Carl left feeling short-changed
Midfielder Carl Robinson summed up Norwich City's spectacular improvement in the space of a fortnight when he said: “We were disappointed with a point at Leeds.
Midfielder Carl Robinson summed up Norwich City's spectacular improvement in the space of a fortnight when he said: “We were disappointed with a point at Leeds.”
The Canaries came agonisingly close to stealing a magnificent three points in the Coca-Cola Championship at Elland Road on Saturday - foiled only by Eddie Lewis' perfect last-minute free-kick.
And while the purists may still insist that their 2-2 draw against the promotion chasers was more beast than beauty, after the 4-1 slaughter at Crystal Palace two weeks earlier those of a more pragmatic mind will take the point and run - particularly as it could so easily have been all three.
“The gaffer (Nigel Worthington) had used words like flimsy and weak after the Palace game and he was spot-on,” said the honest Robinson, who found himself centre stage in a rebuilt five-man midfield that left Leon McKenzie to plough a lone furrow up front.
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For the first 45 minutes, City duly got more bodies behind the ball and held firm after Rob Hulse's opener. For the second 45 minutes, they found that extra gear going forward and were bang on course for a famous away victory courtesy of goals from Andy Hughes and Paul McVeigh before Lewis' last-gasp strike.
“At Palace every time they attacked it looked like we'd concede, so being solid was something that we'd worked all week on and I thought today, even when we conceded that early goal, we really rolled our sleeves up and battled,” said Robinson.
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“And here we are, coming away from Elland Road, disappointed with only taking a point. And yet beforehand if you'd have said 'Would you take a point now?' nine times out of 10 we'd have taken it.”
Robinson had few complaints with Lewis' late goale as the American international dug into his bag of tricks and produced the perfect free-kick just when Leeds needed it most.
“Sometimes you've just got to hold your hands up - he's got that ability to do that,” said Robinson.
Irrespective of events later today, when the full Norwich City Independent Supporter's Association committee were set to get their chance to air their grievances with officials at Carrow Road, Saturday's performance sends the Canaries flying into their home match against Sheffield United on Saturday and the perfect opportunity to add to Neil Warnock's woes after the second-placed Blades stumbled again with their 2-0 defeat at Coventry City.
Lewis' 89th minute free-kick and those two lost points probably ended Norwich's own slim hopes of squeezing themselves into the top six, but Robinson is refusing to give up the chase.
“We're not giving anything up,” he said. “The game against Sheffield United next week is going to be a great game and there are going to be lots more twists and turns to come before the season's over.”
Whether Saturday's events earn under-fire City boss Nigel Worthington a break from protests next weekend only time will tell. Players and supporters did, at least, appear to be far more as one in Yorkshire as the club's travelling fans saluted a wholehearted effort from all concerned and awarded the likes of McKenzie and Darren Huckerby a standing ovation as they were substituted late on.
“I thought Leon's workrate was tremendous - the two centre-halves really knew that they'd been in a game today,” said Worthington, as he opted to keep £2.75 million new signing Rob Earnshaw on the bench.
The fact that Norwich were a goal to the good kept Earnshaw sidelined until the game's dying moments.
“Had we been chasing the game then Rob would have come on earlier,” said Worthington, hopeful that this performance is a sign of the ship being steadied away from home.
“We wanted to keep it nice and tight and that was much more like the Norwich of old - there was a bit more grit and determination. And we needed that - particularly after the Palace game, when we didn't turn up.
“I thought in the second half we passed the ball a lot better and caused Leeds all sorts of problems. And, having been here as a player, I know that Elland Road is a very, very tough place to come and get a result.”
Worthington also reserved special praise for Hughes, whose 57th-minute strike cancelled out Rob Hulse's first-half opener, and the unstinting efforts of his two wide men - Huckerby and McVeigh. Huckerby thoroughly enjoyed his battle with his one-time Leeds pal Gary Kelly as he turned the Leeds right-back inside out to twice pull the ball back for the lurking McVeigh. It was from the second cross that McVeigh put City within sight of three big points.
“I thought Darren worked very hard for the team today as did Paul McVeigh. Andy's gone and got the goal and he deserved that. He gives us huge amounts of energy and he's done a good job for us today.”