Sweet Revenge for Gemma

PUBLISHED: 19:12 04 February 2011

Norwich City players celebrate Henri Lansbury's late winner against Millwall.

Norwich City players celebrate Henri Lansbury's late winner against Millwall.

Archant Norfolk 2011

It has been another good week in the life of this London based Norwich City supporter.

Two games, four points and progress past the magical fifty point barrier three months earlier than we managed in the 2007/08 season; that’s the one before we were relegated for those that haven’t erased it from their memories.

I’m thinking that the words “good week” and “Selhurst Park” have not appeared in the same article in the PinkUn for many years; probably not since August 2001 when a late goal won City their last league victory at Selhurst, over Wimbledon in the play-off season. Typically I missed the game as I was at a wedding.

As this could have been the last ever Norwich away trip to Selhurst, I thought it appropriate that I showed my daughter Gemma the glamour of the ground, the wonderful location and of course the national treasure that is the Arthur Wait Stand.

A quick look at the internet reveals that it was built in 1969 and named after the former Palace chairman who oversaw its construction. If he was alive today he may have recognised some of the seats which are surely the originals from 40 years ago.

We arrived early, around 2pm so we could see the team warm up on the ploughed field that was masquerading as a football pitch and to enjoy ambience of the surroundings.

We were charged an unrounded £2 for a cup of lukewarm coffee, but decided against trying one of the CPFC cardboard burgers, and sat down to enjoy possibly our last ever match at the football ground where all hope and £30 is rumoured to disappear into a vortex of despair.

We enjoyed a decent first half but no goals but a not so good second half. Palace forced John Ruddy into a couple of decent saves and Holty missed a good chance near the end and overall, it was not a great game. No team deserved to lose, but neither really did enough to win or to score.

For the serial complainers amongst you, and you all know who you are, our away record for this season (at the time of writing) stands at played 14, won 6, drew 6, lost 2. What a difference to a few years ago.

Gemma’s opinion of the ground and the area could be summed up in two short sentences, “Daddy, it was awful. Even the little old ladies looked dodgy”

And so onto Millwall at home. I was glad this game had been scheduled as a midweek fixture as Gemma would not have wanted to go, after having been hit with a coin after the away game. I can’t take her to midweek home games as we wouldn’t get back until around 1am, far too late for a school night.

I had taken a half day off to visit some old friends in Poringland and after a quick journey back into the city was in the Nelson by 5.30pm to enjoy a few pints of pre-match hooligan juice. After a brisk walk to the ground we took our usual seats and settled down to watch the drama unfold.

Except there wasn’t much drama other than a lively opening fifteen minutes where City had three presentable chances but didn’t make any of them count. Millwall, not helped by losing their star striker through injury, seemed content to spoil and stop us playing.

In the second half the game meandered along with a couple of chances here and there and Millwall looking just the better team. I sent Gemma a text saying this was going to be a nil-nil just before Holty lost the ball with players committed up the pitch. In covering, the defence got into a bit of muddle about who was marking who and Theo Robinson nipped into score.

Three subs were thrown on, and City livened up a bit. Lansbury played a gem of a pass to Holty but the ball was fired well over and Millwall had more control in the midfield due to all the attacking players we had on the pitch.

At around seventy minutes I sent another text to Gemma saying we weren’t going to score tonight. This was a tactical move as I thought I would try to tempt fate, a sort of “Nothing can go wrong now”, statement but in reverse. I’m not a superstitious person at all, but I thought this was worth a punt. We had no more Lambert-inspired substitutions to bale us out, so I thought I should try and grab the initiative on behalf of the team.

And blow me down, it worked. Holty was fouled. Lansbury took a free kick that banana’d miles to hit the inside of the post and Elliott Ward smashed it in to level the scores. Suddenly the crowd woke up, the players found another gear and City could smell victory.

It was still level at 90 minutes and just as it was announced there were three minutes of stoppage time I started the stop-watch on my I-phone. Anorak that I am, I like to see how long there may be to go; the crowd always start whistling for time early and it keeps me a little calmer during the last three or four minutes.

Millwall made a sub in injury time and as is the way when trying to save a point they took the man off who was furthest from their bench. He trudged over taking as long as possible to get off the pitch, not knowing that his dawdling, or his manager in making the change, would add another vital 30 seconds onto added time.

City won a free kick at the River End near the end of the three minutes. I looked at my watch which said that 2:48 of stoppage time had passed and at that point I decided to switch off the timer. I don’t know why I did this; I’ve never done it before as I always wait until the final whistle goes. In the back of my mind I could see this mocking text from Gemma reminding me that I said that City would not score that night and thought I would try and tempt fate once more.

From the free kick, the ball was passed to Ward who lumped it forward. Wilbraham got a good knock down and it fell to Holty who was holding off the over zealous attentions of two defenders and the ball fell to Lansbury. GOOOOAAAAALLL!!!!!!!! I can still picture it now as the ball rolled past their keeper into the net.

I hugged my pal John. I kissed the man behind. He is called Dennis and he was most surprised that he was the object of my affections. I was shouting and cheering so much I missed John Ruddy’s one hundred yard dash to get into the pile of players at the other end of the pitch.

I still don’t know how City won. All I know is what goes around, comes around.

Lansbury’s goal was revenge for those two points lost to that last minute goal at the New Den and more importantly payback to the thug who hit Gemma with a coin. To whoever you are I can assure you that the joy we both felt at City’s winning goal far outweighed the pain that evening.

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