quite the achievement. To do it against a team that beat them 7-1 here last time out and is second in the tier above probably ranks this among the most famous victories in Norwich’s recent history.
A real statement win ahead of probably the biggest two league games all season against Worthing and league leaders AFC Wimbledon. With the resilience they displayed, they can go into those tests full of confidence.
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