Michael Bailey: Farke time, Carrow Roard and Norwich City’s key couple – Six things learned from beating brave Bolton
There’s no lesson in knowing that injury-time winners feel superb – so Michael Bailey opts for elsewhere as Norwich City deliver their party piece against Bolton.
1 – Farke Time is making a name for itself
Let me start by taking you back to February: Timm Klose equalised on 90+5 against Ipswich and just a few days later, Nelson Oliveira (remember him?) did likewise on 90+3 at leaders Wolves. Next time at Colney, I asked Daniel Farke if ‘Farke time’ was the new Fergie time. It was never uttered again.
And here we are, with Norwich scoring 12 goals in the final 10 minutes of games, worth 11 points – currently the difference between leading the division and sitting eighth.
Equalising at Birmingham (90+4), two (80 and 87) against Preston, a winner over Wigan (86) and Nottingham Forest (84), plus the miracles of Millwall (90+2 and 90+7) and now Bolton (90+3).
This season is blowing Paul Lambert’s marvels out of the water; giving meaning to the term Carrow Roard.
Bolton may have felt unlucky on Saturday but they are not first and here’s hoping they end up being far from the last.
2 – Pukki is a bona fide match-winner
It’s not a new idea – but Teemu Pukki is out on his own as the best value Championship signing this season. No question.
City’s scouting of the gorgeous Finnish man no doubt assessed his quality on the ball, movement, finishing ability and character – but it would be interesting if it highlighted perhaps the best trait he has delivered since arriving at Carrow Road.
Quite simply, Pukki is a match-winner. He can look bang average for 89 minutes – yet in that remaining 60 seconds of a match he has probably set up a goal or two and won the game with one of his own.
Indeed, Pukki has nine strikes that can be classed as winning goals already this season for club and country.
But then as the logic goes, you earn your own ‘luck’. It was 77 minutes when Pukki ran half the length of the pitch to chase down substitute Josh Magennis’ dangerous break – which I called at the time the best thing he’d done: “so far”.
3 – Take a bow Mr Godfrey
Imagine being told to do a job you’re still learning, with only 10 minutes’ notice, in a team enjoying such a rich vein of form, in front of 27,000 spectators – and a whole load more outside ready to pass judgment.
A lot of that is the regular plight and responsibility of a professional footballer. It’s why they earn their money.
At the same time, Ben Godfrey deserves a big pat on the back for coping with that situation against Bolton’s tough cookies – and filling the sizeable gap left by Timm Klose’s late withdrawal.
City’s youngest starting league back-four in 30 years was always likely to make for a less sturdy afternoon than some we’ve enjoyed recently. But that is circumstance rather than fault.
A part of me still wishes we could see what Godfrey can do as a holding midfielder – logic that ignores Alex Tettey’s superb form. But wherever Godfrey ends up making his name, there’s no doubt he has what it takes to succeed at it.
4 – The rivalry dial is back at 11
Ah Leeds. They must feel a little conflicted. The last time they lost a title battle, they still got promoted – behind Norwich in League One back in 2009-10.
With all that’s happened since, Norwich will still be miles from Leeds’ Christmas card list.
Now the pair are the clear leaders, akin – as I’ve mentioned before – to a road cycling breakaway. Elland Road chants of being top of the league for a five-minute period on Saturday will have raised more than the odd smile down here in Norfolk.
While most City fans look at the table and pinch themselves, fans across the country are finding the energy to switch from ignoring Norwich’s progress to prophesying their demise – which might yet happen.
But statements of injury fortune, lucky late wins fluking 43 points from 21 games should fuel the fire around City to turn this start into a legendary campaign – and leave the rest of the division to explain why.
5 – Trotters’ character is top class
We said it a lot before kick-off: an early goal after the week Bolton Wanderers had, and their remaining resistance would be sorely tested; if not falter entirely.
So after a well-documented hellish time of it on and off the pitch, the Trotters deserve huge credit for turning a 2-0 deficit into something that had them earning a point deep into injury time.
There’s no denying they can be an awkward side, although stretching the point to suggest they were robbed of one on Saturday doesn’t quite scan – sharing more in common with the Bolton radio commentator who regularly labelled Norwich’s style as “constantly overplaying it”. That view is so last season.
For Bolton, the battle for survival goes on and looks like it will continue get harder – but if they dig in as they did at Carrow Road then it’s all far from over.
Hopefully that gets proven on Saturday – when Leeds head to the University of Bolton Stadium.
6 – Carrow Road is a new place
Isn’t it brilliant heading to Carrow Road at the moment? Sure, the football is superb and City are flying in the league – but more to the point it’s the atmosphere, pride and initiatives being instigated that are making a difference.
I remember being happy at the summer news City would own the half in front of the Barclay for warming up and attacking in the second half – a move to stoke the home fans while also sticking 100-odd yards between the away support and their team. Apologies to those in the River End, but I think it’s proven worth it.
And I haven’t even mentioned the pink dressing rooms (no one does any more, you’ll notice).
That’s the thing with marginal gains – you can’t pin success on one thing. But you can learn how to make lots of individual parts work as one and in harmony.
The show of scarves was another little step in making Carrow Road better – to all involved, keep it up.
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