Canaries verdict: Carrow Road roar in defeat showed appreciation of excellent efforts
You can't win them all - but the roar of the Carrow Road faithful as a frustrating defeat was confirmed for Norwich City spoke volumes about the amount of progress made in recent weeks.
Rarely has home defeat for the Canaries been greeted with such warmth and appreciation, despite the frustration and feeling of hard luck. This was the reaction of a supporter base acknowledging that their team are on the right track.
To leave the pitch with just short of 70 percent of possession after some slick attacking play against one of the strongest squads in the Championship was harsh in the extreme – even when clear-cut chances had been a struggle for the hosts.
As head coach Daniel Farke had warned ahead of Saturday’s fixture, the Potters’ sluggish adjustment to life back in the Championship after a decade in the Premier League meant Gary Rowett had an impressive array of international experience and expensive talent to select from.
So when good fortune came their way 10 minutes before the break when Timm Klose dived in to try and cut out Cuco Martina’s low cross, only to divert the ball past Tim Krul, the visitors rarely looked like letting go of their advantage,
Having struggled to shake off their relegation hangover in the first couple of months of the campaign, Klose’s agonising moment released a great deal of pressure.
Whether it was £12million summer signing Tom Ince terrorising Jamal Lewis and trying to find another £12m signing in Benik Afobe up front, or experienced international centre-backs Ashley Williams and Bruno Martins Indi keeping Teemu Pukki quiet, the Potters have a squad which Rowett will have to keep in the promotion race if he’s to keep his job.
Lewis, Marco Stiepermann and Teemu Pukki all tested England goalkeeper Jack Butland during the game and Mario Vrancic could quite possibly have earned an injury-time penalty after being bundled over – but it was an afternoon that had a sinking feeling as soon as that 35th-minute own goal nestled in City’s net.
Ince really should have wrapped up the win for the pre-season promotion favourites in the 77th minute but curled just wide from the edge of the box with only Krul to beat after Afobe had outmuscled Christoph Zimmermann, yet City were unable to punish that miss.
Thankfully however, Farke’s team already had a healthy amount of points in the bag after meeting a challenging seven games in three weeks positively, discovering the poise and organisation required to claim 13 league points from a possible 18.
Continue at that rate for the rest of the campaign, averaging two points per game, and promotion will very much be a possibility. Of course that is far easier said than done.
Perhaps it is more realistic, with a quarter of the Championship season already completed, to look at 18 points from 12 games leaving the Canaries in touching distance of the top six heading into the second international break.
That works out to an average of 1.5 per game and leaves City on course for 69 points, which has only been enough for a play-off place in one of the past 10 seasons, with the average needed for sixth place being 74.
Football is, of course, not quite that straight forward though.
The balance of style and resilience which earned a manager-of-the-month nomination for Farke has brought belief and hope back to Carrow Road – with the rich vein of academy talent running through this new-look team adding further enthusiasm.
Without such advancement there is no chance that ‘On the Ball City’ is roared out within minutes of defeat.
With sharper passing and attacking intent clearer than last season there is credit in the bank, which will carry a good deal of positivity through the next fortnight until attentions turn to a trip to Nottingham Forest.
That is thanks to the reaction of the Canaries to the one real low point of the campaign so far – the 3-0 home humbling at the hands of Leeds, back on August 25.
To bounce back from that with a six-game unbeaten league run and two cup wins has taken a sustained effort. Now it’s all about recharging the batteries as much as possible during the break, to prepare for another intense spell of six games in three weeks.
Just five points separate fifth and 18th place. Consistency must be the buzz word for this upwardly mobile Canaries squad.