Fingernails are all gone after Carrow Road classic
For any neutrals in the crowd, Norwich City’s Championship encounter with Leicester City must have been an absolute classic.
The game had everything: goals galore, yellow cards, a red card, a penalty and pulsating end-to-end entertainment.
For 25,000 City fans and boss Paul Lambert, though, it was a night when everyone would have gone home without any fingernails.
No-one could have foreseen how the game would pan out. City slipped a goal behind after just 78 seconds and it definitely affected them. For the next 25 minutes they struggled to shift out of first gear.
Unlike visitors Leicester that is, who – naturally buoyed by their dream start – looked confident, lively and anything but the struggling side they presently are.
The Canaries desperately needed something to spark them into life, and they went about it the right way by starting to close their opponents down more quickly than had earlier been the case, and by generally increasing the tempo of their play.
And when the excellent Andrew Crofts finished off a fine move to draw the sides level, Norwich suddenly appeared to be a yard or two quicker in every department of the team.
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By half-time though, the Canaries would have been happy to be on level terms given that they had yet to really find their rhythm.
The second half hardly provided anyone with time to catch their breath, and you didn’t dare take your eyes off the game for fear of missing something. Norwich were much improved after the break. The players were able to generate a sufficient momentum to their attacking play and things just seemed to click into place better.
Both full-backs were able to get forward down the flanks with purpose, the advanced midfielders began to dribble and drive directly at the heart of the Leicester defence, and chances were invariably created as confidence and conviction replaced hesitancy and uncertainty.
Twice City earned themselves a two-goal cushion, but twice the visitors promptly went and halved it. The game became too open and entertaining for comfort from a Norwich perspective, and although you always felt that City still held the upper hand, it was edge-of-the-seat stuff all the same as the minutes slowly ticked away.
It was somewhat ironic that after playing with such control and assuredness three days earlier against Hull and yet losing the game without even scoring, that City were able to smash four past their opponents last night and win without hitting those standards.
And while they might not have had it all their own way or made it particularly easy for themselves, there’s no denying City deserved to win the game last night and accordingly they deserve all the credit they receive as a result.
Because winning games is what it’s all about at professional level, and the third place in the table that City occupy at the moment is an absolutely amazing achievement, it has to be said.
• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – WES HOOLAHAN: Andrew Crofts was terrific again last night. He not only offers a strong physical presence in midfield but also demonstrates quality on the ball and provides a goal threat. Adam Drury deserves a mention for providing a viable attacking outlet on the left flank and for taking his goal so well. But Hoolahan gets my vote. He once again caused the opposition so many problems when he had the ball at his feet. He was involved in the build-up of two City goals, and he capped his fine performance with a well-taken penalty and superb dipping volley from fully 25 yards out.