Ian Clarke: Norwich City must continue showing their steely side to realise potential
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It was very apt that the clearest sign of steel from a Daniel Farke side came in the Steel City.
The clean sheet against Birmingham - especially as it signalled a much-needed win - was welcome after the woeful capitulations at Villa and Millwall.
The shut-out against Burton was overshadowed by the boos which were triggered by the inability to find the net at the other end.
However, the completion of a hat-trick of defensive successes amid the stormy atmosphere in Sheffield has given City fans a real belief that the penny has dropped at the back and indeed throughout the team.
Of course stopping the in-form Blades adding to their goals for column and securing the first win on the road this season were huge pluses. What has really pleased the City faithful is the manner of the performance.
Before he came to Carra, we were looking forward to attractive possession football and some swagger under Daniel Farke.
For periods we have seen that. However, at times we have also had to endure a soft underbelly which stirred up some early season discontent.
We may well look back at that mid September afternoon in South Yorkshire and see the steely resolve in extremely tough circumstances as a defining moment for the new regime.
Organisation, discipline, refusal to buckle under pressure and showing class through intimidation were all features of that day.
Earning the right to play is an old cliche in football. It is, however, so apt for a City team in a tough, unforgiving league.
I’m sure there will be times this season that we will purr as we watch the undoubtedly talented lads knock it around with style and flair.
Yes please to champagne football.
What has become crystal clear, though, is that in the Championship you have to scrap before you can entertain, especially on the road.
I’ve been looking at the league table and at the upcoming games for the Canaries – and we’re certainly going to have to witness plenty more of that steel in the weeks ahead.
Nine of the next 14 games are against the top 10 sides, with six of them away.
The 11 points gathered from the opening eight matches is a reasonable haul, albeit it’s important to note that Sheffield United are the only side in the top 10 the Canaries have come up against so far.
We will certainly go into Saturday’s visit to NR1 by Bristol City in good heart in the pursuit of that fourth league clean sheet in a row.
Thanks to my colleague Dave Freezer for reminding me that a back six of Green, Kenton, Mackay, Fleming, Drury and Holt under the management of Nigel Worthington back in 2001/2 were the last to secure four shut outs in a row in the league - 2-0 Man City (h), 1-0 Wimbledon (a), 2-0 Wednesday (h), 1-0 Forest (h).
Bristol City definitely won’t come to lie down and remember they’re eighth in the table.
A Tuesday night trip to seventh-placed Middlesborough (who are fourth in the home table so far) will be another really tough test.
Arguably a journey to struggling Reading and visit by under-performing Hull will be opportunities for more points before the first Old Farm derby of the season.
The Blues – who let’s remember could go top if they win their game in hand – will be as confident as ever of their first win over us since Noah was a lad.
Somehow another 15,000 fans will appear at Portman Road and Farke’s boys will need steel with a capital S.
Throw into the mix the visit of second from top Wolves, trips to Forest, Cardiff and table toppers Leeds plus Alex Neil’s high flying Preston heading to Norwich and it’s going to be a tough autumn.
It’s not unusual for football fans to get ridiculously over-excited when their team gets a decent win and predict the end is nigh when there’s a reversal.
Patience will remain a key word as the nights pull in and the tests come thick and fast. We are in no way the finished article.
If the positive traits of City at their best this season can be tied consistently together, we could be seeing our team realising its potential.
It is understandable that the head coach has taken time to find his right formation and personnel. We’re definitely edging nearer seeing that right balance.
There’ll need to be a plan B (and sometimes plan C) and rest assured more mistakes will be made. The key (as it seems happened after Millwall) is to learn from them.
End time wasting
Time wasting or game management?
I guess the answer lies in whether your team is trying to run down the clock or desperately attempting to snatch a win or grab a draw,
Last week we were moaning at the tactics of Burton as they took as long as possible to take goal kicks and every substitution seemed to take forever.
At Bramall Lane on Saturday the locals were more than a little restless and the delightful Chris Wilder ranted embarrassingly about City after the game.
There’s nothing new in this debate. So do we just accept it and realise that on some weeks you’re the statue and on other occasions you’re the pigeon?
For me there’s a simple solution. Take the time keeping away from the ref (who has already got plenty on his mind) and give it to the fourth official.
When play stops, stop the watch and start it again when action resumes. That way more time can be added on if needed.
Success breeds success
I love a cup run - and I love the fact that Daniel Farke is clearly taking the League Cup seriously.
In all my four decades of supporting the Canaries, some of the very best moments have been at cup ties.
That Steve Bruce header in front of the Barclay to beat Ipswich and send us to Wembley in 1985. A few weeks later there was the amazing day at the home of football when we lifted the cup against Sunderland.
Two FA Cup semi finals will also never be forgotten.
All of those moments were a long time ago. Cup runs tend not to happen for Norwich any more.
Thanks to City stat man Steve Gedge for the fact that the win at Brentford is only the second time City have beaten three teams in a major cup in 22 seasons.
I know all the arguments about the importance of the league. But success breeds success and the victory at Brentford can only help with momentum - and yes, let’s dream about heading to Wembley for a cup final again.