Norwich City’s late shows not down to coincidence
At the risk of the main substance of this week’s column being not too dissimilar to last week’s, I have to say that it’s actually quite refreshing penning comparable notes considering what has happened here over the past season and-a-half when compared to how things have been with the Canaries in previous campaigns.
The reason for the similarity is that when analysing their most recent display, there have been particular recurring aspects.
Because no matter if it’s been one of the many occasions when they’ve played at their very best, or whether it’s been a so-so day when they’ve played well in spells and less so in others, or even if it’s been a game when they’ve not hit top gear at all, the couple of things we’ve virtually been guaranteed on a match day is witnessing the team giving it their all and showing a willingness to fight to the end, whilst trying to find a way of coming up with the answers to the questions they have been posed in the process.
It’s not purely down to coincidence why City have scored relatively late on in so many games, and it’s not down to coincidence why they have managed to secure so many positive results on the occasions when they haven’t zipped the ball about in the manner we know they can.
No, in addition to the fact that manager Paul Lambert and his squad of players are clearly more than a match for any of their Championship counterparts, the other reason why City sit within touching distance of an automatic promotion spot at present is because they have showed the necessary desire and determination to put themselves there in the first place. By possessing the winning mentality.
Take the game at Sheffield United last Saturday.
Everyone acknowledges the fact that City struggled to find their rhythm in the opening 45 minutes.
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And even in the second half they still didn’t hit the peaks that has seen them look a class above some teams this season, despite them having raised the tempo and quality of their game after the half-time interval. A week earlier against fellow high-flyers Cardiff it was an entirely different scenario in that City dominated the game in essence, yet were often left frustrated on account of failing to find the killer pass to unlock the Bluebirds’ defence.
Yet in each of these games a familiar, determined attitude permeated their performances. It should have come as no surprise that City emerged from them both with positive results.
Whenever the Canaries do click into gear, it’s a safe bet to suggest that whoever their unfortunate opponents happen to be on the day just might end up leaving the pitch feeling distinctly sorry for themselves.
But the reassuring thing is that even on the occasions when City do not, there’s still more than a fair chance of the outcome being favourable.
• BANTER BETWEEN RIVALS IN GOALSCORING STAKES IS SUCH A HEALTHY SIGN
It’s always a good sign that spirits are high in the dressing room when the players are happy to reveal the banter that goes on.
After Andrew Crofts sealed another three points for the Canaries at Sheffield United last Saturday courtesy of two well-taken goals, he publicly let it be known afterwards that it might have been the gentle reminder from Russell Martin earlier in the week that the pair were neck-and-neck on four goals apiece that gave him the added determination to try to hit the back of the net again. For a full-back, the four goals that Martin has bagged so far this term is already an impressive return, and after he scored his late equalising goal against Cardiff the previous Saturday it’s clear that he had been making sure that the rest of his colleagues were aware of it.
Derek Mountfield was the same one year at Everton. Not only was he impressing at centre-back with some sterling defensive displays, but he was also in a rich vein of goalscoring form. And, of course, he made sure the rest of us didn’t forget.
Trouble was, I think he went on to score about 14 or 15 goals that year – more than some of the strikers and certainly more than any of the midfielders. Mike Milligan was the same after his first goal here in a City shirt. He probably thought that it would be the first of many.
Problem was, I think his hair had turned grey before he next put his name on the scoresheet, and most of the young supporters that had witnessed his first goal probably witnessed his second with their own children sat alongside them. (By the way, if you’re reading this Milly, I haven’t forgotten the �100 that you still owe me from our goalscoring bet.) The thing is, aside from it rankling a little – no-one likes being on the receiving end of any stick, no matter how good-natured it might be – deep down everyone knows that it is the type of banter that many of your opponents would probably give their right arms to be engaging in.
Because it means that, as a team, you are doing something right.
As for the Canaries, I think it goes without saying therefore that if you’ve got your right-back and someone who has played as a holding midfielder for much of the season winding each other up over the amount of goals they have scored, the team is pretty much heading in the right direction.
So let’s hope for more of it.
• PENALTY RECORD NEEDS A SPOT OF AMENDING
Before I get on the phone to my lawyers, Schillings (who I hear are quite busy at the moment), I’d first like to give the Evening News employee the opportunity to rectify his – or her – error, after he – or she – deducted a couple of penalties from my total here at Norwich in last week’s column.
Because underneath a photograph of me netting from a spot-kick in a 4-4 draw with Charlton at the Valley in ‘97, he – or she – had included the words: “Adams scored 12 out of 13 spot-kicks for the Canaries.”
It was actually 14 out of 15, with the only miss occurring at Swansea... when I had a heavy cold... and my standing foot slipped as I struck the ball... and the sun was in my eyes... and the goalie came off his line... and the ball moved off the spot just as I was about to kick it...
Ok, so I might have included the penalty I scored in the League Cup penalty shoot-out against Bolton in that total, but I do so on the reasoning that if I’d missed it you can be sure that it would have counted as a miss.
So 14 out of 15 it should be.
• LOAN SPELLS CAN BENEFIT ALL PARTIES
It was good to see that quite a few of the first team fringe players have agreed to go out on loan for the next few weeks.
Players need to be playing football on a Saturday afternoon, not sitting in the stands or at home on the sofa watching TV.
It’s what you work towards all week in training.
If you’re not included in the starting XI and are finding it difficult to secure a place on the bench, providing it suits all parties, there’s only good to be gained from a loan spell.
Because it either provides you with an opportunity to impress a potential new employer or, it gets you match-fit, increases your sharpness and properly gets you back into “match day mode” for if and when you then find yourself back in contention for a place in the squad on your return.