Michael Bailey: Six things learned from Norwich City’s Millwall win – Rules, targets and a talent
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As another Championship opponent bites the dust, Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey delivers his six things learned from the Canaries’ success over Millwall at The Den.
1 – Several minutes isn’t 90
It was the key point as Norwich City kicked off at Millwall – the hosts were going to give it some from the start.
Probably for about 20 minutes, which they’d probably repeat at the start of the second half. Maybe not as long as the 45 managed by Bristol City at Carrow Road. Or even the surprise 60 of running about that Ipswich salvaged from somewhere.
That’s all fine and dandy. Most have managed something similar this season. But with City producing a relentless consistency in their own performance, only one or two have managed to live with them this season for the entire 90 minutes.
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More than half (36) of City’s 71 Championship goals have come in the final third of games; more than 33pc (25) in the final 15 minutes.
All Norwich need to do is tighten up either side of half time – they have scored one and conceded seven between the 41st and 50th minute – and they’ll be laughing!
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2 – It’s home away from home
One of the good things about the Championship is the post-match walk to interview players – where second-tier grounds generally let you take in a few things on the way; the sort of things Premier League stadia are designed to keep away from the prying press.
On Saturday The Den’s away dressing room was bouncing to the post-match din of awful dance music that tends to come from footballers tasting victory.
But it wasn’t just that. There was a City crest stuck to the entrance and inside, as was posted on social media, loads of pictures on the walls of iconic moments from a stellar season so far – not to cover up pink, but to put extra fire in Norwich bellies at an intimidating ground.
We’ll never know what real effect such things have – but it was a brilliant idea from the backroom staff.
And by all accounts they are open to more ideas for future games, so get thinking and let me know.
3 – Big Ben is the real City deal
Before this season Ben Godfrey had played 13 minutes of league action for Norwich City since signing in January 2016 – four of them coming at centre-back.
By the time City had beaten Rotherham at home on December 1, Godfrey had five more Championship outings; four of those lasted one minute, with the other an entire second half deputising for Grant Hanley at Ipswich.
Then the world changed for Big Ben. Timm Klose injured his knee in the warm-up of Bolton’s Carrow Road visit come December 8, Godfrey was given the nod to start – and he hasn’t missed a single minute of league action since.
Daniel Farke has what feels like an abundance of centre-back riches at his disposal for a side in the Championship. All of them capable of playing the way he wants both defensively and with the ball at their feet.
Yet in Godfrey there is grit, steel – and a man whose journey, ability and character epitomise everything about this new Norwich City way.
4 – Rules are there to be broken
The height of my playing career was a bog on a Sunday for Trunch Social but even there, referees knew to make sure their two teams were wearing different coloured strips.
How Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer and Norwich’s outfield XI managed to share fashion was probably a marketeer’s dream. City’s team sheet described their kit as “neon green” – meaning the Lions’ stopper probably came out in “fluorescent yellow” and nothing more was thought of it.
But it then should have taken about two seconds of the perpetrators stood next to each other, for the officials to realise something had to change. In fact, the photos actually make the two kits look more different than they appeared to the naked eye.
The other rant is a familiar one for this feature.
Once football has sorted VAR, the advantage rule should be next – now a broken concept as proven at The Den by Mr David Webb, and in real need of some love.
5 – The Lions’ share of predictability
Millwall weren’t as coherent this time around compared to August 2017. Arguably they played far better at Carrow Road in December too, causing Norwich a few more issues.
And yet City really had to dig in with every bit of Championship grit they could muster, to come away with victory from The Den.
Millwall had lost only five games at home before Saturday – Norwich have lost four – and while they looked nervous and twitchy in front of goal, you imagine once the FA Cup ride is over Neil Harris’ side will accumulate the points they need to stay in the Championship. Ben Marshall can chip in with that from now on as well.
That all said, the Lions’ threat is a remarkably predictable one and in need of plumping out, rather than the usual contraction that relegation fears tend to bring.
City dealing with the Lions’ challenge bodes well for when they will have to repeat the trick again soon, at Warniola’s Rotherham.
6 – And then there were three
Nine points is a big gap when there are only 11 games left – so after that hammering at Leeds, Norwich’s Millwall win has effectively taken West Brom out of their top-two equation from here.
If the Baggies do now finish above Norwich, it will surely only be for third above City. Likewise, Middlesbrough may have a relatively small number of points to make up – but three teams is a lot to overtake, given how good those teams have been for such a long period.
Some people hate looking at what it will take for City to do the business – fearing it makes losses acceptable. I’d argue what City do and what we all discuss are very different things.
For the record, my theory was 10 wins from the final 15 games – and we’re now down to seven from 11 – to make a final tally of 90 points.
In 11 seasons since 2008, second place has won an average of 87.1, an average of 83.7 would have beaten third – and 90 was always enough to book the Premier League.
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