Paddy Davitt: Breathless, blood-pumping entertainment. All aboard the Canaries’ carousel
PUBLISHED: 13:21 27 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:21 28 December 2018
You can stare at the Championship league table all you want but it will not tell you what is powering this Norwich City revival.
Much can be gleaned by bald statistics. Particularly when Daniel Farke’s collection of young talents and astute investments, with the odd free transfer thrown in for good measure, continue to peer down on all bar Leeds United turning for home.
But the depth of character, the spirit and the togetherness are better measured in the volume of noise now seemingly swirling around Carrow Road on what feels a regular basis.
If you thought you had seen it all with the comebacks to sink Millwall and Bolton then think again.
This was the third part of the trilogy. And the best yet.
It may have brought a solitary point rather than the full quota, to preserve a 12-match unbeaten league run. But the degree of difficulty to carve out an addition to the plus side of the ledger was frankly remarkable.
When Mario Vrancic’s deflected shot spiralled away from the obdurate Costel Pantilimon in the 77th minute it appeared little more than scant consolation.
Not because City do not possess the backbone or the stomach for a scrap to the finish, simply because they had trailed 3-0 with time rapidly against them.
How ironic then that it was referee John Brooks’ decision to allocate a minimum of seven additional minutes at the end of another pulsating encounter that proved so pivotal to the final outcome.
Brooks had dismissed home penalty appeals from the majority of those crammed inside Carrow Road when the ball appeared to rear up against Jack Robinson’s left arm just past the hour.
Farke himself pointed out afterwards, with the Reds’ left-back already on a booking, it could have been a double punishment. That may have been a touch harsh after the leniency shown towards Marco Stiepermann for a full-blooded but late lunge on the same player prior to the interval.
Nevertheless, the fact it was Robinson who lashed home a second goal for the visitors within four minutes of surviving a spot kick appeal fanned the belief this was the day when the fates had finally conspired against the Canaries.
With Moritz Leitner ruled out before the game for at least five weeks with ankle ligament damage and then Christoph Zimmermann feeling unwell in the warm up, the cards were already stacked against the hosts.
Add fresh injury concerns from this contest to Emi Buendia and Jamal Lewis and it was a wonder City could finish with 11 fit players, let alone stage another memorable last stand.
Farke was at his prosaic best in his after-match reaction. For a man who counts English as his second language his heartfelt dissection of this latest comeback was word perfect.
Farke likened that feeling when Onel Hernandez levelled in the 98th minute to capturing the child-like essence of why people like him and those he commands first kicked a ball. Not for money, or contracts or bonuses, but for the love of the game.
That is why those supporters now scrambling for a ticket to the hottest show in town have connected with the head coach, Farke’s backroom staff and the team he is trying to mould.
There is an honesty and a willingness to please that is a refreshing antidote to the less purer elements that attach themselves to the professional game.
Farke went on to describe the stoppage time bedlam as an ‘explosion’ as he strode towards the Lower Barclay with his arms outstretched and his face contorted in a mixture of pleasure and disbelief.
The fall out from such a noble effort may take its toll against big-spending Derby County this weekend.
Those on the margins so far may not get the first team chance they crave. Moving forward, January’s transfer window will bring unwanted distractions for those who have embellished their reputations.
Or a watching brief while Championship promotion rivals with deeper pockets scramble for the talent they hope can overhaul the likes of Norwich and Leeds in the automatic promotion places.
None of that makes what City is striving to do any easier.
It just makes it even more satisfying that despite the financial disparity they remain competitive. Not to mention stubborn to shift.
Aitor Karanka’s visitors were the latest but in all probability not the last to find out Norwich will not go quietly this season now they have muscled themselves into the promotion mix.