Norwich City 1, Stoke City 1: That old familar feeling - in more ways than one
15:31 23 August 2011
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New league, new faces, new opposition, new formation, new dugouts and new advertising boards – yet it was a familiar feeling for fans at Carrow Road after Kenwyne Jones’ 93rd-minute equaliser made sure it was the 25,000 home fans that left with a feeling that only comes with an injury-time goal against your side.
With changes evident throughout the Norwich starting line-up there was a sense of ruthlessness mixed with a tactical awareness of your opposition that makes Paul Lambert the manager he is.
Being back amongst the familiar faces at Carrow Road on the return of Premier League football was a great feeling, although the feeling 90 minutes of Sunday League football played prior to the game had left me with, was not.
The ground was packed to the rafters, the pitch was immaculate and the team handpicked to match the team of Man Mountains that took the form of the Stoke City side.
‘Delilah’ made only one appearance during the first half.
With City new boy Bradley Johnson adding muscle and bite to the City midfield and Elliott Bennett and Anthony Pilkington running down the wings, a sense of ‘In Lambert We Trust’ was clearly evident.
The rollercoaster of emotion that is Premier League football kicked off with the first goal. A decent free-kick from Johnson was met by Ritchie de Laet whose well-placed header sent the Carrow Road faithful into raptures.
This was what City fans had come to expect over the past two seasons.
Games change in a matter of minutes and in the 63rd a sense of control and comfort in the crowd turned to anger, annoyance, and disbelief. Some poor defending gave Walters a sniff of goal and, under little pressure, he hit the deck quicker than Grant Holt. Cue the pantomime villain – sorry, the referee.
A straight red, a penalty and a Christmas card from Tony Pulis. It was a red – we saw it happen twice last season on Holt; minimal contact when through on goal undoubtedly always ends in the worst case scenario for a defender.
In my head and I’m sure every home fans head – a save, a miss, whatever you like, but please do not hit the back of the net. Relief!
Walters had obviously been watching the Saturday night feature performance served up by his previous employers.
Ruddy had other ideas, making what could have been a match winning save. Cue a fitting reception for a hero who only saves penalties on August 21.
Stoke fans, anonymous for much of the game, came to life after City came under increasing pressure.
Chances came and went and after Jones skied one from six yards it looked like Stoke had blown it.
However, this is a game of 90 minutes – 95 in this case. Norwich fans know this all too well, and the expected arrived.
A pinpoint cross was met by a thumping header. Ruddy, no chance.
The feelings of fans, players and management were clear to see. City sunk. Stoke fans went wild. I, like most of the team, was left hands on head, wondering what else we could have given. It was tough. Tough on the fans, tough on the players, and tough on the water bottle in Lambert’s hands when the reality sunk in.
Leaving the ground hearing Stoke fans singing about going on their ‘European Tour’ took me back to 1993 – times that one day, under the astute guidance and investments of the current backroom staff and management, will return to Carrow Road.
All the signs of a successful season are there and, if we take that attitude to Stamford Bridge, with the support and hopes of the fans we have every chance.
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