Paddy Davitt verdict: Feeling queasy is what you sign up for City fans
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City supporters may already be in danger of sea sickness at the turbulent arc of this early Championship season.
On Friday afternoon, roughly around the time Daniel Farke was outlining how he had ‘pushed’ Stuart Webber to find him another centre back in the closing days of the window, before going on to reveal Christoph Zimmermann was injured for Rotherham, the mood was fractious.
Set against a backdrop of letting Ben Godfrey and Timm Klose depart, with a stuttering start to the Championship and that hangover from relegation still in the air, negativity prevailed.
A penny for Farke’s thoughts then when Grant Hanley was turned by Freddie Ladapo inside three minutes to slot the Millers ahead.
Yet Hanley and those he led responded commendably.
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If those encouraging performances against Bournemouth and Derby the other side of the international break were secondary to poor results then the same measure must hold true.
City were again profligate in front of goal, for all their weight of possession. Jamal Blackman was also in inspired shot stopping form.
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While Rotherham’s opener again highlighted issues to address defensively, and the space afforded the hosts inside Tim Krul’s area on two occasions when they went down to 10 men was truly alarming.
But City walked off the pitch with three points and a bucketload of confidence and self belief.
The scale of the celebrations that greeted Jordan Hugill’s nerveless 95th minute penalty were surely tinged with waves of relief. Krul race the length of the field to be part of the collective outpouring.
Do Norwich have to improve? Yes. Will Farke or Webber, for that matter, take a sharp intake of breath every time a Hanley or Ben Gibson or Zimmermann hit the deck between now and the January transfer window? Probably. But this display of courage and resilience was out of the title-winning playbook.
When Farke pleads for time and patience to ride out the debilitating distractions of the transfer circus, and the disruption caused by the international windows, you can choose to sympathise or dismiss the head coach’s mitigation as excuses. It matters little. What does matter is City’s impressive comeback against a side full of that forward propulsion you associate with newly promoted clubs.
The parallels with a season defining win over Middlesbrough in the title winning campaign at this same stage are impossible to ignore.
Farke again emerged after an international break to make a bold striker call. Teemu Pukki was out, Hugill was in and the former West Ham man’s match clinching stoppage time penalty capped an all action display.
There was also abundant promise in Adam Idah’s first Championship start, operating off the left but with the licence to cut infield and showcase his goalscoring instincts.
The defensive side needs work, given the rashness of his challenge that hooked Clarke Robertson’s legs to concede a first half spot kick. But Krul to the rescue is a well worn headline in Norwich colours.
Farke nailed it afterwards with a matter-of-fact acknowledgement he has the best keeper in the division, and why would you expect anything less?
In the insular nature of how we all consume Norwich the manner of this result perhaps re-affirms they still have players to mount a serious tilt at promotion.
In the key moments it was Krul, it was Emi Buendia, it was Max Aarons, it was Hugill.
For all the angst induced by the failure to recruit a fourth centre back, keeping Buendia and Aarons and Todd Cantwell looks excellent business.
There will still be that nagging sensation it may simply have postponed the inevitable come January, but for now the focus can narrow and the pursuit of Championship wins is the aim.
Harness those feelings at full time following a stirring fightback and even the most pessimistic follower might agree a page has finally been turned.
Farke may be presiding over his fourth season but this has felt like another work in progress since the Canaries embarked on a squad overhaul in the aftermath of relegation.
Rotherham was the first tangible sign the best attributes from Farke’s Norwich remain.
They have added more physical ballast, more energy, more athleticism and in operators like Hugill and Gibson more streetwise nous.
Farke has to meld the old with the new but do so while producing winning football. Anything less simply will not do. But there was nothing tired or end of an era about this win.