Paddy Davitt verdict: Norwich City love life in the Championship deep end
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Fittingly, given Nottingham Forest's stadium backs onto the River Trent, this was a sink or swim moment for Norwich City.
Adrift at the break, when Apostolos Vellios had profited from a damaging defensive lapse minutes after Wes Hoolahan's tame penalty was saved by Vladimir Stojkovic, Alex Neil and his troops needed to find something from deep within.
Given the last away trip to these parts ended so horribly in Birmingham, City arguably faced their biggest test of the early Championship weeks. To deliver in such stirring fashion is a testament not only to the quality but the character in their ranks.
Norwich were simply irresistible in the second-half at the City Ground. Graham Dorrans and Jonny Howson marshalled central midfield and broke forward into the final third with devastating effect. Jacob Murphy looked like the player who had terrorised the second tier in the opening month, as he cut inside looking for work, and Hoolahan used all his experience to banish the sickly sensation from his spot kick miss.
Norwich bossed possession and territory, choking the supply lines to Vellios and in particular Hilderberto Pereira, who had danced and swerved his way towards the Canaries' backline with apparent impunity prior to the interval.
The scale of the celebrations at the final whistle underlined this was potentially a defining afternoon. Perhaps not quite in the category of Simeon Jackson and Derby, more Gary Hooper and Bolton Wanderers. A successful comeback against a freescoring side yet to drop a point at home in the Championship this season was more than another three points, it was a signal of intent.
The tribal nature of football support tends to breed both insularity and a narrow focus on the deficiencies and perceived shortcomings of your own club, but the graphic nature of Forest's capitulation underlined Neil has a serious squad to compete at this level.
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The hosts visibly wilted when Howson superbly brought Murphy's deflected corner into his orbit before stabbing an angled finish back across the six yard box via the far post. All that surging confidence from three previous home league wins and a first-half which had ended so sweetly for Philippe Montanier's men dissolved into self-doubt.
Michael McGovern's goal came under late pressure but the Northern Irish international remained largely protected.
Norwich could and perhaps should have added to their lead, yet there was no repeat of the fraught finales against either Cardiff or Wigan at Carrow Road.
On both those recent occasions, inferior rivals grew in belief once Neil's side had failed to convert their mastery into an unassailable lead. At the City Ground, Forest appeared to accept their fate when the visitors levelled; convinced they simply did not have the quality or the guile to stop a rampant Norwich in full flow.
That sour trip to Birmingham, a series of tense home affairs and a gruelling East Anglian derby draw at Ipswich Town all serve to demonstrate it is naïve to expect Norwich will have things all their own way in the Championship.
But when they click, when those smooth passing rhythms spark genuine attacking potency, when they move through the gears in such a relentless manner, few in this division can match them. Now they have also harnessed that intangible momentum from three consecutive league wins.
This latest victory should inject renewed belief Norwich can go anywhere in the Championship and triumph over adversity.
That is an intoxicating elixir, a reassuring confirmation of the talent at Neil's disposal and a timely reminder to those who opt to focus on the negatives rather than the positives around a promotion push which is gathering pace.