Budgies 4, Binners 1
The biggest crowd (26,532) at Carrow Road for over a quarter of a century. The old stadium packed full and rocking to the rafters. A great atmosphere in the home section of the ground at least.
Inspired by Paul Lambert, orchestrating proceedings from his new vantage point high up in the gods, (aka Valhalla, or the director’s box at Carrow Road), the Canaries (aka the Budgies by those unfortunate enough to have been born south of the border; see John Wyndham’s “ the Chyrsalids” for further details of the “blasphemies” aka the Blue Vermin) displayed a self confidence and a passion, a desire to do well, a will to win, and the confidence to do just that.
Grant Holt showed that he at least was fired up with a crunching challenge after just five minutes. The crowd responded. Holty scored a cracking goal which he took very well, helped enormously by a piece of poor defending by the last ditch Binner (aka Barren O’Day) who had two chances to clear the ball over the City Stand, didn’t (or couldn’t) and then could only stand, watch, and applaud as Holt curled the ball around the keeper. The terraces erupted.
The play ebbed and flowed back and forth. Both sides had chances. The Binners (in the person of Delaney) equalised from a header at the far post from a free kick. They looked dangerous from set pieces and when going forward. But they looked horribly shaky at the back. Their supporters just looked horrible.
Holty was irrepressible. He was up for it. Red Card? What red card? Oh that one, which was rescinded. Yellow card? So what? Cue an excellent pass from debutant Henri Lansbury, and Holt fired home again. 2-1 to the Budgies and cruising.
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Just before half-time Holt broke free again. Some Binner (Delaney; see above) tried to haul him down and was quite rightly red carded. Roy Keane responded by taking off his most potent attacker, Jason Scotland, and bringing on in his stead another midfielder.
Half-time. Time for a stiff drink or three to keep out the cold on a bitter day, better suited to brass monkeys than football supporters.
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In the early stages of the second half the 10-man Binners tried to stifle the incessant waves of Canary attacks and frustrate the crowd by flooding the midfield. To some extent they succeeded. The Canary fans became impatient that for all their second half possession the Canaries were unable to add to their goal tally.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. After 64 minutes Lambert made an inspired substitution. Wes Hoolahan came on to replace the injured Surman. And after 76 minutes, following good work from Wes and the excellent Chris Martin, Holt had the chance, which he took with aplomb, to complete the first City hat-trick against the unmentionables since 1968-69 when Hughie Curran wrote himself a place in history by scoring a hat-trick for the Canaries in a 4-2 victory in the League Cup at Poorman Road.
Two minutes later, following yet more good work by Chris Martin, Wes scored the fourth City goal. Holt was taken off (no doubt to ensure that he did not receive a second yellow and a subsequent red card), and Lansbury too left the field. Jackson and Korey Smith played out the final few minutes.
The Ipswich fans had by now been reduced to silence. They took out their frustrations by fighting amongst themselves and beating up two bins in the away end at Carrow Road. They really are very tough guys you see. It may have helped them forget that 4-1 was Norwich’s best win against them at Carrow Road in living memory.
Roy Keane had to endure the usual chants of “Sacked in the morning” and “Keano Keano on the dole”. Ironically the Norwich fans were the ones at the end of the game chanting “Keano must stay”. But at least he was man enough not to make any excuses, and to admit that Norwich were the better side on the day. Not that he had much choice. Millions of BBC 1 viewers had seen his team dismantled, his team outplayed, outthought and outfought.
Millions of people all over the world were now in no doubt about which club was the Pride of Anglia...and which one wasn’t. After their fifth game unbeaten, Norwich moved up to fifth in the table. After four successive defeats Ipswich slumped to 14th in the table.
As for everybody connected with Norwich City, the day was a perfect end to the week. Debate raged about whether we should have scored more goals, but it doesn’t get much better than beating your local rivals 4-1 in front of a record crowd, seeing your Captain Courageous claim the match ball after a superb hat-trick, and returning to the play off positions.
Despite the plaintive chants from the home fans of “Can we play you every week?” one game does not make a season. Our only problem now is to keep our feet on the ground, not be carried away by ecstasy, euphoria, nor complacency.
Yes there will no doubt be a special commemorative DVD and t-shirt on sale at the Carrow Road shop very soon, but one swallow does not make a winter, and we have to take the next and subsequent games as the come. I am sure Lambert will be instilling just these ideas into the squad. The season is by no means over yet, despite this great result, and it is the Canaries’ league position at the end of the season that is all important.
A friend of mine who supports the unmentionables did in fact give me a very serious and probably quite correct explanation for their poor performance. Quite simply they were overawed at the prospect of playing in front of such a large crowd. In their recent home league games they have performed, for want of a better word, in front of crowds of 17 and 18,000 plus. Over 11,000 packed into their stadium to see the Carling Cup quarter final against Premier League side West Bromwich Albion. So they were understandably overawed by the atmosphere at Carrow Road, in front of such a huge crowd.
So a perfect end to a perfect day. Now I am not the sort of person to end on a smug “told you so” note. But those of you who were paying attention at the time may remember that on 25 September I wrote an article about Grant Holt, our Captain Fantastic, and told him that hat-tricks against Ipswich in November and April would be more than welcome.
He has delivered on the first. See you all at Poorman Road in April to see him deliver on the second. It would be a great place to clinch promotion to the Premier League.