Tackle by Bennett epitomised Norwich City players’ attitude and desire
11:01 24 September 2015
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If ever there was a moment for coaches throughout the land to play back to their players as proof they should never give in, it came during the second half of Norwich City’s victory against West Bromwich Albion last night.
City show similar to four years ago
1: I can’t be the only one to notice the similarities between the season so far and the way Norwich played under Paul Lambert in the Premier League in 2011/12. The fearlessness, the desire, the attacking football – and the quality of course. And guess what? Six games in, City’s record of played six matches, won two, drawn two and lost two was the same then as it is now.
Mad Mignolet not a patch on Ruddy
2: Keeper John Ruddy may not be perfect. His kicking still needs to be more consistent for instance, but watching Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet flap prior to Sunday’s equaliser made me think to myself how lucky we are to have a keeper whose mistakes since Alex Neil arrived at the club from Hamilton can probably be counted on just one hand. Let’s hope his good form continues to go under the radar of the so-called bigger clubs.
New season, new style for Norwich
3: It became clear very early on in the Bournemouth victory why Alex Neil sees West Ham loanee Matt Jarvis as a better option for City down the left in the Premier League than he did Bradley Johnson – and it’s all about pace and forward motion. Already Norwich are playing in a different way to how they did in the Championship and our former player of the season simply did not fit that style.
Sorry for Sunday night no-show
4: Dear reader, I’ve let you down. This space should have been reserved for analysis of whether James Milner took a dive and deserved a second yellow early on in the Liverpool game on Sunday. Alas, however, I must confess that instead of enjoying the highlights I was watching Downton Abbey, my most favourite of Sunday shows. A friend bet me I’d never admit to that in my column...
For those who weren’t present, Irish winger James McClean appeared clean through on goal and about to enter the area for what looked like a routine finish to make it 1-1, when from out of nowhere up popped City centre-half Ryan Bennett to stretch his leg out and hook the ball to safety.
It was the second time in as many games a defensive tackle by a Canary defender has got me and many other supporters off our seats to celebrate almost as much as if it were a goal.
But both moments epitomise the do-or-die attitude that is currently coursing through the veins of this squad under Alex Neil, inset.
And what was really pleasing about last night’s victory was to have it confirmed that even the fringe players appear to have been buoyed in confidence and quality from working with the Scot.
So many times as Norwich fans we’ve been used to turning up for early season Capital One Cup games like this to witness a group of players struggle to find any kind of form or flow and drift out of the competition in disappointing fashion.
For the first half an hour or so it looked a little bit like that may be the case, but a few chances towards the end of the half were the first signs City were finding their feet.
That paved the way for a second half in which the home side were nothing short of dominant, troubled only occasionally at the back, in complete control in the midfield and eventually coming out on top in attack.
While a few of the regulars played a massive part in last night’s victory, with Sebastien Bassong faultless at the back, Johnny Howson bringing calm authority when introduced in midfield, Matt Jarvis twisting and turning and causing all sorts of trouble with his crosses and sub Wes Hoolahan pulling the usual strings, this was a night when the understudies shone.
Granted this was an under-strength, misfiring and oddly out-of-shape West Brom (many of them looking Baggier than they really should have been), but it should give us heart to see that those waiting in the wings will not look out of place should they be called upon for Premier League battle.
In particular, Gary O’ Neil quietly controlled the game, linking defence and attack, slowing the game when that was needed, or speeding it up as otherwise.
Elliott Bennett impressed with his usual tidy play, as well as his desire to get into a decent position in the box and the aforementioned other Bennett made several vital contributions, including an excellent header when Rickie Lambert had set himself to score.
Up front Dieumerci Mbokani took a while to get going but showed some good touches, a few brave headers as well as a quality pass to set up the first goal and of course Kyle Lafferty did nothing to halt his emergence as the Carrow Road faithful’s latest cult hero.
He’s done more than enough to secure himself a spot on the bench for Saturday’s game against West Ham.
Those who believe City have bigger fish to fry this season may think I’m going over the top about the win. But I’ve always been a fan desperate to see us progress in a cup – and May’s memorable day out at Wembley has only whetted that appetite some more.