Michael Bailey: 6 things learned from Norwich City’s rugged Rotherham win
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The Canaries make it six on the spin AGAIN – Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey squeezes six more lessons out of the Championship leaders’ victory at Rotherham United.
1 – Unity is easy to say; harder to show
Let’s face it – it’s been far from a quiet week. Talk of supporters’ conditional supporting, home singing, changing a winning side and keeping everyone happy. It’s the plight of every football club that results alone do not keep everyone happy.
But then, this is perhaps why it’s often called a family. There will be differences in opinion and disagreements, moments when some feel down while others get carried away.
And yet when push comes to shove – or when 2,615 of you gather for the next instalment of Championship battle – all is forgiven.
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Several Rotherham fans called the Norwich support the loudest they’ve heard all season – far from a loose compliment, given the Rotherham fans’ angst at almost everything else that went on.
Sometimes the hardest bit is getting the Norwich City ball rolling. History says once it is, it very rarely stops – a thought to take to Middlesbrough, but then to also bring back home for QPR and Reading.
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2 – Nothing Krul about City fans
Of course, one subject that filtered into those previous debates was Tim Krul – a man that felt down after his heavy touch had condemned City to a 3-2 victory over Hull and a fifth successive win at the Championship summit.
In truth, the City goalkeeper had more hairy moments at the New York Stadium than against the Tigers – yet still played a significant part in Norwich’s sixth straight success, including an excellent late punch clear as the Millers turned the direct dial to a robust 11.
At 30, Krul is the third-oldest player in Daniel Farke’s current squad. Of all the exits since Stuart Webber took the sporting director reigns, 12 are now over 30; two more are out on loan.
In such huge and significant change, Krul’s experience in the presence of a young squad and younger back four is paramount.
Everyone and everything has its weaknesses. The key is dominating them with your strengths.
3 – Pragmatic magic is a renewable force
I write this as someone who would have liked some earlier changes against Hull once it went to 3-1 – to give City a bit of a refresh and a couple of players a few more minutes on the pitch. But then, it’s hard to ignore how pragmatic Farke’s approach to football really is.
Once again, three subs in three injury-time minutes pushed the home fans back over the edge. Never had they seen such gamesmanship.
That discipline from the dugout is generally reflected out on the pitch – in terms of sticking to their roles, plan, shape, belief and goal. And that includes cards.
Only six sides have earned more bookings than City’s 68 – yet it’s hard to remember a single bad tackle. Tactical fouls, shared around. The 10-booking amnesty passed with the Hull game. It’s now 15 before the season ends. Max Aarons currently leads City’s booking chart, on eight.
And Norwich are the only Championship side without a red card all season. Disciplined indeed.
4 – Kenny can do it his own way
The penny is starting to drop that Norwich City are not going to be the same animal with Kenny McLean in the side. Perhaps that should be considered obvious?
The degree of midfield control City have exerted in their last six games – all victories – has been a long way from, for example, their previous run of six successive wins back in late autumn; for the record, this is the first time City have clocked such a run twice in the same season in the club’s history.
And yet McLean added a goal and an assist to his pot since returning to action: more goals than Moritz Leitner in well under half the minutes, while he continues to nicely work his way up City’s assists chart.
In many ways the trip, conditions and opponent at the New York Stadium felt perfect for McLean to dig in and show his class.
As I’ve written before, it’s another nod to the fact City’s plan B is tweaking plan A to make it work. And boy, isn’t it working.
5 – Millers need a catch-up
Most of us who follow Norwich home and away in the press – some of us well-seasoned – will tell you it was quite the experience in the New York Stadium press box.
Close proximity to home fans usually makes life interesting, but Saturday was on another level as Millers supporters took great offence at the sort of antics Sheffield United and Leeds fans also take umbrage with – unless they’re the ones doing it.
There must be something in the Yorkshire water.
The curious juxtaposition to Rotherham’s sensitivities over City’s perceived softness, was the clear intention to rough them up a little. No surprises there, and an entirely plausible attempt at trying to get a point or three. Therefore City wanted to protect themselves, while referee Oliver Langford gave some he should have ignored, and left others that needed a whistle – for both sides.
Rotherham were excellent. If they can repeat it eight times they will stay up – and with that Paul Warne would get huge credit.
6 – It’s going to be a long fortnight
So the table looks an absolute treat – which is good, given it’s not changing for a fortnight and the final international break of the Championship season.
The previous break started on November 11 with City having crushed Millwall so late at Carrow Road, 17 games played and Norwich leading the way: two points clear of Middlesbrough in second, Leeds and Sheffield United then a further point behind in third and fourth respectively.
That was 21 games ago – basically half a season’s worth of fixtures.
Now all Daniel Farke has to do is hope his charges enjoy the break and refresh – they need it – and those on international duty be it Teemu Pukki, Ben Godfrey or whoever, come back in the same condition they left.
For Boro, for Leeds, the break is going to feel a lot longer. There will be more soul-searching to do. That may deliver results for them too – but it’s no contest which situation feels more palatable to undertake.
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