Paddy Davitt: Who needs enemies when you have pals like these, City?
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Nelson Oliveira’s fist-pumping antics at Ipswich Town suggest Norwich City should turn the old maxim about keeping ‘friends close but enemies closer’ firmly on its head in the defining weeks of the Championship promotion race.
Oliveira’s goal for loan club Reading at Portman Road was greeted with nearly as much glee on the Millwall terraces as it was by the Portuguese international.
The out-of-favour striker no doubt remembered his adverse reaction from those Ipswich fans the last time he was in that corner of the ground, when he emerged to warm up in City’s 1-0 league win in October 2017.
Oliveira’s pre-match barbs on that particular occasion, regarding the respective quality in both squads, travelled badly across the border.
That may have sprung to mind when he rifled home an early goal last weekend, in the Royals’ vital 2-1 Championship win, which pushed Paul Lambert’s men ever closer to League One.
His latest intervention offered another delicious reminder to the 3,200 travelling supporters watching the Canaries’ own 3-1 win on the same afternoon how quickly these East Anglian football foes are hurtling in opposite directions.
Oliveira departed with a hamstring injury at Portman Road in a fresh twist to the misfortune which has dogged him since joining Reading in January.
To return so soon after his horrific facial injury – following that ugly tangle with Tyrone Mings – was a testament to the striker’s burning desire to grasp a chance to get his career back on track, after falling down the pecking order under Daniel Farke.
A big smile spread across the German’s features when he was asked at The Den if he was aware of Oliveira’s headline act. With memories still fresh of that feisty derby tussle last month, Farke is well versed in what it means to put one over the struggling Blues.
In whatever form that takes.
Hence why Oliveira’s name rang out from the away end many miles south of Suffolk at the weekend.
If he could re-produce an encore when Reading host Leeds next week it would carve out a special niche for the forward in a season that may see his parent club back in the big time.
But apart from the urge to wallow in the misfortune of others, Oliveira’s Ipswich goal had no material effect on Norwich’s bid to reach the Premier League.
The same could not be said for Ben Marshall’s remaining league fixtures on loan at Millwall.
Marshall could have stayed at Carrow Road and played a bit-part role in City’s promotion tilt, but opted for the chance to feature regularly for the Lions. What better way to remind Farke of the reason why Norwich swooped for the former Wolves man than playing a key role when Millwall travel to both Leeds and Sheffield United down the stretch.
Neil Harris’ men showed last weekend they have the raw materials to make life uncomfortable for the big boys.
Plus, they need points themselves to ease lingering relegation fears, with Oliveira’s Reading and Rotherham picking up the pace.
Which brings us to the Millers’ boyhood son of Norfolk, Paul Warne.
The Norwich fan is presumably busy preparing for a Yorkshire derby trip to Sheffield United this coming weekend. Warne undoubtedly has his own agenda when it comes to nicking a point or three from Chris Wilder’s Blades, but in the process can do his favourite club a huge favour or two.
Farke’s squad are doing a fantastic job of controlling their own destiny, yet a helping hand would not go amiss to provide some breathing space in the event of a stumble in the final furlong.
That might ensure any dip proves academic rather than costly.
Wilder has already sought to put tribal loyalties to one side, after Monday’s scrappy 0-0 derby draw at Sheffield Wednesday, by urging Steve Bruce’s Owls to make life uncomfortable for both Leeds and Norwich in upcoming Championship duels.
Given the fallout from Lambert’s latest Carrow Road return, Farke is unlikely to make the same plea, despite the Blues wrapping up their campaign with back-to-back games against the Canaries’ two main title rivals.
That might just be pushing friends and enemies to its very limits.