Paddy Davitt verdict: Bravo Norwich City. Now for the derby that really matters
PUBLISHED: 14:49 11 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:23 12 February 2018
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Chief among the many impressive facets of Norwich City’s comeback at Derby County was the self-belief that oozes from every pore.
Take this fixture and transplant it to the early part of the season.
Start the game on the back foot, against a powerful opponent full of confidence and aggression, in front of an expectant home crowd. Then concede the lead after a slick passage of play that ended with a superb swivelling effort beyond Angus Gunn before he could set himself.
Now pause the tape and ponder the outcome for the Canaries. It should not take long.
City, in those hesitant initial months under Daniel Farke, would have succumbed in the same limp fashion they capitulated at Millwall or Aston Villa or at home to Sunderland. Yes, Sunderland. It did happen.
The lack of cohesion, the lack of defensive structure, the naivety of a newly-installed coach intent on a possession-based philosophy in the unforgiving Championship.
Those were the traits weighing heavy on the dawn of a brave new era. They are long gone.
Norwich look well-drilled, obdurate in defence and despite Nelson Oliveira’s on-going struggles to find the net - which plumbed new depths with a tame first half penalty - still able to muster enough attacking efficiency and penetration to respond to the adversity of Matej Vydra’s 12th minute goal.
Derby may well have ceded territory in a bid to preserve their slender advantage.
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But the Canaries’ accepted the invite and surgically set about getting back on level terms in a quite bizarre encounter peppered by penalties that were, penalties that were not, goals that were, goals that were not, all against a backdrop of diving accusations from Derby’s frustrated manager towards James Maddison.
A young man who attracts headlines with the regularity Ipswich lose home supporters.
This was a rip-snorter of a Championship duel and even Rowett - when he paused from berating Maddison for ‘enticing’ a first half penalty from Scott Carson - acknowledged the longest current unbeaten run in the league should have ended.
Had Norwich harnessed that clinical edge which has proved residually elusive then it would.
But it feels churlish to highlight an area Farke and his players know must be addressed to trigger an accelerated rise up the rankings this season and beyond.
If the experienced Rams offer a realistic yardstick of what it will take to get Norwich competing at the sharp end in the second tier then Farke and Stuart Webber are on track.
Once the visitors had weathered that initial surge they replied in kind.
There was no inferiority complex or feeling of inadequacy.
Norwich have good players and a coach who has nailed the defensive worries that threatened to suffocate the close season optimism.
Webber alluded to his personal frustrations, prior to this game, with the short term filters being applied at various points on this exciting journey.
But fans and media alike will place a higher premium on what they see on the pitch every weekend than the soothing soudbites.
Maddison conjuring magical moments on the pitch will set the pulse racing faster than reassurances regarding the groundwork being put in place or the scale of the financial challenges ahead that narrow the focus and limit the scope, if not the ambition, to get back to the Premier League.
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City can bounce into Sunday’s East Anglian derby on the front foot after holding the promotion-chasing Rams.
That was not the feeling ahead of the first renewal of the season at Portman Road.
Then there was a palpable unease this could be the game when Ipswich emerge from years of oppression to halt Norwich’s winning dominance. Maddison, who else, ensured normal service continued.
The expectation Webber wants to guard against will be hard to temper in the days ahead.
Ipswich will be sore and desperate to respond from a goalless home affair against Burton in front of their lowest league gate since 1998.
City will be cast in the role of favourites.
A tag Farke has skilfully managed to shed for the most part this season. But on the growing body of evidence, including a stirring comeback at Derby, this squad and head coach can handle pressure.
Bring it on.
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