Norwich City made it seven games unbeaten and five wins in a row in all competitions with a late 1-0 win over Wigan at Carrow Road on Saturday.
It was nowhere near the top of the list for “most entertaining games” but a win is a win, no matter how you get it and to quote Alan Hanson “good teams find a way to win even when they’re playing badly.”
I’m beginning to think that we might now be watching a good Norwich City team, although I am very conscious that all of those five wins have only been by a single goal. That does concern me but should City make the playoffs come next May, no-one will look back and say “Yeah but they only beat ‘Boro, Reading, QPR and Wigan by the odd goal.”
There are many reasons for this upturn in form but Daniel Farke’s decision to pair Moritz Leitner and Alex Tettey together in midfield has been instrumental in that. The emergence of Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell, along with the excellent Marco Stiepermann being played in his favoured position have all helped too and you can’t overlook Teemu Pukki either, obviously.
Wigan were a fairly tough nut to crack and I can see why they had got themselves into the Championship’s top six after nine games. They are strong and very well organised by their boss, former Canary, Paul Cook.
Cook was very complimentary about Norwich after the game, the stadium, the setup, the players and the fans. He suggested that the game looked to be heading for a 0-0 draw before the referee was called upon to make a big decision just five minutes from full time.
In the first half, referee Gavin Ward gave an appalling display of officialdom.
He let numerous trips, pushes and flailing arms go unpunished time and again. Wigan were physical and sometimes far from subtle with it. They constantly committed little fouls, like pushes in the back for example that Mr Ward and his assistants either didn’t see or chose to ignore.
His worst offending came in the 28th minute when Teemu Pukki went clean through into the Wigan penalty area after a weak back pass from Chey Dunkley. As Pukki pulled his leg back to shoot, Dunckley faintly clipped him and the City striker missed the ball which ran through to the keeper and tumbled to the floor.
Mr Ward waved play on to the astonishment of 25,000 odd fans.
He received numerous chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing”, “You’re not fit to referee” etc, etc, etc and was booed off at the break.
I’m not kidding when I tell you I’ve seen better performances from local Sunday league referees. Whenever a ref has an off day like that and gets that level of abuse (and I can’t believe Mr Ward is that bad every week) I always wonder how it must affect them.
As he and his assistants trudge off and make their way to the officials’ room for a cup of tea and a sit-down, what is going through their minds? What do they say to each other? It must be a very tough gig sitting there, looking at each other for fifteen minutes.
Do referees get influenced and more likely to “give” decisions after such events. To even things up? I wondered if there was to be another penalty shout in the second half if he’d give it and that is exactly what happened.
It wasn’t unfair on Wigan though, I was sitting in the River End and it was a bone fide penalty. For just a moment though, I worried he wouldn’t give it but Mr Ward made a really big thing of running to the penalty spot and pointing. Talk about hamming it up but I’ll take it.
By now, Mario Vrancic had entered the fray, I think he’s unlucky not to be starting in the side by the way, and he stepped up to fire a very cool penalty down the middle of the goal as Chris Walton dived to his left.
While this was going on, both Alex Tettey and Marco Stiepermann couldn’t watch.
Tettey made his way over to the home dugout and faced the bench as the kick was taken, as you can see below courtesy of @oliverbudbensly
— Olly bud bud bud (@oliverbudbensly) September 29, 2018
Stiepermann wasn’t quite as close to the dugout as Tettey but he was still far enough away from the goal to arguably not be in a position to respond easily if the spot-kick was saved, deflected or cleared away. I know it’s all a bit tense but lads, it’s not the Champions League Final, it’s Wigan.
I also noted that of the City players, only Teemu Pukki was in any sort of position to respond to a rebound type save. Fortunately, Vrancic is as cool as they come but if I was Daniel Farke I would be making sure that doesn’t happen again in the future come Sunday morning’s debrief.
Norwich now sit, unbelievably, just three points off top spot and Daniel Farke is now in the highest league position (fifth) he has been in since becoming the Canaries’ Head Coach.
The games continue to come thick and fast though and they are about to become (on paper at least) a bit harder. Next up are “Frank Lampard’s Derby County” at Pride Park on Wednesday evening, followed by Stoke at home next Saturday.
I’ve been enjoying what I’ve been watching since the Carabao Cup win over Cardiff and long may that continue.