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Ok, we didn't have the mental energy for reviewing the last two matches, but we're back. Here's Jon Punt to take you through the important bits from City's first FA Cup quarter final in 28 years.....
There’s life in the old dog yet. Many people had written off this squad, and even Daniel Farke, following a couple of iffy results and iffier performances. Fans had questioned the players’ application, desire and ability, while also singling out the head coach for some pretty shoddy treatment. Y’know, the head coach that gave you one of the best seasons of your life, yeah?
This display demonstrated that on their day Norwich can compete at this level, and while it might not be with the kind of consistency we’d like, there are memories from this season which will stay with us forever. It’s still ok to be proud of these boys.
That we couldn’t be there to witness it.
It seems obvious, and Farke hinted at it after the defeat to Everton, but the fine margin of not having supporters in the stadium, fully behind you and lifting you in the darker moments, is a more damaging body blow to a side like Norwich than their Premier League counterparts.
Everything good about the last two years has been built on togetherness. A single unified force has taken on WACCOE, Chris Fucking Wilder, Pep, Paul Fucking Lambert, Spuds’ penalties and VAR. The fans have been front and centre of that and more often than not we’ve come out the other side either victorious, or proud of how we’ve gone about our business.
To take away fans at the Carra is to take away Emi’s swagger, Pukki’s potency, Farke’s wink or Godfrey’s pace. What Project Restart has demonstrated more quickly than I imagined, is that playing football without fans in the stadium is, and always will be, an utter nonsense.
Moment of the match
Todd Cantwell smashing the ball past Romero, using Maguire as a human shield until the swerve and dip had beaten the despairing United keeper, was as good as it will probably get for the remainder of this season.
So incredulous were the BBC summarisers that the young upstart had the audacity to equalise, that they reached for excuses. Romero should have saved it, maybe United could have closed it down quicker. Very little to do with the fact Norwich were full value for it, which of course they were. I regularly see many outraged on social media about BBC bias, but on this occasion I half expected Laura Kuennsberg to appear via picture in picture to rule the strike out via VAR.
Random Star Performer
It would be really easy to look no further than Alex Tettey, who barely put a foot wrong all evening, even while being asked to fill in at centre back following Klose’s misdemeanour. Ben Godfrey was exceptional and Tim Krul deservedly took the sponsor’s champagne, if not the TV man of the match award. The City keeper’s acrobatic stop to keep out Maguire’s header deserved to take the tie to penalties alone.
However, many scoffed at the inclusion of Lukas Rupp in the starting line-up, in fact I’ve even seen claims that he may be one of our worst signings of all time. Now when you’ve sat through the City careers of Steve Walsh, Ian Murray, Juan Velasco, Julien Brellier, Keith Scott and Antoine Sibierski I’d say that might just be jumping off the deep end. So it was heartening to see the January signing went on to have arguably his best game in a City shirt to date. Sure, there were the usual mis-placed passes and poor first touches which has already seen people ready to file Rupp in the next scapegoat folder, but his overall performance was much improved. Shuffled into a more central role, the German (the ONLY German in the starting eleven I’ll have you know) showed the kind of tactical discipline, work rate and defensive nous which helped Norwich grow into the game.
Some fairly sensationalist commentary had started to surround City’s head coach. Apparently the gaffer had lost the dressing room, and needed to take full responsibility for his perceived errors. Now let’s get this straight, the argument around Norwich’s current plight extends beyond the man picking the team. It’s really easy, and quite lazy, to just call him out, when the reality is way more nuanced.
There isn’t a single factor which has decided our fate. Injury crisis after injury crisis, ridiculous VAR decisions, poor recruitment, a failure to build any real momentum or inconsistency from a group of players who generally lack experience. Pick two of three from that list and you’re close, but most of those don’t rest solely with Farke. He will reflect, he will learn, he will be brave and he won’t stop trying. That’s why we fell in love with him in the first place.
So it was nice that Farke largely got his selections and changes right on Saturday evening. It was nice that his players responded to the recent stinging criticism with a performance full of heart and class. It was nice to have our Norwich back.
The game was pretty much City’s season in microcosm. A couple of daft defensive decisions, some really nice football, an injury or two to key personnel, but all in all a Norwich side that is very difficult to dislike. Oh, and one that has taken us to places we haven’t been for 28 years. That should be cherished.
The defeat pretty much signals the end of City’s season, all that is left is for relegation to play out soullessly in front of a nationwide football audience. Yippee.
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