David Freezer: Watch out Wigan, City are preparing a Sunday roast after moment of glory was stolen
- Credit: PA
Watch out Wigan – you’ve got some very good Norwich City players heading north with adrenaline pumping through their veins, a score to settle, with fire in their bellies.
I’m sure the league leaders can’t wait to get back out on the pitch tomorrow lunchtime, on the back of an emotional roller-coaster that created a strangely sombre atmosphere around a club on the verge of the Premier League.
It wasn’t because of the result; Reading had shown a decent bit of fight and organisation at Carrow Road on Wednesday night and a 2-2 draw clearly wasn’t that damaging in terms of the promotion race.
It was just the dramatic nature of the game’s chaotic closing stages which left Canaries fans feeling like they’d had their moment stolen – a glorious evening which would have been talked about for many years to come.
From the moment Ben Godfrey’s net-busting piledriver sparked the wild celebrations, you just knew this superb City side would kick down the blue and white door to score again.
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So when Christoph Zimmermann rose to crash home a true captain’s header less than three minutes later, it felt like this almost unbelievable season had reached its moment of destiny, the goal that promotion would be remembered for, the header which put one foot in the Premier League.
It’s what’s known in these parts as a ‘Simeon Jackson moment’, as the yellow and green celebrations swirled around Carrow Road amid a quite incredible noise, later aptly described by Daniel Farke as an “explosion”.
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So often it’s the words of the commentator that stick in the mind with these moments and Chris Goreham kept up his part of the bargain on BBC Radio Norfolk.
As Zimmermann turned to celebrate, Goreham roared: “Zimmermann’s header – oh it’s there! Incredible, absolutely incredible! Christoph Zimmermann, you will not see a better header from a corner, no matter how much football you watch.
“Malky Mackay, Duncan Forbes, Dave Stringer – they all would have been proud of that one!”
Unfortunately, the Royals hadn’t read the script.
Andy Rinomhota stroked a lovely strike into the top corner in the seventh minute of injury-time to burst the yellow balloon. The silence was deafening, the disappointment so evident for the crestfallen players.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who found it difficult to switch off and get to sleep after the game, with that slightly shell-shocked feeling still lingering on Thursday morning.
Not through worry that promotion was in the balance, thanks to Birmingham holding Sheffield United to a draw on the same night, but just that Zimmermann’s big moment of triumph had been snatched from the jaws of victory.
In a parallel universe, that Jordan Rhodes header slipped under the excellent Emiliano Martinez at the start of injury-time and we could all start having those Premier League conversations with greater conviction.
Should promotion be achieved then perhaps Stuart Webber will be asking Emi Buendia to have a word with his fellow Argentine, who has impressed for the Royals since joining on loan from Arsenal in January.
The 26-year-old’s early save from Onel Hernandez, point-blank stop from Teemu Pukki – after a quite brilliant cross from Jamal Lewis – in the second half and that pivotal denial of Rhodes, claim the real responsibility for the visitors’ point and Martinez could well prove excellent competition for Tim Krul should City go up.
After all that drama – and it has to be said, thrilling entertainment – it was straight up to Colney on Thursday afternoon for a full debrief with Farke at Colney, as attentions turned to Wigan on Sunday.
It felt like about five minutes since full-time but by the time the reassuringly calm words of City’s head coach had reminded everyone of a nine-game unbeaten run, a seven-point cushion and a team of hungry and exciting players, reality finally started to return.
Even Farke’s shoulders looked to have relaxed a little and his smile was wider, from having really got the issues of the game off his chest with the gathered media.
So Wigan may well be hard to beat on their own turf but good luck to them. I suspect they may well be about to feel the frustrations of the best team in the division unless they are very careful. With 5,300 City fans there to roar City on, a cracking Sunday roast is being prepared.
• STUBBORN LATICS
City will need every bit of added motivation to get them over the line at the DW Stadium tomorrow, as Wigan have proved a really tough nut to crack.
It looks likely to be a game much closer to the midweek 2-2 battle with Reading than last weekend’s 4-0 thumping of a pathetic QPR, which probably should have been 8-0.
West Brom, Bristol City and Aston Villa have all been beaten at the DW this season, where the Latics have lost just four of their 20 matches and conceded only 19 goals in the process.
Admittedly, one win in their last 11 overall suggests Paul Cook’s team have lost their way recently, but last season’s League One champions look certain to provide competitive opposition.
They face a Canaries team with the best return of away goals though (37), who have scored 23 during their current nine-game unbeaten streak.
It’s not quite an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, but a Mario Vrancic penalty was needed to beat the Latics at Carrow Road.
• AWAY DAY JOYS?
It’s going to be quite a sight seeing 5,300 City fans pack in at Wigan, once the fleet of 25 coaches arrive from Norfolk.
While those travelling on the club coaches are facing a 5am departure, we’re fortunate to be staying overnight to ensure we’re at the DW Stadium a couple of hours before kick-off, with plenty of work to follow the game before we can travel home. Here’s hoping we’re reporting on a victory though, as big away followings haven’t always been rewarded with success.
Over 8,700 went to Arsenal in the League Cup last season and saw a valiant City beaten 2-1 in extra-time, while the 7,700 at Crystal Palace in March 2004 saw a 1-0 defeat for the eventual champions.
We can gloss over FA Cup defeats at Chelsea (6,300 in 2007) and Everton (5,500 in 2004) but in the league memorable away days have been enjoyed, with over 4,000 seeing wins at Barnsley (2002), Reading and Watford (both 2004). Almost 4,500 saw a 1-1 draw at Wigan in 2011 – but I’m confident it will be a day to remember.