David Hannant: Second-half heroics could prove season’s defining point for Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 10:30 14 December 2017
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Oh to have been a fly on the wall of the home dressing room up Carra at half-time on Saturday evening.
Quite what went on between those four walls, only the players and coaching staff themselves will know, but the transformation was clear for all to see.
Right from the off City followed up a demure first half with probably the best 45 minutes of league football they have produced at home under Daniel Farke.
Just what brought this on, we can only speculate, but it goes without saying that having that winning feeling again is a welcome one.
Now I’m not one to get carried away after just one win (I totally am), but the optimist in me feels there was something about the dramatic turnaround on Saturday that could set the tone for the remainder of the season.
Firstly, it proved to me that we very much still have a dressing room united and behind its head coach - when the going gets tough it doesn’t take long before fans begin to question whether the boss has ‘lost the dressing room’.
Of course, this is something we as fans can never accurately say, not being part of said dressing room, but the response Farke solicited from the boys spoke volumes to me.
The return to the starting lineup of Alex Pritchard is also something that gives me the feeling this match will be pivotal.
Pritchard injected an extra buzz into the midfield and it was his endeavour that led to the crucial equaliser - a prime example of what he brings to the table.
It was also a delight to see just how much on each other’s wavelength he and James Maddison seem to be - already. This should surely only continue to develop in the coming weeks.
Sadly, this probably means the end of regular first team football for Wes Hoolahan, although even in a lesser role I have no doubt the Irish wizard still has an important part to play.
Pritchard’s return to fitness though is just the tip of the injury iceberg, and as more players return to fitness it is starting to feel like our luck could be beginning to change.
I’m particularly looking forward to Tom Trybull and Alex Tettey reaching full fitness - bringing the steel back to the City midfield.
With either of these two workhorses coming into the fold, backing up the dynamic duo of Pritchard and Maddison ahead of them, I can truly see another unbeaten run on the horizon.
However, there is one player in particular I am hoping Saturday could end up being the biggest turning point for - and not just in the season but in his career.
This player is Josh Murphy, the half-time sacrificial lamb whose substitution arguably provided a catalyst for City’s comeback.
I’m genuinely struggling to think of a time Josh touched the ball in the first half and, without being too harsh, I felt he was something of a passenger.
Marley Watkins, conversely, really got involved and it was the most impressed I have been with him in a City shirt thus far.
So far with Daniel Farke, we have not really seen too many half-time changes, even when the going has been really tough. Therefore, for him to give Josh the old shepherd’s crook at the interval hopefully sent a loud and clear message to the twin.
That message: “Pull your finger out and fulfil your potential”.
On his day, Josh is one of the most talented players in the squad - skilful, quick and with a deadly eye for goal.
Other days, he looks far too casual, even disinterested.
Earlier in the season, he was electric, leaving us all smugly looking at Jacob sat on the bench and Newcastle, proud that we had kept the right twin.
Fast forward a few months and Jacob is revelling in being voted the Toon Army’s player of the month and Josh is being hauled off at half time.
Whether Josh’s head is in the right place, I can’t really say, but I truly hope this turn of events will be the boot in the bottom he needs to recapture his form from earlier in the season.
One way or another, I see this being a turning point for Josh, but it could probably also go the other way and we see very little of him. With him being one of our own, I really hope this isn’t the case.
Whatever happens the remainder of the season, it would not surprise me if come May we are looking back at Sheffield Wednesday at home and saying: “that was important”.
Every year, somebody puts together a big run and emerges from mid-table obscurity to make a late play-off surge - I see no reason why this year it can’t be us.
This starts with Leeds, one of the toughest away trips there is, but what an opportunity to show we’ve turned a corner again. OTBC
What a difference the fate of a penalty kick can have.
At the weekend there were two spot kicks with slightly similar circumstances - one that has been talked about, one that hasn’t.
So much has been said nationally about Christian Benteke ousting his regular penalty-taker at Palace - only to miss and cost the team two points. Had he scored, nobody would have said a word.
This was the case for Nelson Oliveira, who seemed to pull rank over usual taker Mario Vrancic - admittedly with the game basically already won.
In this case, I’m glad he did - he was a man that needed a goal and got it. You only need to re-watch the sitter he missed in the first half to see how badly he needed a goal.
My hope now is that with his goal drought over, Nelson can recapture his touch and really kick on.
But it’s funny, had he not dispatched the penalty, I wonder what the reaction from the City faithful would have been - similar to the reaction to his failure to square at Cardiff I’d think.
Seeing as this is my final column before Christmas, I’ve decided it would be rude of me not to have a little bit of festive fun.
However, seeing as I’m not exactly the most Christmassy person, by my own admission. I’ll leave the full blown Yuletide fever to my column colleague Ian ‘Christmas’ Clarke next week.
In previous years, Ian has come up with some cracking cracker-worthy festive football puns, enough to fill a whole starting XI.
Some classics of his in the past have included Phil Mulled Wine, Jacob Myrrh-phy and Paul McSleigh - and those are just the ones with City connections.
But in anticipation of his annual festive treat, which I am sure will arrive in time to meet Father Christmas, here are a few of my less than festive footballers:
• Wes Hoola-humbug
• Grinch Holt
• Steven Nai-sayer
• Angus Grump
• Scrooge van Nistelrooy
• Demba Bah Humbug