United spirit continues to grow at Norwich City following moral victory at Arsenal
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It may have ended in defeat on the pitch but DAVID FREEZER believes Norwich City’s memorable away day at Arsenal will bring long-term benefits as fans and players are reconnected further by brave performances.
Football can be a cruel game at times and the raw frustration of Norwich City’s dramatic defeat at Arsenal has certainly taken a while to shake off.
As that disappointment subsides however, the feeling of pride and appreciation among Canaries fans is clear to see – and that could well prove vital to the challenges ahead.
Earlier this year debate was raging about supporters feeling disconnected from the players and staff at Carrow Road but those complaints seemed like ancient history at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night.
With a hugely impressive 8,800 travelling members of the City faithful turning a sizable chunk of the Gunners’ fantastic stadium yellow, a memorable night was in the offing from the start.
Ahead of kick-off I got a taste of the excitement of the big day out, alongside colleagues Paddy Davitt and Michael Bailey, at The Drayton Park designated away pub – check out our video above.
From even earlier in the day there had been a buzz around Norwich though as the great migration to north London began, with a determination to enjoy the night come what may.
As it turned out, Daniel Farke’s team made rather more of it than just a free swing at trying to frustrate one of the Premier League big boys.
The confidence of a nine-game unbeaten run, bolstered by Sunday’s derby joy at Ipswich, saw this developing Canaries squad give their hosts an almighty fright just days before Halloween.
For 84 minutes of the Carabao Cup fourth round tie the dream was alive, Josh Murphy’s sumptuous chip in the 34th minute following more fine play from the in-form James Maddison teeing up a giant-killing.
Arsene Wenger could see the embarrassing headlines taking shape in his mind when he threw 18-year-old Eddie Nketiah into the Norwich penalty area as a late substitute, ahead of a Theo Walcott corner.
Despite some fine goalkeeping from Angus Gunn and some determined defensive efforts from the players in front of him, the Premier League giants were lucky to still be in the game.
Young debutant goalkeeper Matt Macey had made good saves from Murphy and Nelson Oliveira and seen Mario Vrancic fire wide, while Mohamed Elneny could easily have been sent off early in the second half and Jack Wilshere arguably should have picked up two yellow cards.
Yet Nketiah was in the right place at the right time to prod home from close range just seconds after coming on and struck again in extra-time to leave the Canaries feeling crestfallen.
It was tough to take, seeing such a fine achievement snatched away just as belief was starting to grow that an unlikely quarter-final place was about to be secured, even if Arsenal had left out many of their big stars.
However, this was a moral victory for the Norfolk boys.
As the home fans streamed out smugly celebrating surviving their near-scare thanks to a youngster making himself an instant hero by thwarting a Championship side, the away end remained full and patient.
As Farke gathered his tired troops together in a huddle to congratulate them on a valiant effort, City fans waited to offer their own appreciation to a team which had given their all.
Football supporters often talk of being able to accept defeats as long as players give their all for the cause. At the Emirates that is exactly what they saw.
The feeling of pride was palpable. For all the obvious disappointment and frustration, the night finished on a high, as reward for the recent efforts which has reunited fans, players and staff.
Arsenal denied City a club record sixth away win on the spin and brought an end to nine games unbeaten in all competitions but they have not dented the belief that Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber have the Canaries moving in the right direction.
There will be more setbacks but the talent and determination of the revamped squad has won back the hearts and minds of the Norfolk public.
Derby County may well be expecting to face an exhausted and upset Norwich side when they arrive at Carrow Road on Saturday – but they may be in for a shock.
After three consecutive draws on home soil, someone is due a hiding and the Rams – with former Canaries hero Bradley Johsnon in tow – may just find themselves on the end of some pent up frustration.
Defeat in the League Cup it may have been but the aftereffects of a brave effort that deserved so much more could just stand City in good stead for the rest of the campaign.