Ten snippets from the season
This season City played 49 competitive games of which I attended 35. I missed both the home cup games and two home league fixtures due to family commitments, and I went away 14 times. I also got to two pre-season friendlies and the FA Youth Cup tie at Fulham. So, all in all, it was a slightly better than average season, attendance wise, for this London based supporter.
Being picky here I do have a few regrets about this season. I could not get to Ipswich at home as it was Gemma’s birthday, and the only other league home match I missed was our win against Bristol City where the two late goals were scored at the River End; all the other late goals seemed to be at the Barclay.
As regards the away games, I really wished Andrew Crofts’ goal of the season at Barnsley had been at our end, and due to work commitments I couldn’t get to Leicester away either.
My nit-picking aside it’s been an amazing roller-coaster of a season, and one that I have been privileged to enjoy over the last nine months. In August I had dared to hope for an upper mid-table finish and if I had been told that after 42 games we would have to win our last four games to scrape into the play-offs I would have been more than happy. Little did I know that winning four games in a row would secure promotion to the Premier League.
So here are, in no particular order, my ten snippets from the season which helped secure our promotion. Not necessarily the best games, the best wins or the best performances, just a few of the things that shaped and stood out in this amazing season.
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• 1. Not losing at Palace
Our annual trip to sit in the Arthur Waite Stand where I paid too much money for zero points was re-arranged for the date of the FA Cup fourth round, after we had been frozen off on Boxing Day. As there was a possibility of this being our last trip to Selhurst I took Gemma so she could appreciate how awful the place was. It was a dreadful game, but we battled to a draw on a minefield of a pitch. Pre-Lambert we would have lost that game and it was definitely a point gained, not two points lost.
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• 2. Winning at Pride Park
The previous week we had battered Ipswich who were slightly better than rubbish, but this was a real test against a side that were in form and had a good home record. Two up in no time at all and then pegged back by a Kris Commons goal City held on for three priceless points. Nigel Clough’s post match interview about the lack of quality in his team was bizarre, even going as far to suggest that he didn’t want the game to be played and blaming the ground staff and local authority for getting the game on despite the snow. This was “the game” for me; when I thought we really had a decent chance of achieving something this season.
• 3. John Ruddy’s last minute save against Sheffield United.
A second half cameo from Wes turned the game after City were 1-2 down at the break. Late on in second-half injury-time with City winning 3-2, Ched Evans wriggled free and from no more than ten yards out fired a powerful shot across John Ruddy into the far corner. Ruddy not only got a hand to the ball, but he didn’t spill the shot and City broke upfield with Holty setting up Wes for his hat-trick. We could have well ended up with a point, but gained all three from another heart-stopping end to a game.
• 4. Going for a win but losing at Burnley.
We tried three at the back, it didn’t work and City were a goal down at half-time. A brilliant finish from Holty brought City level and with a quarter of the game to go we threw on another attacker and went for the win, but lost it with ten to go against the run of play. It was one of the few times we had made an attacking change and come away with nothing. No complaints from me, this was the way we approached the game, and on many other occasions it had worked. This time it didn’t.
• 5. That penalty v Preston at home
It was a game City should have won and will be forever be remembered for Wes chipping a penalty which their keeper fell over and saved. Significantly, the most measured and calmest response to this was from Paul Lambert who refused to criticise Wes or anyone else and saw the draw as a point gained. It was the last one that Wes took and Holty was on penalty duty and scored the next one at Leicester.
• 6. Reading are McNally’d
Deep into added-on time, with the score level at 1-1, the ball was aimed into Row Z in the City stand from a Reading clearance. It was caught by David McNally, immediately thrown to Paul Lambert and back for a throw in, all within the space of a couple of seconds. Ten seconds after that the ball was in the net as Holty muscled past Ian Harte and bundled the ball in at the far post. It was a huge dollop of karma after Holty’s ridiculous sending off at the MadJad in which Harte had cheated and feigned injury. As Chris Goreham observed in his commentary, this was a goal created right from the top of Norwich City FC.
• 7. Jackson is back
We were treated to a goal-fest in the sun and poor Scunny were put to the sword by City who were unstoppable and played some delightful football. We saw a pair of hat-tricks, but the more significant of the two was from Simeon Jackson who went from out of form to red-hot in twenty minutes. This new found confidence and form in the run in played a huge part in securing second place in the Championship.
• 8. Holty’s Hamstring
No Wes at Watford. City scored early, but went in at half-time lucky to be only a goal behind. In the second half Jackson equalised and we could well have taken all three points. Late on in the game with all three subs already used, Holty crossed from the right and then held his leg looking like he’d pulled a hammy. He battled on, and appeared to make the injury worse, and we all thought our captain and leader was done for the season. Three days later, he made a Lazarus like recovery to lead the line and score against Nottingham Forest.
• 9. Ruddy’s six point save
The Swans were quite comfortably the best passing side we saw at Carrow Road, but lacked a cutting edge upfront whereas City created the better openings from less possession. It was 0-0 with ten minutes to go when Scott Sinclair was upended by John Ruddy to concede a penalty. David Cotterill’s low spot kick was palmed onto the post and within five minutes Ashley Williams had diverted an Antony McNamee cross into his own net and Simeon Jackson volleyed home in injury time to seal the win. It could have been zero points yet City ended up with all three against the team that was to finish third in the table.
• 10. Chris Goreham, “SHOOOOOOT, GOOOAAAALL!!!”
Of all the last minute goals over the last two seasons this was the one to top them all. I don’t think I’ve experienced a high like that at Carrow Road for many years and I’m not ashamed to say there were tears in my eyes at the end of the game. City hadn’t played that well, yet the team dug something out from a game which appeared to be heading for a draw. We might have not even had that fifth minute of added time had Derby, and in particular Robbie Savage, not taken so long with the substitutions.