Melissa Rudd: Enjoyment is back on the menu at Carrow Road
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Timm Klose's unfortunate attempt at a sliding clearance to gift Stoke their winning goal on Saturday may have been a literal slice of bad fortune, but for once City have luck on their side in the timing of this international break.
The effort and application were both there in abundance on Saturday afternoon, but there were a few tired individual displays that made breaking down a stubborn defence an even harder task.
It's little surprise given that the same starting 11 lined up for five successive Championship games, with Saturday's being the seventh fixture in the space of three weeks. Daniel Farke was understandably reluctant to change a team which had been on such an impressive run of form, although waiting until there were just 19 minutes left before making a change to try to reverse a goal deficit did feel particularly late.
Onel Hernandez's return to action was certainly welcomed and although he wasn't given long to make an impression he added some much needed zip in the final third that may give Farke a selection headache for the trip to Nottingham Forest.
Farke was keen to point out the strength of the Stoke squad before the game, despite their mid-table position. The result may have gone for Gary Rowett's side on this occasion but for a team littered with former Premier League stars there was little to get excited about in their display. It proved as a timely reminder that talent and past reputations don't count for much in the cut and thrust of the Championship.
While Stoke celebrated only their fourth win of the campaign, many of City's players slumped to the floor in disappointment at confirmation of the defeat. They clearly care and perhaps that is what prompted the rendition of On The Ball City at the final whistle on Saturday. It was not just in appreciation of a performance that warranted at least a point if not all three, but a show of pride in the team's displays home and away in recent weeks.
MORE: Hat-trick of contracts could be so valuable to Norwich CityThis purple patch has brought about a long overdue sense of enjoyment at Carrow Road again, and it feels as though the players are desperate to reward that loyal support with victories. As a supporter, you can't ask for much more and we can only hope it continues when City take on Villa on October 23.
The second international break last year interrupted a run of seven unbeaten games in all competitions for Farke's side. Whereas then they were on a roll, this time around a defeat has already halted momentum and an enforced fortnight without a fixture has definitely come at the right time.
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After some much needed consistency on the pitch, Managing Director Steve Stone's departure is a bolt from the blue. Quite why that has happened now, and what the new management structure means for the club, is impossible to predict. It raises more questions than answers which should make for an interesting upcoming AGM, though it feels this week's other administrative news will be of much more importance on the pitch.
Despite awful bad luck with injuries, it was encouraging to see Louis Thompson given a contract extension as he tries to fulfil his obvious potential at City. The sensational performances of Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis have also rightly been rewarded with new contracts.
At this point in their fledgling careers it's more about the club protecting their assets than it is the individual players committing their future to Carrow Road - especially with reported interest in Aarons from Arsenal and Chelsea - but it's a positive statement nonetheless. Now we just have to cross our fingers he and others on international duty will come back to Colney unscathed.