John Ruddy good show, spine-tingles, Cameron Jerome celebrating and Mitchell Dijks digging in – Six things we learned from Norwich City’s Cardiff victory
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As Norwich City prove a point or two in Cardiff, Michael Bailey brings you his half-dozen observations from Wales…
1 – Well done for celebrating Cam
There can be something warmly respectful about a player being respectful when they score at a club they played for, and especially did well at.
Even now I remember the sight of Jonny Howson scoring at Elland Road two years ago. I think he still had a home stand to apologise to when the game restarted.
But let's be honest, it's also hard not to like a player repeating his goalscoring trick at their former hunting ground and really lapping it up.
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Cue Cameron Jerome, who has proven in his last two games he likes notching against his former clubs.
Not only did he celebrate at Cardiff City Stadium, where he'd had some early stick. He pulled out the iconic Ayatollah celebrating so iconic in the Welsh capital. Maybe it was because of that early stick.
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Aaron Ramsey did likewise on his return with Arsenal once. He got applause. Jerome most definitely didn't.
2 – There's no longer a goalkeeper debate
Ah, clean sheets. The subject that comes up more than it should. The intangible that should bring success, but far from guarantees it.
It was a long autumn that saw City go 15 games without a Championship blank – a run on this occasion accompanied by a dread points return.
The 11 league games since? City earned clean sheet number six in Cardiff. They now sit a more healthy midtable in that particular category.
December 3 at home to Brentford brought the first of that latest batch. Only a fortuitous Bradley Johnson shot deflected in off fate prevented City earning a blank at Derby the game before; and before that, it was John Ruddy's return to first-team duty at QPR.
The big man is far from the sole reason, but he most definitely deserves full credit for what he's doing. Again at Cardiff, his authoritative presence spread through the entire side. It's providing an excellent platform.
3 – No one paid the penalty
Sure, City were dogged. There were nervous moments and Cardiff's bombardment threatened to topple their visitors like it had toppled others.
But unlike at that trip to Loftus Road where Martin Olsson handled within a minute; unlike four of the last six away trips that have been hampered by red cards and various forms of ill-discipline – either temperament or tactical – City saw it our and looked assured with it.
Luck is a horrible factor to discuss – but it's worth noting on Saturday that as the Cardiff crowd grew into the game, the aerial pressure mounted and Neil Warnock started bouncing on the touchline, referee Chris Kavanagh booked Rhys Healey for diving and ignored a rather strong challenge on Kadeem Harris.
Both were in the box; both in the Championship could be filed away as 'seen them given'.
City dug in and were arguably rewarded for their efforts. That has to be the minimum from here on in.
4 – New boys reward Neil
Alex Neil has often come across as cautious with new signings. He likes to get them up to speed before giving them a public chance to shine.
So it was almost a surprise to see two players signed just four days earlier, thrown in at the Championship deep end – and fair play to the City boss for doing it. He definitely got plenty back in return.
There was the odd moment where Mitchell Dijks and Yanic Wildschut may have left Neil wondering if he should have taken his time, but ultimately the afternoon was overwhelming positive for City's new boys.
We got the odd spark of what Wildschut will be about; it will be interesting to see if he gets to face his former side on Tuesday. As for Mitchell, one tired pirouette aside, it was as good a debut as you'd dare wish for.
They were only first impressions – but they were excellent ones.
5 – Bluebirds are throw-in it away
Aron Gunnarsson's long throws were the scourge of England last summer. Some were calling them illegal on Saturday – it seemed unlikely that argument would come to Norwich's rescue in time for the final whistle.
Instead, they had to rely on aerial prowess led by their centre-backs – although everyone obliged to superb effect.
There were just shy of 16,000 fans inside Cardiff City Stadium. That's under half full. The home fans can make a real din, but there were barely glimpses of it.
It's a club in good hands for their situation with Neil Warnock, but now so far short of where it was supposed to be when it was taken over. They look a million miles from getting anywhere near a promotion push.
And yet it's little more than two years since they were playing Premier League football with the promise of millions to kick them on. It's another example of exactly what Norwich season has riding on it.
6 – City have the gift of real momentum
For better, for worse, there seems to be a battle of wills at present at Norwich City.
The forces of good: good football, good players, good signings, good expectations, good wins. The forces for bad: bad appointments, bad decisions, bad resignations, bad sales, bad PR.
It's been a typical week, with fans disgruntled at deadline day sales, happy with the signings, threatening not to renew their season tickers while 19,000 others do, with a second chief executive walking out in the space of six months and with the fans generally happy it happened.
And then the football came. City won, and at full time Russell Martin was leading spine-tingling roars with the visiting fans when weeks earlier, they'd have booed his very presence.
The most powerful thing about Saturday was the sudden reappearance of unity, bred by wins just like confidence. It's a powerful tool that this time, City cannot afford to waste.