David Hannant: Defeat to Swansea could actually prove a good thing

Teemu Pukki, Grant Hanley, Ben Gibson and Tim Krul of Norwich City show dejection after conceding th

Norwich City will need to respond to those doubting their mentality. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

A year and five months ago I wrote in this column about how City's historic 3-2 win against Manchester City could actually prove a bad thing.

My tongue was clearly lodged very firmly in my cheek when arguing that an injury-ravaged, history-making victory over the then reigning champions would be the very undoing of this Norwich City side.

I'm not in any way claiming that I was right and wouldn't give up the memories of that win for anything, but I'm now about to make a similar statement - and this time I do so without a trace of irony.

And that is this: defeat to Swansea, while disappointing, may not actually be a bad thing in the grand scheme of City's promotion push.

Now, clearly given the choice, I'd far rather the lads had returned from South Wales with all three points in the bag, ending what was a generally dour week.

However, the way some fans reacted to it made it feel as if it was a defeat that left us several points adrift at the bottom of the table, or even worse still, I don't know, shall we say, 11th in League One.

It goes without saying that victory against the Swans would have been huge, the most six-pointer-like of six-pointers, to use one of the oldest clichés in the book, but let's have a little bit of perspective here.

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As I write this, we do still sit at the top of the tree, although by the time you read this, Brentford may well have leapfrogged us but,  personally, I'd still rather be where we are now than, shall we say, 11th in League One.

The recent lack of goals has definitely been a concern, don't get me wrong, but in some ways, perhaps a defeat to one of our rivals is exactly what we need to kick ourselves back into gear.

The last three games didn't make for pretty reading, but the draws against Boro and Millwall, while valuable points, may well have been more damaging to mentality than the Swansea defeat.

In both games, we came up against incredibly well-drilled, hard-working typical Championship sides. Neither performance was particularly good, but we still didn't see either side lay a glove on us.

And in fact, had either of them bore a single goal out of nothing, we'd certainly be coming away feeling untouchable - the kind of territory in which complacency sets in.

Being the ever-optimistic fan, I too was coming away from those games thinking: "Okay, we didn't win, but we've come up against too half-decent sides, played poorly and still not lost."

This probably isn't the healthiest way of thinking and definitely isn't the kind of result that makes you stand up, take notice and really look at what needs to be done differently.

However, if ever there was a result that should do that, it's a defeat that allows one of your main rivals to continue a run of good form and breathe down your necks.

Another important thing to consider is the way the lads have responded to the other defeats suffered this season.

Of City's five defeats so far this campaign, only two of them came consecutively - Bournemouth away and Derby at home, during the slow-ish start to the season.

The Derby defeat was then followed by a run of 10-games unbeaten, seven of which were victories.

This run was ended by Luton, which was followed by five victories on the bounce.

And after coming away from Watford empty-handed, it was another six games before City tasted defeat again, the aforementioned loss to Swansea on Friday.

It is clear from this evidence, that City know how to respond to disappointment and take lessons away from it - certainly at this level anyway.

Had we come from the Liberty with another goalless stalemate, which in fairness many of us probably would have taken, would there be the same incentive to respond there? Maybe not.

And the last reason I pitch to you is a bit of an odd one, considering it is almost wishing extra stress on us all. And that's this - let's have ourselves a title race.

I could say at this stage that obviously, if we were to win the league at a canter, with a healthy gap and the opportunity to sit the last few weeks of the season out on the beach, I'd probably bite your hand off.

But at a time when we are all in need of as much entertainment value as we possibly can, wouldn't a three-horse race to the finish line be far more enjoyable and - if we come out on the right end of it - more rewarding?

After all, this is what the Championship is all about - good teams, scrapping and fighting to get the very best out of one another to earn the privilege of having games ruined by VAR every week.

While the last title win City claimed was fairly convincing in the end, what made it memorable is the magical, dramatic moments. Having other sides truly in the mix with us will create more of these moments.

Brentford and Swansea are both teams I like a lot, so I couldn't pick two better teams to fight it out with - although I'm also not counting out the likes of Reading and Watford too.

Clearly, we've not had the best time of late, but the rare week without an evening fixture to recharge and the return of Emi Buendia from suspension will be a boost - here's hoping we get another great response.

Teemu needs service

Quite a bit has been said about Teemu Pukki's latest goal drought, which just like last season has come at a time when he is coming back from a niggling injury.

Yes, it's been a while since the Finn has found the back of the net from open play, but I for one am not ready to give up on one of the best natural finishers we've seen at the club in some time.

Despite his poor run of form, Pukki is still the fourth top scorer in the league and responsible for a third of our goals this season.

However, what has seemed to slightly drop off is the level of service he's been getting. 

Emi's absence is obviously a big part of that, but he has looked something of an isolated figure as of late.

We need his goals now more than ever, but for him to get them, he needs the service too.

I'm confident once he puts one chance away the floodgates will reopen - here's hoping he gets a chance sooner rather than later.

Snowy XI

Seeing as we've had a spell of the white stuff this week, which is just impossible to escape, I thought I'd have a bit of fun with it. 

So, with no further fanfare, here is my Norwich City snowy XI!

GK: Tim Cool

LB: Xavi Quin-chilla

CB: Rob Snowman 

CB: Ian Bitterworth

RB: Marc Sledworthy

LM: Robbie Brrr-ady

CM: Jonny Plowson

CM: Wes Coolahan 

RW: Noel Hernandez 

ST: Robert Flake

ST: Aaron Chill-brrr-ham

Subs: Fraser Froster, Sebastian Snowto, Olaf Ottosson

Manager: Martin Snow-Neil