Sunday, 30 October 2011
It was the kind of afternoon that had the feel of vulnerability all around it. Until of course, those last ten minutes or so, when the Blackburn manager seemingly felt the game was in the bag and made changes to his side. He committed the cardinal sin of thinking that Norwich were done for - that they would draw a line under the performance and move on to the next match. Clearly he is not a follower of the Football League Show. If he was, he would know that is not the way at Carrow Road under Paul Lambert.
The disappointment of 'only drawing at home to Blackburn' has already led to calls of changes to formation and personnel from fans. But if you step back a little from yesterday's game, and think about it with just a bit more analysis, that late point was still hugely valuable in the context of the season, and came from a performance that contained some great patches of play from City. What was missing was the control we enjoyed over Sunderland or Swansea. Blackburn were far more spirited, scored an exceptional first goal, and greedily took advantage of two bad pieces of defensive play by the Canaries. But it was nonetheless, a cracking match that provided another story for inclusion into the modern history of Norwich City. It was slightly reminiscent of the 4-4 draw with Middlesbrough in our last Premier League season - though significantly we have not had to wait until January this time around.
And that is the lesson that has to be learned. With a quarter of the campaign now gone, and City doing very nicely thank you, the period between now and the New Year will see more contests like the one witnessed yesterday. Teams are now in some kind of a pecking order - the table is starting to mean something. And when you play against those at the bottom end, expect them to fight for their lives. And punish you whenever your standards slip.
There was a slight air of indecision about Norwich yesterday. Perhaps the weight of being favourites for the match played on the minds of some. Certainly John Ruddy was nervy throughout, and whilst it would be unfair to say that spread throughout the team, it contributed to periods when we failed to assert authority. Elliott Bennett was lucky to stay on the pitch after a two footed lunge, and the incident seemed to drain his confidence, especially after he then spurned a great chance to open the scoring. I am not sure Bradley Johnson was fully fit for all of the match, and David Fox and Anthony Pilkington combined moments of great creativity with periods of anonymity.
No, not all was well in the Canary household yesterday, but a point still came our way. It was warning of things to come. We must never switch off to the reality of Premier League football. Nor forget our target of a seventeenth placed finish. That will still be a massive achievement.
I will no doubt, read much over the next 24 hours, about the match. How Blackburn were so desperately unlucky. How the second Norwich goal was a fluke. And the third came from a penalty that never was. I am less likely to see anything about how City suffered a blow to the ribs in stoppage time in the first half. That stunning strike from Hoilett left us hurting and could easily have wrecked our second half performance. Because of the events that followed it, Steve Morison's sensational equaliser might easily be overlooked. As might an under pressure Blackburn defender pushing the ball back to his keeper using a hand (a stonewall penalty if ever I saw one). And how a young and still inexperienced City side fought back magnificently in the closing minutes. No, the press reports will belong to Blackburn over the coming days. And quite rightly too. You have to say that on that performance they will climb up the table in the next few weeks.
For our part we need to put the afternoon down as a lesson learnt. Remember where we were at the start of the season. Come out at Villa with the same fighting attitude, and with our poise back in place.
Finally, what a magnificent penalty by Grant Holt. On a day that had not gone entirely to plan, it could so easily have been blazed over the bar. That it was a perfect spot kick sums the man up.
And indeed the team.