I’m going to start by saying that any point away from home is a good point.
I’ve always considered that to be the case in and the facts remain that if you win most of your home games and don’t lose too many away, picking up draws and a few wins along the way, then that should be enough to get you promoted.
Yes, Norwich have dropped to second place in the table but that really is of little consequence at this point in mid-December. The thing to look at, when you’re in the top two, is the gap to third place. At the moment that stands at five points (West Brom) with Derby capable of cutting it to four points if they can beat local rivals, Nottingham Forest on Monday evening. Hopefully, Forest can do us a favour.
Norwich have now gone ten games unbeaten for the first time since Chris Hughton occupied the manager’s office at Carrow Road. Incidentally, I wonder if the sign has ever been changed on the door. Does it say “head Coach” these days?
That ten game unbeaten run is now the club’s best run in the second tier for over a decade. While we’re talking stats, and I’m grateful to @ncfcnumbers on Twitter for the statto help, it’s also worth mentioning that this is now Norwich City’s best start to a season away from home for 30 years. We have lost just once on the road this term and that was a last-gasp goal conceded at Sheffield United.
I watched the game at home on Sky with the family, including my visiting father-in-law, Tom. He’s a City fan but lives in Milton Keynes, so doesn’t often get to see the team live. As we watched he said that he was concerned that Norwich just looked a little lacklustre. I assured him that we would be fitter than Bristol City and come on strong at the end, which we did.
We have now gained 21 points from the season’s first 22 games as a result of goals scored in the 70th minute onwards.
That is a staggering fact and more than in any similar time frame under Paul Lambert, which tends to be the benchmark around these parts for late goals.
The two goals were both terrific in their own ways, the first was a thing of real beauty from the moustachioed Marco Stiepermann and his third in five games. The way he opened up his body and curled the ball, caressed actually, past the Robins’ keeper and just inside the post deserves multiple replays. Bravo.
Prior to that, it was mostly all Bristol City with Tim Krul having to make two excellent saves from Paterson and Brownhill. Brownhill’s effort was the best and reminded me of a strike on goal straight out of the FIFA 19 handbook. The unmarked midfielder leathered the ball and Tim showed immense agility and strength to turn the fearsome shot over. There’s been a bit of moaning about Tim, especially on social media, but after so long not playing regularly, he was always going to take a little time to shed the ring rust.
Granted, he has made a few errors, very few which have cost us points though. Just the same as Rhodes and Vrancic missing penalties hasn’t hurt us too much. I don’t see anyone constantly tweeting or writing rubbish about them.
In the summer, Michael McGovern will almost certainly leave when his contract runs down. The club are then likely to sign a new keeper. Which league we are in may well determine what level of ability that new keeper is at.
The second goal at Ashton gate deserves particular praise for Daniel Farke. He did what any good coach does, he identified that change was needed and decisively, he made it.
Hernandez and Rhodes replaced Cantwell and the disciplinary tightrope walking, Alex Tettey.
Thank you, Mr East.
Farke changed the formation and went three at the back, with Max Aarons going to left wing back and Grant Hanley playing like he’d never been away. The way that Onel Hernandez turned Famara Diedhiou inside out with a “Ronaldo chop” was absolutely glorious. The cross was pinpoint and Max Aarons scored from close range to grab the point and keep the unbeaten run going.
I was out of my seat punching the air when Jordan Rhodes netted late on but quickly sat down when it was ruled out (correctly) for being off-side. So close.
Afterwards, Herr Farke told us that he’d had Buendia, Aarons, Zimmermann and Cantwell all struggling with winter bugs but still being able to play. With that in mind and added to the fact that Ashton Gate is not an easy place to win a game of football, this was a decent point.
Good teams always find a way.
Next up is another tricky looking away game at Ewood Park. Rovers have been a welcome addition to the Championship this season and are playing well and then we have a couple of home games over Christmas and New Year.
You win nothing in December or January but if we’re still in the top two by the time we’ve played Ipswich, then we really will be in with a shout of automatic promotion.