MY TOP FIVE: The crucial moments of City's promotion success
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
With promotion signed and sealed, our chief Norwich City correspondent David Freezer picks his five top moments so far of a memorable Championship campaign.
First win in six months
As Adam Idah fired high into the roof of the net in the September sunshine, the relief was palpable from all of those connected with Norwich City at the John Smith’s Stadium.
There may have been no fans at Huddersfield on the opening day of the new Championship campaign but Canaries players, substitutes, coaches, staff and directors roared with a celebration brewed by months of bitter relegation pain.
So when Teemu Pukki raced through on goal in the 80th minute after a defensive mistake, the anticipation of a turning point unfolded rapidly. The Finn showed his class to dummy a pass before squaring to Idah, who squeezed the ball into the net under pressure.
Social distancing and a small press box meant I was sat alongside colleague Paddy Davitt at the back of the directors’ box.
That rare opportunity to sit in the comfy chairs also allowed us to see the wide eyes of City directors and senior staff after the final whistle, with huge smiles undoubtedly under their face masks.
After the season had made a strange start with a 3-1 defeat at Luton in the League Cup when half of City’s squad were unavailable, the feeling of a very welcome fresh start was undeniable.
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Millers paid the penalty
Just a point from the next three matches meant the pressure was on when City pitched up in Rotherham after the international break in early October.
Every Championship team knows they’re in for a tough game against the spirited Millers but some dozy defending saw the hosts take the lead in just the third minute through Freddie Ladapo and the same player had the chance to make it 2-0 in the 21st minute, after Idah had conceded a naïve penalty.
The Canaries had an ace up their sleeve though; the penalty-saving expertise of Tim Krul.
The Dutchman dived to his left to save the spot-kick and City worked their way back into the game in the second half, with Max Aarons forcing an own goal in the 68th minute and Rotherham defender Angus MacDonald sent off for an awful tackle on Oliver Skipp three minutes later.
It all came down to the fifth minute of added time though, after Emi Buendia had been fouled in the box, giving Jordan Hugill the opportunity to win it from the spot. The striker calmly sent the keeper the wrong way for his first City goal and there was Krul, running the length of the pitch to join the celebrations as the most satisfying of hard-fought away wins was secured.
Academy lads to the rescue
The 2-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday was a slightly different one for me, enjoyed at home with a beer in hand at the end of a week off duty, watching via the iFollow feed that City fans have had to depend on.
Having always kept a close eye on the academy as part of my job, it’s great to see young lads making the step up, as Josh Martin did against the Owls.
Within two minutes of being brought on in the 79th minute the midfielder has timed his run perfectly and called for a Mario Vrancic pass, poking under the keeper to equalise.
Just 12 months after bursting onto the scene with an FA Youth Cup hat-trick at Carrow Road, the teen looked like he didn’t know what to do as he celebrated a massive moment during his breakthrough phase of the season.
Three minutes later and the Canaries had the lead, as Vrancic set up Aarons for the winner, sparking joyful scenes for the lucky 2,000 fans allowed to be inside Carrow Road that day.
Young talent coming to the fore, during a ridiculous injury crisis, to bounce back from a worrying 3-1 loss at Luton. With injury returns not far away, it felt like a massive moment.
Buendia’s beauty against Barnsley
Less a moment of significance and more one of beauty, from a player enjoying a quite brilliant individual campaign.
The cross-field dart from Buendia to trigger Kenny McLean’s pass into the Barnsley box was followed by a majestic volley, barely breaking stride to thump the ball underneath the advancing goalkeeper.
It was a goal befitting of earning a valuable three points in a 1-0 win that kicked off 2021 in style after a defeat and a draw had closed out the previous year.
The fact that it probably isn’t even Buendia’s best goal of the season says much about just how good the Argentine has been.
The moment of crowning glory
There are seven to choose from but it was Todd Cantwell’s goal for 4-0 against Huddersfield when reporters started diving into the record books, realising something special was unfolding.
Having set up the first and played a part in the third, Cantwell was teed up by Buendia to smash into the top-left corner and take a 4-0 lead in just the 29th minute.
When Kieran Dowell made it five, it was mainly laughs bouncing around the press box, as the annihilation of the visitors continued and the chance of matching the Carrow Road record of six in the first half opened up – from during the 7-1 thrashing of Reading four years earlier.
City couldn’t quite manage that but Pukki completed his hat-trick after the break to put the icing on the cake and substitute Hugill added the cherry on top, as the class of 2020-21 became the first Canaries team to ever enjoy a seven-goal winning margin in the second tier.
It was truly an epic night, which all but ensured a superb promotion feat would be secured in the weeks ahead.