Iwan Roberts: It’s five years too late but City new boy looks key addition

Ben Gibson looks to have settled well following his summer loan move from Burnley. Picture: Paul Che

Ben Gibson looks to have settled well following his summer loan move from Burnley. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Back-to-back narrow wins for the first time since the end of the 2019 season and all of a sudden the picture looks far healthier for Norwich City.

That good sign of scoring late goals is back again after Jordan Hugill’s late penalty was enough to put Rotherham to bed last Saturday with his first goal for the club. Then on Tuesday Mario Vrancic popped up with the winner against a stubborn Birmingham side having only been on the field for seven minutes, leaving the boys eighth in the Championship, just three points off the automatic promotion places.

I thought it was a very confident performance on Tuesday night. More goals should have been scored; if it wasn’t for poor finishing and some last gasp defending from Aitor Karanka’s men there would have been plenty. Some of the football played was top class, it just needed that final piece of the jigsaw to add extra gloss to the victory.

I remember scoring against Birmingham at The Barclay End back in September 1998, and it was the simplest of goals but one that we’d practiced up at Colney. Darren Eadie and I had spoken about certain things we could try if we won free kicks in wide positions in the lead up to the game that week.

With us winning the game 1-0, thanks to a Craig Bellamy header, we won a free kick on our right hand side which Darren always used to take. I don’t know why but I always preferred an in-swinging cross from a set-piece in wide areas, I always found them easier to attack.

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As soon as we’d won the free kick Darren went over and grabbed the ball. As soon as he placed it down I shouted “Jockey” (his nickname). We’d then make eye contact and I’d give him the nod. By giving him the nod he knew exactly where I wanted him to deliver the ball.

In those few seconds of Darren picking the ball up and placing it down it had given me an opportunity to assess how Birmingham were going to defend the set piece and in those few seconds I’d seen that they’d left a massive hole at that near post ready for me to attack.

MORE: Skipper relishing partnership with new boyTo score from a set piece you need two things: a good delivery, which we always got from Darren Eadie, and someone to attack the space which I duly did in this instance. Having lost my marker I then had to make sure I made good connection with the ball as it’s not the easiest thing to do when a ball is flying in at you at 100mph. Luckily on this instance I found the back of the net and we went on to win the game 2-0.

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I have to say I like the look of Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson playing together at the back. If they can stay fit they are as good a central defensive pairing as there is in the league. Ben, being a natural left footer, gives you that balance on the left-hand side of the two. Both are no-nonsense, proper defenders, which this team will benefit from this season.

I remember after winning promotion back in 2015 I did an interview with Norwich supporter Charlie Wyett. Charlie asked me if I was Norwich manager and had £5m to spend, not the biggest budget in the world I know, who would I go out and buy? It didn’t take me long to answer his question; Ben Gibson from Middlesbrough, the team that Norwich had just beaten in the play-off final, was my answer.

It might have taken over five years for it to happen, but now he’s here Ben’s going to be a tremendous signing for the football club.

I’ve got to finish this week’s column off by giving Todd Cantwell a mention for his performance the other night.

I thought he was tremendous from the first whistle to the last and thoroughly deserved his MOM award.

He looks like he’s focused again and ready for the challenge and by the looks of some of the treatment he received from the Birmingham players Tuesday night he’s going to be a marked man this season, but that’s a testament and a compliment to him as a player and nothing else.

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