A special night that could bring more – if Norwich City are up for it
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It was a result that figured in the middle of Norwich City’s tedious years; where the Canaries had the balance between getting nowhere near an upwards second-tier escape and almost always did enough to be plenty of points clear of the trap door. Exciting times indeed.
Although this particular season, things threatened to be different. The 1998-99 campaign, to be precise.
Under Bruce Rioch, Norwich City had finally looked like they could challenge for at least a play-off spot as Christmas passed; 2-0 up in a January visit to Crewe with 10 minutes to go and the feeling was even greater.
That was, until City threw it away. Alex scored three goals in the final throes – the equaliser coming from a certain Mark Rivers – and City had lost a game that had looked destined to underline their potential for the rest of that term.
City won just two of their next 17 games after those demoralising events at Gresty Road.
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For some reason, it always felt on the outside that the psychological cost of those 10 minutes ran into weeks of struggle and ultimately any hope of City making actual progress that season.
Sometimes such comebacks are part of a run that sums up a club’s form; the lack of confidence that means even at 2-0 up, you might always throw it away.
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But usually when they sporadically arrive, their effects can reach far greater than they should.
And sporadic is the right word. In the 14 and a half years since that trip to Crewe – even with the success of recent season – the Canaries have managed to win from being two goals in arrears just four times.
The most recent – before midweek – was a 3-2 win at home to Luton Town in August 2006. The Hatters arrived as second tier leaders, but threw away a two-goal lead. From looking every bit promotion challengers, you could argue City’s comeback triggered a chain of events that sent Luton to non-league obscurity and near financial oblivion.
Where City fans find themselves now of course, is off the back of one of those rare comebacks – with the added help of League Cup extra-time at Watford on Tuesday night.
It was due reward for almost 2,000 fans who made the effort to follow their team having endured some truly abject recent away days.
And to travel almost full circle, it just so happens this weekend brings a trip to Crewe’s near neighbours Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium – a place Norwich are yet to taste success. Indeed, the last two visits have been entirely forgettable.
Now I think we’ve all seen Norwich City enough to realise why I’m not about to declare Tuesday’s comeback as a turning point in the season. Only Sunday lunchtime will help give an indication on that.
But there are definitely a few things to remember from Vicarage Road. Like City’s obvious lack of confidence that grew as the game wore on. The fact City looked lost and on their knees with fewer than 20 minutes to go. There were olés from the home fans and everything.
In addition, how the good feeling and confidence flowed back as soon as Josh Murphy and Leroy Fer sparked City into life.
It may be the Norwich faithful were just given a rare night of joy on Tuesday. But as history can prove, such a turnaround also has the potential do more than earn a quick pick-me-up.
It’s now up to City to show which it’s going to be.