Paddy Davitt verdict: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder for Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 13:21 24 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:03 25 February 2019
Daniel Farke told a Norwich City fans’ forum there might come a point when supporters get bored of his endless ‘passing, passing, passing’ style. Not a chance.
What the German head coach has managed to construct is evolving way beyond the metronomic ability of his cultured midfielders to retain possession.
There is a punch in forward areas and a steely determination defensively which might not be immediately apparent if you glance at the goals against column.
Norwich trailed not once but twice to the hottest team in the Championship on current form.
Furthermore, for uncomfortable periods of this pulsating Carrow Road contest they were shaken out of their smooth stride and forced to dance to the Robins’ tune.
Both first half goals, scored by Jamie Paterson and Callum O’Dowda, could and should have been dealt with at source.
But what a response.
To dredge a result in such fashion from a game that was so far removed from the control and poise they swatted Bolton aside the previous weekend says everything about the house Daniel has built.
In adversity, they found a way. What was new this time around was they found another goalscoring option beyond the Championship’s top scorer to bail them out.
Kenny McLean arrived from Aberdeen with a reputation for plunder from midfield areas.
There was an early glimpse of his quality for any supporter who ventured to Lincoln City in pre-season, with a sublime free kick at Sincil Bank.
But ankle surgery had consigned him to watch this thrilling ride from the stands or, in recent weeks, the substitutes’ bench. Here he was at the head of the train as it gathered pace and hurtled towards another three points.
Farke, as he likes to do, was quick to temper the praise lavished in McLean’s direction for his match-winning brace by highlighting his inability to stop O’Dowda’s slaloming run and goal just seconds after McLean had opened his league account.
Yet the Scot’s personal response typified what this squad is all about.
Frustration was evident in his body language, after O’Dowda’s shot whistled past Tim Krul. The manner he wheeled away with his arms in the air spoke of his sense of culpability.
But the swerving, sweetly struck half-volley unleashed into the same goal in the second half was the perfect riposte.
The quest for a fourth proved elusive despite the hosts’ best efforts; which shifted the focus to protecting a lead they had worked so doggedly to build.
Then it was about Tom Trybull patrolling in front of his back four and diving into vital tackles to quell Bristol counters, in a more than passable impression of Alex Tettey’s fire-fighting instincts.
Then it was Christoph Zimmermann dragging his battered body to the near post in stoppage time to make a vital, sliding interception that drew a thumping pat on the back from Krul that could have finished off the weary captain.
It was even in Krul’s key low stop from Marlon Pack four minutes before McLean moved centre stage.
Fleeting moments that perhaps get overlooked when the decisive acts attract headlines; the uglier, unglamorous aspect of footballers doing a job for their team.
Norwich would not be peering down on the rest of the Championship with 12 games left if this was built solely on a sureness of touch in possession or a higher technical threshold than promotion rivals.
To get to the majesty of those collective, collaborative goals seen recently at home to Sheffield United or away to Bolton you need to be able to ride out the toughest spells - when the tide is against you and it might be easier to quit than to resist.
That cuts to the character and the team spirit as much as the talent.
Farke and Stuart Webber have not just unearthed a group of young men who can play the game, they also possess the temperament and the fight to roll with the punches and come back swinging.
That is a trait which may be required far more than an ability to score in large quantities down the final furlong.
Norwich have played much better than they did against Bristol City but given the opponent and the way the match unfolded you would struggle to find a better example of why the Premier League is hurtling towards them.
Those City fans know. Many no doubt at Carrow Road were also enraptured a few days earlier at the same venue when Farke held court.
The applause on both occasions was prolonged and spontaneous.