Melissa Rudd: Norwich City’s new boys have a buzz about them
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There is a certain buzz that fills a stadium when an attacking player has space to run in front of him and the ball at his feet.
When that player is just minutes into his debut it feels even more special. Twenty-five thousand fans collectively roared on Onel Hernandez when he was set free on the left after coming on as a late substitute. Of course, if his final shot had flew in rather than gone a couple of yards wide he would have been grabbing the headlines.
As it was, another new recruit was able to make more of an impression. He may only have had half an hour on the pitch but Moritz Leitner displayed excellent vision and an array of passing that suggested he could be the central playmaker Norwich have been crying out for.
Fresh signings always inject enthusiasm into a crowd, whether they are household names or in Norwich’s case of late, ones you’ve had to type into a search engine. Saturday was no different. The fact that deadline day had passed and James Maddison had escaped the clutches of circling Premier League clubs was also reason to celebrate.
The arrivals of Leitner, Hernandez, Dennis Srbeny and earlier Marcus Edwards means Daniel Farke has now had two transfer windows to assemble his own group of players to vie for first-team places and provide much needed competition.
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Given Norwich’s miserable track record of failing to break teams down at Carrow Road, facing a team managed by Tony Pulis was a daunting prospect. Once Rudy Gestede saw red and Middlesbrough became a team of 10 sitting even deeper to compensate, that task could have been made even more difficult.
The timing of Tom Trybull’s thunderbolt seconds before the half-time whistle couldn’t have been more perfect in that respect. It meant Boro had to take risks to try and score to get anything out of the game and couldn’t sit camped in their own half for the entire second period. An ideal way for Trybull to cap a contract extension which was announced before kick-off, too.
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Having an extra man no doubt helped City as the visitors tired towards the end of the game. Saturday’s win was perhaps the most comfortable Norwich victory we’ve seen at home this season since beating QPR 2-0 back in August, despite the deficit being just a single goal.
There had been plenty of time wasting tactics on show the last time Boro had come to Carrow Road. In April 2015, a certain Patrick Bamford had played a big role in a 0-1 win that seemed crucial at the time but turned out to be meaningless at Wembley a month later.
Bamford, eventually back at Boro via that dismal loan spell at Norwich and another at Burnley, barely featured on Saturday. Adama Traore was the only real threat, and City’s defence deserved a lot of praise for how they handled his pace. Christoph Zimmermann, Grant Hanley and Timm Klose marshalled the backline to such an extent that Angus Gunn faced only a single shot on target. It was easy to forget that Boro were hunting for a fourth consecutive away win.
The home fanbase has often been divided over the last year, but Saturday proved that when it truly matters the club pulls together as one. Credit to them for inviting Simon Thomas’ son Ethan to lead out the team as mascot following the tragic loss of his mum, Gemma. Then 52 minutes in the applause that broke out in all four corners of Carrow Road in tribute to Michelle Dack was a lovely touch of solidarity. It was an emotional afternoon and the result could not have been more befitting.
A fifth win in seven Championship games means, dare we say it, there is real momentum in the squad in a period when they are going to need it most. But as encouraging as their current form is the fact that City are still only 13th despite that recent run shows just how hard it will be to climb the table.
With a trip to second-placed Derby, a small matter of an east Anglian derby and then a meeting with the league leaders all to come within the next 16 days, talk of snatching an unlikely play-off spot should perhaps be put on ice, at least until Bolton arrive at the end of the month. It will after all have a much more realistic ring to it if we go into that game with our current momentum intact.