Paddy Davitt verdict: Norwich City set the pulse racing and divide opinion
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's fan base is in danger of emotional burnout long before the Championship promotion race reaches a climax.
Never mind Alex Neil's squad, the international break could not be better timed for those in the stands after a gruelling period where City's fortunes appeared to fluctuate from squeezing out hard-fought wins to one truly epic low on Tyneside.
That Norwich sit second and ahead of the standard two-point-per-game benchmark for promotion is surely the only measure that matters.
The graphic nature of the Canaries' stoppage time capitulation on Tyneside was only matched in scale by the depth of the fallout.
Neil's methods and Norwich's defensive frailty were subject to forensic examination; fanned perhaps still by that undercurrent of discontent and disappointment from the manner of City's top flight exit and a genuine concern, bar perhaps a poor Blackburn outfit on the opening weekend, that Norwich have yet to consistently hit top gear.
Such forces manifest themselves into a quest for answers as to why Norwich have failed to blow away all types of Championship opponent in the intervening period. From promotion rivals such as Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle to those battling at the other end in the shape of Burton or Wigan.
Add in a patchy East Anglian derby trip to Ipswich and if City had failed to deliver at Wolves you could be forgiven for thinking Norwich were rapidly in danger of joining the ranks of the also rans.
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Neil's men were in total control of events at Molineux for large spells yet still found themselves having to head, tackle and kick anything that moved in the vicinity of Michael McGovern's penalty area in another frantic finale that bore uncomfortable echoes of what had unfolded just a few days earlier.
As the Scot rightly pointed out, City finished the game with five defensively-minded players trying to subdue four men in gold and black, once Ryan Bennett had been introduced during the latest extended period of stoppage time.
Norwich survived a fresh examination, albeit the rather generous manner Dave Edwards rose unmarked was again inexcusable.
It may be unrealistic to expect Norwich to dominate games from start to finish, despite enviable squad resources, but those concerns in their final third will continue until they offer irrefutable evidence to the contrary.
Yet there has been too much pessimism and negativity, post-Newcastle. Norwich showed admirable defensive resolve at Wolves, woven around the fit-again Timm Klose's soothing presence, and going forward they are peerless in this division.
Wes Hoolahan may require a handle with care label these days but there is still plenty of mileage left in the Dubliner. The 34-year-old imperiously roamed the wide open spaces of Molineux, probing with the ball in his inimitable style but winning it back with the energy and enthusiasm of a young starlet.
Ahead of the Irishman, Cameron Jerome justified his pre-game assertion he is one of the best in the second tier.
A majestic early leap and header opened the scoring, a cushioned lay-off enticed Robbie Brady to seal the victory and in between the experienced frontman took Wolves' highly-rated defender Dominic Iorfa back to school.
In a Championship minefield, framed by the relentless churn of competitive games, Jerome is showing again at this level he knows the route to success. The same applies to Norwich.
Neil reiterated, as he sheltered from the rain following a job well done, the quest has barely begun. The defining matches and months lie well in the distance but City's display at Wolves confirmed what most already knew. They deserve to be amongst the contenders.