Canaries live up to all the great expectations

Steve GedgeThat's the trouble with these over-hyped matches, they just never live up to expectations, do they? Saturday was a landmark victory, not least because it was that most rare of recent things, an away City success on the big stage.Steve Gedge

That's the trouble with these over-hyped matches, they just never live up to expectations, do they?

Saturday was a landmark victory, not least because it was that most rare of recent things, an away City success on the big stage.

Usually when we've faced a huge, must-win away match we've suffered let-downs.

Or total and utter humiliation. Not this time.

It was simply outstanding.

This was, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest scheduled league fixture we will have faced all season.

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Quite apart from the whole Norwich-Colchester relations background, the regional pride and the whole 7-1 business, had we lost on Saturday it would have left a huge question mark against our ability to cope with pressure when in the spotlight and leave Charlton and Colchester well placed to leave us trailing in the race for automatic promotion.

But the scale of our win must have led to a spate of severely strained jaws in dressing rooms at Exeter and Wycombe on Saturday as they slammed against the floor in disbelief as our rivals heard the other results.

Back at the start of October I felt that we would finish in the top three because of the way we were winning at places like Carlisle.

Well if we can keep up this level of away performance - and we don't get any key injuries, because that remains the biggest danger we face - we will win the title.

There was a highly visible determination to succeed at Colchester on Saturday.

Not just from the six starting outfield players who had been part of the opening-day humiliation, but also from those not even at the club at the time.

It would have been academic last year, of course, but if only we had shown the same kind of spirit at Charlton or Fulham (or the preceding Premier League fixtures at Southampton or Crystal Palace for that matter).

Forget the terrible conditions, the lower-league setting or the poorer standard of opposition, this is a victory that fully merits a place in Norwich City's greatest away successes.

At one stroke the Canaries have dispatched August 8, 2009 to the history books. The last time, to me, City showed such collective professionalism and a determined will-to-win from everyone on the field was the narrow late kick-off win at Reading over Easter 2004, just hours after they briefly lost top spot.

It took 10 minutes to get to grips - quite literally - with the dodgy conditions underfoot on Saturday, but after that you just knew we were going to win.

Maybe not by as wide a margin as we actually did, but the confidence was clearing oozing as much as the mud underfoot.

I think Steve Claridge was afflicted by the pain of backside splinters from constantly trying to sit on the fence too much on the Football League Show when he said that, defensive errors apart, 'probably there's not that much between the sides'.

I beg to differ. For starters, that's our 12th clean sheet in 26 league outings.

Twelve of the 28 goals we have let in were conceded in the first four fixtures of the season.

Fraser Forster's handling on a tricky surface was immaculate, the defence - three-quarters of whom played on the opening day of the season, let's not forget - dealt with everything thrown at them, Darel Russell ran the show in midfield on the kind of contentious day on which he might have seen red in the past, and Chris Martin's finishing was faultless.

There wasn't a weak link anywhere. I now look forward to seeing the same sort of commitment at The Valley on April 17.

It's not that we owe Charlton anything other than them being one of our two main rivals for automatic promotion.

It's because in the way that Saturday's display made up for the opening day of the season, an equally-determined effort will cancel out the equally large debt still owing from the no-show at The Valley on May 3, 2009.

t A nice touch from Colchester on Saturday to show full first-half highlights on their screen at the break.

Not so sure about their pre-match efforts though, what with showing the goals from last August.

A bid to gee up their own fans or one last attempt to rile Norwich's?

After all, everything else failed, what with City's directors and chief executive maintaining a steadfast silence in the build-up to the game.

And when Saturday afternoon did arrive, there was a tremendous display from City fans, with no major trouble being started by them in any parts of the ground despite obvious the potential provocation from other supporters and stewards.

And to anyone who thinks that there weren't that many City fans in all four stands, it has to be said that there were far more people left in the three home stands than you would expect when a side humiliatingly goes 4-0 down with another eight minutes still to play.


A couple of interesting points about Saturday's Colchester United programme, complete with the front-cover headline of 'Derby day arrives'.

It's not a derby day - the phrase came 23 days before the visit of Southend.

That's Colchester's real derby game, whereas ours is against Ipswich.

End of.

Now if you want to use the phrase 'grudge match', then that's quite another matter all together.

And as for the visitors' section in the programme, there appeared to be an awful lot, plus a big picture, of Bryan Gunn.

However, there appeared to be precious little on a certain Paul Lambert.

Funny that.


It's impossible to resist, so here goes: 'Robbie Cowling - can you hear me, Robbie Cowling! Your boys took one hell of a beating! Your boys took one hell of a beating!'

In the past Norwich and Colchester seemed to have quite reasonable relations, but it's safe to assume that we won't be playing them in any pre-season friendlies any time soon should we be in different divisions again come August.

I don't have any problem with their complaint over Paul Lambert; although I'm not in possession of any of the facts, I'd probably feel exactly the same if I was a Colchester fan.

But the tickets situation, now that's a different matter.

You can't have a situation where you offer some clubs more tickets, but not others.

However, even allowing for that, if Colchester had initially come out and said: 'Look we're very sorry, but due to an anticipated high demand, all we can give you is the regulation 1,900 seats and we won't sell any tickets to anyone with a non-local postcode' then there would have been a bit of public wailing and teeth-gnashing, but I think people would have accepted it.

But when you make provocative statements and make no checks at all on who's buying your tickets, you end up with the kind of shambolic organisation we've seen in the past few days.

As a PR stunt it also backfired on Colchester as it just made Norwich so much more determined to win and Colchester plainly couldn't cope with the pressure and raised expectations placed on them by their chairman and all those new-found fans.

For much of the first half on Saturday I did wonder whether the game could be completed, given how the rain was showing no sign of stopping, as opposed to the ball.

But when we went 2-0 up I knew there was no danger of any abandonment - the police wanted this game played and out of the way. I can't imagine that the police have in any way been impressed by the arrangements made for Saturday's game, and I'll bet that if the worst comes to the worst and we're both still in this division next season our visit to the Weston Homes Community Stadium is not a 3pm Saturday kick-off.

Perhaps we can get back to normal now.

After all, supporters have no real grievances against most people at Colchester. Besides, had this season's board been in charge at City last year, chances are they wouldn't have taken a less short-termish and cheap approach to managerial appointments and taken on the man now in charge at the WHCS.

And we'd have all been quite happy with that.

We need to put this all behind us now, and get back to our more run-of-the-mill fixtures but if the current City run carries on for much longer we haven't heard the last of ticket rows this season, that's for sure.

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