Magical Marco, narrative klaxons and Krul’s response – Six things learned from City’s fightback in Bristol
PUBLISHED: 06:30 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:04 17 December 2018
After a spirited response to draw 2-2 at Bristol City, David Freezer assesses the Canaries’ Championship progress as the halfway point of the season approaches.
1 – City’s best streak for six years
City were already enjoying their longest unbeaten streak of Daniel Farke’s reign when they arrived in Bristol, but fighting back to earn a draw saw them reach a fresh landmark.
It’s the first time Norwich have gone 10 league games without defeat in six years, since the latter months of 2012 under Chris Hughton. That’s right, 10 unbeaten in the Premier League – that really did happen.
It’s better than runs of eight unbeaten under Alex Neil and Neil Adams during 2014-15, and nine without loss under Paul Lambert during the 2010-11 promotion season.
The next target is the 13-match Championship streak under Glenn Roeder during 2007-08, while there was also 16 League One games unbeaten in 2009-10.
It’s just one defeat in 17 before the trip to Blackburn, sitting five points clear of third and certain to be in the top two at Christmas. If that had been offered in August, most of us would have laughed it off.
2 – Marco in to pole for goal gong
He told us he was ‘born to score goals’ and now Marco Stiepermann has taken pole position in the race for City’s goal of the season. The midfielder’s wonderful strike curled perfectly around keeper Niki Maenpaa to nestle in the bottom-left corner from 20 yards out.
Last season Canaries fans were rather spoiled by the regular spectacular goals of James Maddison, before Josh Murphy’s amazing effort from 30 yards stole the prize.
Despite a season where City have been so good at scoring from inside the box, the fine finish joins some strong competition.
Emi Buendia’s deft flick against Brentford, Dennis Srbeny’s cracker against Cardiff, Jordan Rhodes from distance at Wycombe and Alex Tettey’s thump against Preston all deserve a mention – but Stiepermann’s strike topped them all.
Christoph Zimmermann’s role is worthy of mention too, with his drop of the shoulder and pass to Teemu Pukki creating the chance.
3 – Narrative klaxon was screaming
The narrative klaxon was screaming as Grant Hanley strode towards the Bristol penalty area in injury-time.
Back from a frustrating three months out with a thigh problem after the flu left Christoph Zimmermann needing to come off after an hour, Hanley was back in action – but looked like he’d never been away.
Strong in the air, quick across the ground and generally placing a large object between opposition attackers and the Norwich goal – it was the Hanley who finished second in the player-of-the-season voting in April.
And there he was in the closing stages, shaping to shoot, a memorable winner about to happen. Radio Norfolk commentator Chris Goreham was sat to my right and the vocal range soared as yet another injury-time winner suddenly emerged – only for the defender’s left-footed strike to be saved.
It was a shame but it’s great to see the Scottish skipper is back, ahead of four games in 11 days.
4 – Max is the man of the moment
Max Aarons has made 19 appearances so far in his Canaries career – and already managed three goals and three assists.
The full-back doesn’t even turn 19 until January 4 but is proving little short of a revelation in his first season and has arguably surpassed Jamal Lewis in the hot prospect stakes already.
There was a nice moment in the first half – prior to scoring his late equaliser – when a burst forward and exchange of a one-two with Stiepermann had him in on goal, only to be denied by an offside flag. Was his head coach annoyed? Far from it, Farke applauded the effort as his right-back returned to his defensive position.
The German deserves huge praise for the bravery he has shown in giving academy players the belief and confidence to adjust to senior football so quickly.
Scoring a second header in three games, before roaring in celebration with the away fans, encapsulated the lack of fear Aarons is playing with.
5 – Unity key to fighting off the flu
It emerged after the game that a flu bug had caused problems for City during the week, making their strong finish to the game all the more impressive.
However, it did make the opening hour or so at Ashton Gate more understandable, with Farke’s team lacking their usual fluency – although they did still enjoy 63 percent of possession!
Dragging themselves through a difficult away game, when illness was circulating and still without two highly influential players in Timm Klose and Mo Leitner made the point all the more satisfying. Much of that must be down to the unity in the squad, pulling together when it’s needed.
When Hanley got the nod to come on, Jordan Rhodes trotted over to give his team-mate an encouraging slap on the back.
As Zimmermann came off he got a playful punch on the arm from his sympathetic head coach, appreciative of his big defender’s efforts. The united spirit is clear for all to see.
6 – Krul was crucial to fightback
There’s no denying that Tim Krul’s displays have come in for high levels of scrutiny in recent weeks, after some high-profile errors.
The Dutchman offered an excellent response in front of the TV cameras at Ashton Gate though, to keep City on track for their target of two points per game.
Tipping over Jamie Paterson’s rising shot in the 32nd minute was bettered seconds later when he superbly pushed Josh Brownhill’s long-range effort over from the resulting corner – and celebrated like he’d just scored a goal.
It felt like a big moment, even if he may have been disappointed he couldn’t get to Bristol’s first goal, with no chance for Callum O’Dowda’s excellent strike. Hopefully his confidence can continue to grow after those moments.
He helped City to 44 points from 22 games. The average needed for second place in the last 10 years? 88 points, so halfway to that huge target as we approach the season’s halfway point at Blackburn.