Jonny Howson’s smile, Ivo Pinto’s over-reaching pitch war, Josh Murphy, Nottingham Forest getting what they deserve and Norwich City’s Newcastle United prospecting – six things we learned from Saturday’s victory
PUBLISHED: 10:25 13 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:42 13 February 2017
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With goals that will live long in the memory, Michael Bailey takes on the big talking points from Norwich City’s victory over Nottingham Forest – and volleys six of them home.
1 – Just look at his face!
Footballers can be blasé, even in moments of high quality. After all, every special moment in a match has usually happened in training plenty of times before.
Yet on Saturday after Jonny Howson smashed home his goal, lapped up the crowd reaction and embraced all his team-mates, he jogged back to his own half still smiling at what had just happened – and that smile said it all.
After more than a year where national recognition tended to revolve around either embarrassment or failure, City were recognised for a goal that probably wasn’t topped anywhere in the world at the weekend.
A word too for our photographer Paul Chesterton, who as you will have seen took an image as epic as Howson’s goal.
Alex Pritchard’s second was superb, but Wes Hoolahan’s goal was the worthy second to Howson. The speed he took his first touch and his shot were special. Special goals. Special players.
2 – Josh is raising the stakes
Josh Murphy is now just two appearances away from notching 50 for City. He has seven first-team goals to his name – as does Jacob, in just 33 appearances.
With both having signed long-term deals to stay on at their boyhood club, the battle between those numbers and the Canaries’ twin wingers could run for years to come.
And fair play to Jacob, who applauded Josh’s smartly taken goal that was sandwiched between stellar strikes. No doubt seeing his brother prosper is pleasing – but not as good as being on the pitch himself.
Josh has made good steps forward in recent months and his defensive worked look secure against Forest – for as much as it was tested. He also still holds the title of best Murphy goal scored this season, up at Everton.
What City need now is a refreshed Jacob to get desperate to return to the side. Then the fun really starts.
3 – It’s 100 up for Whitts
It was a month coming – longer than we expected given Martin Olsson and Robbie Brady’s departures – but Saturday it arrived: Steven Whittaker’s 100th City appearance.
The 32-year-old has only been at two other clubs, Rangers and Hibernian, and his four and a half years here have attracted more criticism than was warranted.
Despite January, there still appears to be a fragility to parts of Alex Neil’s squad. The minutes pumped into Mitchell Dijks since signing say as much. Given Big Mitch likes to put himself about, cotton wool from time to time seems sensible.
If only it was the same on the opposite flank. Ivo Pinto struggled on after what looked a nasty knock – albeit with a previously sustained issue.
Leaving him to his pitch war for another five minutes before he eventually succumbed, in a Championship game as comfortable as you could wish, seemed unnecessarily risky ahead of Tuesday.
4 – The most bizarre injury yet
Even now, I’m not sure I could tell you how Stephen Henderson ended up on a stretcher.
A confession here. Covering the Championship, you pick up on who the top performers are and who’s struggling – and the Forest keeper had looked pretty ropey in recent weeks.
Letting Josh Murphy score from such a tight angle wasn’t great. Being caught out so hopelessly for Wes Hoolahan’s piece of magic almost made a joke of him akin to the days of Andy Marshall constantly being caught off his line. Arguably Jordan Smith, looked more solid when he came on – and it was the 22-year-old’s debut.
But there’s no ill-feeling here. Henderson left taking on gas and air while on a stretcher, and to a fitting Carrow Road reception. Achilles injuries can be horrendously painful so here’s to him making a swift and full recovery.
I’ll just be interested to hear exactly how it all happened, from the horse’s mouth.
5 – Forest fans deserve better
One thing you realise following the Norwich vintage of recent Championship seasons is most home games are all about the hosts. The visitors? Well there’s a few hundred fans on a good day, their team probably won’t give it much of a go and the rest relies on City turning up.
Yet with Nottingham Forest, even on a wretched day, it was different.
They came in numbers, created an atmosphere (until the wheels really came off) and showed why the cliché remains true that they’re a proper club.
Equally they deserve far better than their current plight – and it’s in football’s best interests that such fans salvage their battle to win their clubs back from owners with more money than class.
Lastly on Forest: Ross McCormack. Nice finish. Brave celebration. Another outing to back up why City dodged a bullet, and pose why they thought he was worth £12m in the first place.
6 – Tuesday will tell us so much more
Maybe it was the early goals and their stunning quality, but it was refreshing to avoid any moments of fans preparing their spleens for venting.
That City ripped apart a supposedly improving but woefully open Forest was all down to Alex Neil’s men backing their manager’s judgment and delivering the performance he wanted.
Sure, you won’t hear the manager’s name sung at Carrow Road. The players have taken responsibility for the mess they’re in. And yet, things fell so far you now start wondering if the greatest story this season could tell, is the most incredible comeback of them all. On Saturday, there was the first sense Carrow Road fancied exactly that.
In reality, the amount of catching up remains substantial – and Tuesday’s task from Newcastle will tell us far more than even a few minutes against what Forest offered up.
Add another three points to the pile, and anything is possible.