Last-gasp comebacks can’t become habit for Norwich City
Late goals and late comebacks – we’ve been treated to quite a few already from the Canaries this season.
Of course, the very definition of the words means that everything hasn’t exactly gone according to plan on the particular match days when we’ve witnessed them.
But, equally importantly, it also shows that there is a healthy team spirit and a never-say-die attitude within the side that means that they aren’t going to simply roll over and die whenever defeat is staring them flush in the face.
Similar to the game at Cardiff a week earlier, Norwich once again found themselves trailing by a couple of goals against Burnley last Saturday.
City boss Paul Lambert even said in his programme notes before the game that they simply couldn’t afford to give themselves such a mountain to climb as they did in the Welsh capital and expect to take points from the game. Yet here his team were again faced with an almost identical situation.
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I’d expect the fact that the team found themselves in such a situation again would have been suitably discussed within the confines of the dressing room at half-time! But we’ve got to give them credit for their comeback as they somehow managed to drag themselves back on level terms and even came close to nicking all three points near the end.
The introduction of Anthony McNamee proved a shrewd decision, as his regular deliveries into the box from the right flank helped City build momentum and increase the pressure on the visitors.
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It was stirring stuff, made even better by the reaction of the crowd, who turned that second half into one of those special occasions that stay firmly etched in the memory.
The noise and scenes that greeted the equaliser in particular when the excellent Andrew Crofts controlled the ball – clearly with his chest – and smashed the ball into the net was more akin to those of a late cup final winner.
No doubt along with many thousands of others, I lost my voice for a few seconds afterwards.
Of course, the ideal situation would be for us not have to witness the Canaries’ ability to grind out results.
It would be better for them to have edged themselves ahead in matches, but it’s reassuring to know that City have the ability to turn things round tucked away in their locker if it does happen to go pear-shaped.
I suppose it was a nailed-on certainty, given the number of times that City have snatched late goals already this season, that the tables would be turned on them at some time or other.
But Millwall’s late, late equaliser on Tuesday night was still a real sickener.
The Canaries have conceded several sloppy goals from set-pieces this season and no doubt that is something that won’t have been brushed aside lightly within the camp, but Tuesday’s goal wasn’t conceded under “normal” circumstances.
When it’s “last chance saloon” time, anything goes. There are a million and one bodies in the box and accordingly marking and positioning tends to become a bit of a lottery.
And so, without making excuses as such, I wouldn’t apportion too much blame in this instance for the Canaries allowing victory to be snatched away from them right at the death.
All in all, and especially as Lambert was down to the bare bones in terms of his squad selection, it was a good night’s work.
CITY HAVE A SURPRISING NEW WEAPON UP THEIR SLEEVE
It appears that Stoke City aren’t the only club that have a player in their ranks who can deliver ball into the box from a throw-in like an exocet missile!
Step forward Matt Gill. City’s answer to Rory Delap, who certainly surprised the Millwall defence with the distance he managed to sling the ball that led to David Fox’s thunderbolt strike.
I played golf with Gilly in a charity event in the summer – great guy, by the way – and safe to say that I was more than a little impressed by his ability to regularly hit the ball 350 yards off the tee.
The looks on faces of the next group behind us when they realised that the longest drive he’d just hit wasn’t far short of their second shots was priceless.
I just had to know how far he’d hit it, so I paced it out. I think it was about 362 yards in total, which wasn’t half bad considering that the ball had to travel up an uphill slope for the last 70 or 80 yards!
But after that throw-in at Millwall in midweek, it seems it isn’t just golf balls that he can propel for miles!
THANKFULLY, THE DEN ISN’T LIKE IT USED TO BE
Millwall away on a cold and wet Tuesday night.
The very thought would have made many a player, manager or supporter shudder not so long ago.
And by not so long ago I mean when the Lions were resident at their ramshackle, decaying and thoroughly intimidating “old” Den, as opposed to their smart, if somewhat nondescript modern home.
They don’t exactly roll out the red carpet and make you welcome at the ‘new’ Den – the older supporters in the crowd for whom running amok and frightening the living daylights out of the opposition supporters back in the 80s see to that – but at least it’s a more mellow place to play and watch football these days.
I think back to when I first visited the old Den as a fresh-faced teenager when I was playing for Stoke, and the sight of hundreds of Millwall fans outside all the pubs hurling abuse – and one or two pint glasses – at the team coach as we snaked our way to the ground through the narrow streets around those dockland areas.
And the small, dark away team dressing room that was illuminated by a single bulb that hung from a single wire from a damp, mouldy ceiling.
And the quarter of an inch of water that covered the floor.
And the lack of any form of heating, and the windows that were jammed wide open to allow a cold breeze to blow thorough the room. Never was the name of the address of a ground more apt. Cold Blow Lane it most certainly was.
And I recall the hostility and venom that permeated from every corner of the ground for each and every one of the 90 minutes of play.
And I remember my mate Steve Bould getting sent off and having to run through a hail of coins, phlegm and hot tea as he tried to reach the sanctuary of the dressing room.
And I’ll never forget the old lady – she must have been at least 70 years old and who I presume was accompanying her grandson, who must have been no more than eight years old – simultaneously firing volleys of insults at me as I walked towards the perimeter fence that surrounded the pitch, thank God for that perimeter fence, to fetch the ball to take a throw-in.
Oh it was a lovely place was the old Den! I don’t think any of us will live to see the day when there’s a truly friendly atmosphere at Millwall. After all, they proudly remind everyone that ‘No-one likes us . . . we don’t care”. That won’t change.
But although it seems that virtually every one of their supporters still feels duty-bound to contest every decision that goes against them as though it’s a life and death matter, as the old saying goes: “It ain’t like it used to be.”