Alex Neil has a knack for exorcising some of Norwich City’s nastier demons
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil has come in for a bit of criticism over the past week.
This, remember, is a Norwich City manager who has overseen six wins in his last seven games but Canaries fans have high standards and, like collectors of old vinyl singles, they find a solitary scratch on a record infuriating no matter how good the song is.
The manner of the 4-3 defeat at Newcastle was bound to attract plenty of scrutiny. I'd be tempted to say that I'd never seen anything like it before but this is the same Norwich City who blew a 3-1 lead against Liverpool and exchanged goals in stoppage time to lose 5-4 at Carrow Road eight months ago.
So conceding goals in the 95th and 96th minutes to turn a 3-2 lead into a defeat at St James' Park felt like just one of those things the Canaries will put their fans through every season.
That result reopened some painful Premier League wounds from last season caused by City's ability to snatch any number of outcomes from the jaws of victory and find a spectacular way of doing so. It's for that reason that Wolves' goal against Norwich on Saturday was probably a good thing.
Those concerned with the health of the Norfolk population might not agree, goodness knows what David Edwards did to the county's collective heart-rate by pulling one back after 79 minutes to reduce Norwich's lead to 2-1 but at least it gave City a chance to exorcise that Newcastle debacle and prove that they do have the wherewithal to close out a vital victory.
They've been forced to hang on for a few of their Championship wins this season and, while they had just about managed to do so against Wigan and Cardiff at Carrow Road, there was a suspicion that opponents of better quality might have what it takes to expose any vulnerabilities that hadn't been sorted out in the wake of relegation. Newcastle proved those fears were well founded but from what we've seen after 11 games it is clear Norwich are not going to come up against opponents as good as that many times between now and May.
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The assured presence of Timm Klose at Molineux was the most obvious difference from what had happened three nights earlier. Neil admitted after the game that the Swiss international's ability to read and deal with danger with the minimum of fuss was exactly what's required in those dicey stoppage time periods.
It was a significant win for those who regularly follow Norwich away from home. It was the first time the Canaries had beaten Wolves away since 1995. It ended a run of 14 straight visits without a win there which included the second leg of the 2002 play-off final when City made it to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium despite losing 1-0.
Alex Neil is developing a good knack for ending these long barren runs. He became the first City boss to get the club to Wembley for 30 years and followed that up with a win at Manchester United last December, something that no-one since Dave Stringer had managed.
Norwich have even beaten Fulham under Neil. A 4-2 home win on the final day of the 2014/15 season got overshadowed by the fact that it cemented a play-off semi-final meeting with Ipswich but Fulham had been the biggest bogey team of them all up until that point.
If City can follow that up with a win at Craven Cottage in their next away game, we really will have to start calling Neil 'The Exorcist'.
The Norwich manager is no respecter of long unbroken records. I suppose that's why some of the vinyl collectors in the stands are so difficult to impress.