Sunday Fan Zone: At last! Something for Norwich City fans to savour at Craven Cottage
PUBLISHED: 13:22 06 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:20 06 August 2017
Canaries fan DAVE MAJOR kicks of the first in our new series, Sunday Fan Zone, with his thoughts on the game at Fulham.
Nine times I’ve been inside Craven Cottage watching Norwich before Saturday.
The highlight of this period, a scrambled equaliser from Iwan Roberts in the last century, or a deflected Aaron Wilbraham goal? You decide, but it was slim pickings.
Downsides there have been a few, though I take solace in the fact I was over the river in a pub watching the 6-0 defeat back in 2005, and that Sky realised that there was more relevance to Relegation D-Day going on at Charlton so switched the feed.
But despite all this, the foolish bravado of a football fan had me in high spirits. The curse of Craven Cottage would surely be broken by Daniel Farke’s and Stuart Webber’s revolution. Never mind Neil Adams and Chris Hughton had both started their Norwich City managerial careers off in such parts with losses, this would be different. Because... well, because.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, well Surrey-based Canary fan, but there are few nicer walks to a football ground than Craven Cottage. The sun glinting off the river, just as a rousing course of On the Ball City came from below; 125 Canary fans strong on what looked the most Norfolk boat cruise the dear old Thames has ever seen.
At the ground the songs just intensified, the Canary spirits heightening, familiar faces found. Football was back, and boy were we happy about it.
The game proved a real blood and thunder open Championship game. Fulham are good. Excellent movement and in Sone Aluko have a player who will terrorise many a defence. Marcel Franke in particular will be pleased to see the back of him.
It ebbed and it flowed, Norwich really should have been ahead in the first half, but it was an unfortunate Russell Martin deflection that had Fulham leading at half-time. The second became increasingly Canary-dominated; Watkins again could (read should) have scored, before Martin’s volley was stopped by a Fulham hand that 3,000 yellow shirts clearly saw, but one black-shirted individual didn’t.
Then cometh the 89th minute, cometh our number nine. Vintage Wes made it, a dink over the top that Jordan Spieth would have been proud of, straight onto Big Nelson’s chest, and then the composure so lacking in his team-mates drawing and nutmegging the keeper. Brilliant goal, but perhaps a slightly over the top celebration. Temper temper.
The misses. There were a few.
Better finishing from Messrs Watkins and Vrancic could have seen City out of sight at half-time, despite Fulham’s dominance. That lack of clinical striking exposed before Nelson made his point.
City’s three at the back didn’t help. Too often they were over-run, not quite sure where each other should be, and with a midfield lacking a level of bite. That clearly needs further work, but with seven City debutants that’s partly understandable.
And in that system both Wildschut and Husband were left exposed. The latter will hope for better days and looked better in the second half, but too often balls in behind were met by the flying Fulham wide man rather than a slide tackle of seeing out of play.
But this was an optimistic day, a day which showed that in those three months since whimpering out of contention, Norwich City were back. There was fight, there was guile and clearly there was fitness. As the game wore on, despite Mario Vrancic’s hands on knees moments, it was clear they were better prepared than Fulham.
Then there was the tactician. Three different formations, ending chasing the game with James Maddison as the deepest lying midfield player. Yes, it could have come unstuck, but here was someone not blighted by a 6-1 defeat at Newcastle chasing the point, maybe chasing all three, in true “Never Mind the Danger” style.
And finally, there was the colossus that was Christoph Zimmerman. My word. A proper centre-half who would have had Malky, Steve, Duncan and Dave all purring. Maybe a proper Championship centre-half, but the type that sniffed and snuffed out danger, put his body on the line and showed us just what we were missing last year.
But most importantly of all those past nine visits to Fulham have been surpassed. As football fans, we must endure the 5-0 defeats to really appreciate the optimism, the seeds of something new and exciting. We’ve got that, make no bones about it. Just try to keep it in check.