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Robin Sainty: Time waits for no man when Norwich City are about

PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 December 2018

Forest keeper Costel Pantilimon watches in disbelief as Onel Hernandez finds the back of the net for a dramatic equaliser Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Forest keeper Costel Pantilimon watches in disbelief as Onel Hernandez finds the back of the net for a dramatic equaliser Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

Well, at least I now know that my heart must still be in decent shape.

Having survived a dip in the North Sea on Boxing Day morning to raise money for the Community Sports Foundation’s wonderful Nest project it managed to get me through the most spectacular of all City’s comebacks so far this season later in the day.

What a game it was too; some great football from both sides, brilliant goalkeeping, huge amounts of goalmouth action and, unfortunately, one of the most gutless displays of refereeing that I’ve seen in a long time, capped off by that remarkable last 12 minutes or so.

In the cold light of day it must be acknowledged that City conceded some ground as a result of only drawing the game, but the lift that late equaliser will have produced both for the players and the fans was worth its weight in gold, and who knows where it may take us.

To hear the crowd still trying to lift the players after Forest’s third goal was uplifting and it was clearly received as such as City went for the jugular in spectacular fashion, and every surge on the pitch seemed to be matched by a similar one in the stands.

Teemu Pukki sees an effort go wide - to the relief of Costel Pantilimon 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdTeemu Pukki sees an effort go wide - to the relief of Costel Pantilimon Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

It’s hard to believe how completely the divisions of the last couple of seasons seem to have been healed. No one still accuses Daniel Farke of not having a plan B or making effective tactical substitutions, and there was something irresistible about the way in which the yellow waves poured over a tiring Forest who simply had no answer other than to resort to increasingly desperate time wasting.

Ironically, had Costel Pantilimon not decided to add to his already comprehensive display of delaying tactics by embarking on a fist pumping tour of his penalty area having made what he clearly thought was the match winning save, City would probably have run out of time before Onel Hernandez’s equaliser.

However, putting aside the euphoria, this was a tough game for some of City’s youngsters, and one wonders how the second half would have panned out had Max Aarons not made such a fundamental error to gift the visitors the lead on the stroke of half-time.

It would be easy to criticise the lad, but the fact is that it’s exactly that sort of surge from a defensive position that has been central to City’s success and he will learn from it.

Jamal Lewis and Todd Cantwell also struggled but Ben Godfrey continues to grow in stature before our eyes and will soon get himself on the scoresheet as well as defending like a seasoned veteran.

However, what is worrying is the injury situation, with Emi Buendia looking set to join Mo Leitner for an extended period on the sidelines. Injuries are a fact of footballing life, but after the recent run of centre back issues City are now losing creative midfield players, so the rehabilitation of Kenny McLean may need to be accelerated.

Fortunately, Mario Vrancic is at the top of his game and once again produced a passing master class against Forest, but he will need help in what is going to be a momentous run of fixtures for City.

Having said that, to be sitting in second place and averaging two points per game is beyond what any of us hoped for in August, and the 11-point gap between City and seventh place shows how consistent they have been.

For me, the three quality teams in this year’s Championship are City, Leeds and West Brom and I fully expect all three to go up, but there will be many more twists and turns before the final positions are decided. Money and reputations can take you only so far; at some point it comes down to desire and guts and when that happens I’d back this City squad against anyone in this league.

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