David Hannant: I’m convinced Norwich City’s run as draw specialists will not last long
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As a busy February draws to a close (get it) two things have become fair descriptions of Norwich City - one very positive and one not quite as much.
The first description is one we have been crying out for since that drab run of a 10 games without a win - I feel we can confidently say Norwich City are hard to beat.
Three words once sung by a band I don’t particularly like, but three words to yearn for as a football fan. Hard to beat.
However, while an unbeaten run is always welcome the last four games have offered a slightly worrying other description: ‘draw specialists’.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of worse specialisms a team in transition such as ourselves could have. Own goal specialists. Red card specialists. Relegation specialists. We could be specialists in stagnating in the same league for 16 years, while playing mediocre football in front of half empty stadiums.
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But nonetheless, the notion of becoming draw specialists is about as appealing to me as, well, the weather at the moment, which I despise. Utterly, utterly despise.
But it is only really with hindsight that a draw is ever really a draw - when the dust has settled and all that is left is that one extra point on the board.
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In the past four fixtures we have practically seen every kind of draw you could have.
The draw that feels like a defeat, when you know a gilt-edged chance to win the game has been spurned – Derby.
The draw that was slightly disappointing, but one you would have taken before kick-off anyway – also Derby.
The draw that feels like a win in the moment, due to the euphoria of a late equaliser – both Ipswich and Wolves.
Of course, only one of these you would have taken before kick-off, but that’s by the by. I won’t say which one, but it wasn’t away to the runaway league leaders.
And finally, the draw that feels in no way like a win; you know too many lines have been fluffed and you certainly wouldn’t have taken it at 3pm – Bolton.
All that was missing really was a draw that genuinely feels like a draw – either two sides so equally drab or equally brilliant that they cancel each others out.
But nonetheless, regardless of how they felt, all we have to show from them is four points. It doesn’t really matter how they come, they all have the same reward.
I could dwell on what could have been, had just a few of these been turned into wins, but instead I’m going to return to my first, three-word description.
Being hard to beat is great, and the optimist in me keeps saying it is just one vital step away from winning most of the time.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the old saying goes, and a more resolute Norwich City, with a never-say-die attitude is what I am seeing Daniel Farke build.
The most recent draw, at home to Bolton, was disappointing, but it was very, very fine margins.
The first 45 minutes were as dominant as I have seen City all season and on another day, the German’s team talk could have been very different.
Had James Maddison’s free-kick hit the other side of the post, had Moritz Leitner taken his golden opportunity, had Ben Alnwick had an off day, it would have been game over by half-time.
These moments can be looked at through frustrated eyes, as a sign of what could have been, but instead, I choose to look at them as what is on the horizon.
As we’ve seen in the past, there are days when everything just flies in, and if we keep creating the opportunities, it will come.
And I honestly believe it will only take one of these days for the floodgates to open. Goals breed confidence, after all.
To hark back to the Rome analogy, the first things to be laid in any development are the foundations. In making his side resolute, hard to beat and physically fit, Daniel Farke has laid his foundations.
Now though, is the time for the rest of the fort to be built, with particular focus being placed on the heavy artillery.
Weather permitting, City visit Oakwell on Saturday to face struggling Barnsley, a side that in recent years we have had quite a lot of joy against.
Since the turn of the century, all of the following scorelines have cropped up in City’s favour – 5-1, 3-1 (twice), 4-0, 2-0 more than once.
In fact, the Tykes have only beaten City once in the past 14 meetings between the two sides.
Barnsley aren’t in the best of form of late either, so what better opportunity to get those shooting boots on.
And I truly believe, once a few of the chances start dropping in, the floodgates will be open and we can distance ourselves from that unwanted label – draw specialists.
Onel Hernandez will excite - with time
Onel Hernandez made his first start on Saturday and in fairness, looked a bit raw.
For large amounts of the game he looked a bit lost. However, it takes a special player to tear up trees straight away.
But what I did see from Hernandez was a few flashes of intuition that tell me he could well be a big, big player when he settles.
He looks an intelligent player, who is keen to get the ball at his feet, which I love to see from a winger. He also showed some really bright touches, which bodes well, certainly for next season.
While he did dip in and out of the game, that is to be expected from a player yet to sample the frantic nature of the Championship and English football in general. I’ve got a really good feeling about him and if he can get to grips with the pace and nature of the English game, his talent will shine through.
In his home debut against Middlesbrough he spurned a good chance to get off the mark, but I’d rather have no debut goal and a decent player than Marc Libbra any day.
Posh bring in a sweeper system
As I’ve alluded to in my main piece, I am no fan of this white stuff that has decided to grace us with its presence.
However, when football is concerned, it does always produce great memories.
One of my first away matches was at Derby County a few years ago, which was touch and go due to snow. City won that game 2-1, but the fact it was snowy is the memory that sticks with me the most.
Another great snow football memory was created this week, although admittedly not at a Norwich City game.
With Peterborough United leading Walsall 2-1 in League One, the more than inclement weather conditions put the rest of the match in jeopardy.
However, the ground staff leaped into action to rescue the game, with Posh’s own Steven Taylor grabbing a broom and mucking in too.
There is so much I hate about snow – it’s wet, it’s cold, it makes driving a nightmare. However, its one redeeming factor is that it creates images like this – but I put this as a testament to the beautiful game, not the horrible snow!