Paddy Davitt verdict: Norwich City find the remedy for a combustible mix at Bramall Lane
- Credit: Michael Sedgwick/Focus Images Ltd
Less three points towards Norwich City’s Championship kitty and more a badge of honour.
Chris Wilder and his Sheffield United battalions vocalised their rage towards perceived injustice. Everyone from the Canaries’ coach driver to some travelling fans embroiled in unsavoury scenes outside Bramall Lane were swept up in the maelstrom.
It was a volatile mix. A throbbing, intimidating, aggressive environment. But in the midst of the storm stood Daniel Farke, his backroom team and Norwich’s playing staff.
It is scarcely believable the scale of the transformation – in terms of defensive resolution – from the anaemic and insipid offerings at Millwall or Aston Villa.
Personnel have been shuffled, formations have been tweaked but underpinning the turnaround appears to be a collective resolve and a will to resist.
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This result and this clean sheet should be pinned right at the top of Norwich’s Championship fixture list for the rest of the season. Norwich will surely not encounter such a torrent of disapproval on the road again.
Wilder’s post-match accusations bordered on the farcical, One would politely point him in the direction of Norwich’s previous home stalemate against battling Burton if he wishes to discuss game management tactics.
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City soaked up pressure, threw yellow shirts in the line of fire and protected Angus Gunn for all bar one momentary alarm in the first half, when he raced out to smother David Brooks’ effort.
Yes, Norwich did everything in their power to preserve the lead engineered by Yanic Wildschut’s meaty right-footed finish, but you can be sure the Blades will find themselves occupying similar inhospitable terrain at various points over the coming months.
Gunn’s temperament and his maturity survived a stern test. The objects that landed in his penalty area as the game reached a crescendo were calmly passed to the relevant authorities before he resumed his station in front of the packed Kop for the final onslaught.
Farke’s troops displayed steeliness and a composure that belied the frenetic atmosphere, whipped up by Wilder’s pantomime act in retrieving the ball from City’s technical area. That earned him a rebuke and removal to the first row of the stand, behind the home dugout. From that point on, every challenge and every flashpoint fuelled the combustible cocktail.
James Husband went down in an off-the-ball collision that sparked a furious response from Farke’s lieutenants. The German merely ushered his support staff back into the away dugout while Cameron Jerome sought to broker peace talks between the main protagonists.
Jamal Blackman ensured the ball and James Maddison would go no further, after City had sprung a counter that freed the young midfielder to race into Sheffield United’s penalty area. Maddison’s appeals for a spot kick were rejected and insult was added to injury when he got booked for a slow retreat from the pitch. Farke was denied the chance to immediately introduce Grant Hanley to bolster his backline, until the next break in play. It was the only moment the mask slipped as he protested towards the fourth official.
The unflappable German is at pains to point out nothing in England’s second tier has caught him by surprise but this must have proved a sharp learning curve for him and many of the new players he recruited from his homeland. Tom Trybull and Marco Stiepermann appear to relish the physical tariff. Christoph Zimmermann betrayed no signs of weakness alongside Timm Klose, while Alex Tettey is responding in kind after being recalled from the cold.
When the noise abated and the final whistle brought blessed relief you only had to witness the scale of the celebrations between Norwich’s players, fans and coaching staff.
It was not a triumphal display. Or a premature acknowledgement the path will always be smooth from this point onward.
But it did feel like a watershed moment. Given it was earned away from the secure confines of Carrow Road, given it was against a team who had won the previous four and with a manager happy to talk up their promotion credentials prior to the game, it was an impressive mission statement.
Farke and those on duty in Sheffield must harness that sense of what it took to prevail and how sweet it felt at the conclusion. Now they must do it all over again on a weekly basis. The marker has been set.