Lee Payne: Pockets of space at Carrow Road? Not if we keep winning

Block A in the Barclay End, where some 50 fans will have to give up their seats. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Block A in the Barclay End, where some 50 fans will have to give up their seats. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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Knowing I had this piece to write after the Sheffield Wednesday game, I sat in my Barclay seat thinking of the point I wanted to make as the match progressed.

The idea changed more than once. At half time, when I was cold and bored by another disappointing performance, this article would have been very negative indeed. Norwich’s comeback means this is a slightly more optimistic view.

I went to my first City home game almost 15 years ago. For all the seasons I have been to Carrow Road since then, I have been able to rely on the stands being full.

Other clubs struggled to get a ground full of fans, but not us. So, it was quite a surprise when kick-off came on Saturday and pockets of empty seats could be seen dotted all around the stadium.

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I know we haven’t been playing very well recently. I know the game was on a freezing December night. I know it was on Sky TV. But I have never seen so much space in the Carrow Road stands for a league game. Not even during the Roeder years.

It was still a very decent crowd, one that our friends from Ipswich would die for, but it certainly raised an eyebrow.

You wonder what they thought in the directors’ box with season ticket renewal time coming up.

Anyway, those that there were in attendance were part of a terrific atmosphere towards the end of the game.

The Barclay and the Snakepit were louder than they had been in months. It’s amazing what winning can do.

In the first half City looked low on confidence. The game was following a similar pattern to most in the wretched winless run.

You could tell that they started with a clear plan under orders from Daniel Farke, only to struggle to break the opposition down and then go a goal behind.

When we hadn’t won a home game for precisely three months, you can understand the crowd being a tad despondent about what they were seeing.

Credit to the players, though, as the second half was much better.

We are in for a long January, waiting for the transfer window to close and hoping that James Maddison will still be ours (I think he will).

He’s bound to attract interest from Premier League clubs. It came as a surprise to me when I saw the team sheet before the game to find Maddison and MORE: Melissa Rudd – Farke must build around his star midfielders

Alex Pritchard both starting, but they seemed to work well together, and I think we may well see Farke try it again.

Harrison Reed had, in my opinion, his best game in a City shirt – hunting down the ball and making a nuisance of himself.

I thought Timm Klose was excellent at the back, and his thumping header to put City in front was a well-deserved goal. It was also heartening to see Tom Trybull make his return from injury as a substitute.

A win was what was needed, however it came. And Saturday was a perfect example of inconsistent Norwich. The contrast between the first and second half performances was stark, and a good example of why a mid-table finish is almost nailed on this season. Against the best in the division, there has been a clear gulf in class. Against the rest, City compete and compete well. We won’t go down and we won’t go up. Whether that’s good enough for some sections of the supporters is not for me to say but in the first season after making such dramatic changes to every part of the club, I think it’s a decent platform to build on.

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Opinion: It’s been a very eventful few days for Norwich City, and it all started with that brilliant 1-0 win at Ashton Gate. This win was thanks to another wonderful James Maddison goal and one hell of a save by Angus Gunn, one his old man I’m sure would have been proud to make. Sadly Norwich went out of the FA Cup at the third round stage for the fourth consecutive season, but gave a magnificent account of themselves and pushed Chelsea all the way – but it wasn’t to be as they were knocked out in the cruellest way, on penalties. The win against Bristol City means the club have won nearly twice as many away games as they have done at Carrow Road, Norwich are now unbeaten in their last four league games while conceding just one goal in those four games. Saturday gives City an opportunity to win back-to-back league games for the first time at Carrow Road this season, which is quite astounding considering we’re now in mid-January. I guess it just goes to show how they’ve struggled to break teams down and how inconsistent they have been on their own patch. Chris Wilder brings his out-of-sorts Sheffield United down to Carrow Road – I’m sure he’ll get a nice warm welcome from the Norwich faithful after some of the remarks he made after Norwich’s very impressive win at Bramall Lane in a bad-tempered game earlier in the season when the Blades we’re flying in the league, something they aren’t quite doing at this moment in time, having won just one of their last 10 Championship games. I think tomorrow gives the lads a real chance of closing the gap even more on the teams in those play-off positions. I scored a few goals against Sheffield United in my career, especially when I played at Bramall Lane – a brace for Leicester springs to mind. I scored a couple for Norwich against them at Carrow Road and looking back on my 96 goals for the Canaries, one of those was one of the most important that I scored for the club. The first of those two City goals came in a thrilling game when we found ourselves 2-0 with just 24 minutes gone, but we made the boos and the jeers turn to cheers with goals from Phil Mulryne, Tony Cottee (his one and only for Norwich), Chris Llewelyn and yours truly seeing us make a tremendous comeback to win the game 4-2. The other goal I was talking about came in our Championship-winning season on January 31 and, as I said, it’s right up there with some of the most important goals I scored for the club. It was a top-of-the-table clash as both us and Sheffield United had had a very good first half to the season and were fighting it up at the top of the league. It was a very close game with not many clear-cut chances until a ball broke to me in the 59th minute. It came to me perfectly, about 12 yards from goal and without breaking my stride I smashed it past the helpless Paddy Kenny and Carrow Road erupted. It was a very important win for us and as a forward there’s no better result than winning the game 1-0 with you getting the winner. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish both Russell Martin and Cameron Jerome all the very best at their new clubs. Both have been magnificent servants to the club and have been ultimate professionals while they’ve represented Norwich City and have always given everything when they’ve played. Both have taken harsh criticism in the last two or three seasons and at times been made scapegoats, but one thing is for sure, they’ve never hidden and taken everything on the chin and got on with things. Let’s hope that whoever comes in to replace Russ and Cameron will show the same level of commitment to Norwich City over the next few years.

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