100 days ago - the games that sum up Norwich City’s season so far
- Credit: PA
Today marks 100 days since Norwich City played a Premier League game – Chris Lakey takes a look at the closing stages of the curtailed campaign.
If ever you wanted to encapsulate Norwich City’s season within the space of half a dozen games,,, this is it.
Wasteful, brave, woeful, defiant, battling and outwitted.
The last batch of games before the season was brought to a close had a bit of everything – just not enough of the bits that keep the Championship wolves from the door.
A goalless draw at Newcastle was a missed opportunity. City had 20 shots on goal, just four on target, and even the sound of the home fans berating their own players at the final whistle couldn’t hide the disappointment.
City’s former Newcastle keeper Tim Krul summed it up: “A special day for me personally, just frustrated that we didn’t walk away with the three points. I think we’ve done enough to earn them, more than enough really.”
Even as early as mid-February, Liverpool were being described as champions-elect, a status they simply confirmed with a single-goal victory at Carrow Road. But while they weren’t perhaps given a full run for their money on a rain-soaked afternoon, Sadio Mane winning it in the 78th minute, City did enough for their own fans to raise the roof in appreciation. Liverpool worked hard for the points, but this time City couldn’t carve out chances - and when they did, Lukas Rupp took the wrong option, and an Alex Tettey shot hit the woodwork.
“We are disappointed to lose the game but we were good in so many topics,” said Farke, who also lost defender Sam Byram to injury. In normal circumstances, he might have missed the rest of the season. As it is, the break has given him extended recovery time.
That performance against Liverpool should have been enough for City to go to Molineux with a spring in their step, but instead they were woeful, going down 3-0 to Wolves.
Someone obviously forgot to tell them you are only as good as your last game: the only thing the two events had in common was the big, fat ‘L’ in the current form column.
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Diogo Jota’s pair of goals put Wolves in control after half an hour, with Raul Jimenez adding a third five minutes into the second half.
Alex Tettey was as honest as ever after the game: “Everything that happened from the 20th minute on, that’s not us. That’s a standard, individually, we should not have in this game.
“We just need to put our hands up and say we were not good enough. We’ve apologised to the away fans and we’ve got to get ourselves going again on Friday (at home to third-placed Leicester).
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“What we did today, that’s not good enough.”
Strange old game is football, though - when Leicester came to town the sight of ex-Canary James Maddison was a welcome distraction, but the Foxes were on a poor run of form by their standards, and City exploited it with a performance that was much more robust and a perfect response to the Wolves disappointment.
Jamal Lewis secured the points 20 minutes from time with his first league goal for City, on a night when defiance was the key word.
He said: “Our point this week was that we needed a reaction from Wolves, we were really disappointed from that and how it came across, because we felt like we prepared for the game very well. So the main thing was the reaction, to show the fans that we’re still pushing and we still believe - and it was great to get a clean sheet as well.”
Sometimes the FA Cup can provide a welcome relief from the stresses of a relegation battle: win or lose, there is an in-built excuse mechanism that kicks in to anyone who cares: lose and it leaves you to concentrate on the important matters of Premier League survival. Win and it’s a fillip to that ambition.
City won - after a penalty shootout - and reached their first FA Cup quarter-final in 28 years. Josip Drmic’s equaliser sent the game into extra-time, but keeper Tim Krul was the hero with two saves in the shootout.
Eric Dier wading into the home crowd to confront a fan was a sideshow for the hosts - Todd Cantwell’s ball-juggling skills before his spot-kick was the warm-up.
So, once again, City should have been on the front foot, mentally at least, when they headed to Sheffield United three days later - on Saturday, March 7.
By then, there were ominous signs of what was to come: players were told not to shake hands before the game - although Daniel Farke and Chris Wilder did the usual managers’ hug.
Billy Sharp settled it all out on the pitch for a side full of vim and vigour and drive - just like their manager.
And that was how City’s season came to a halt - little did we know how it would escalate, little did we know at what cost. And little do we know how this will all pan out.