Paddy Davitt verdict: Feels good, right, Norwich City fans?
PUBLISHED: 11:57 21 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:37 21 October 2018
The most remarkable facet of Norwich City’s Championship surge is the self-belief.
Perhaps an infusion of youth brings with it a level of fearlessness. An absence of scar tissue and a catalogue of bad experiences.
But look at the way Timm Klose and Alex Tettey are leading from the front and what is stirring goes far beyond a zealous commitment to raw talent.
Measure this not simply in the positive curve of results, which continued in the toughest of surroundings at the City Ground, but the manner Daniel Farke’s squad is going about their work.
In adversity, they find a way. When they need to weather a storm and survive, like the opening salvo from Nottingham Forest that led to Lewis Grabban’s opener, they find a way.
Yes, there will be days like Stoke City, when an obdurate opponent cashes in on an off-colour attacking performance. But that is the Championship. The underlying trends are healthy. Positively glowing.
Wolves may have gone up as champions last season but Fulham, by common consent, were the slickest outfit down the finishing stretch.
They may have needed a tense play-off final trip to Wembley to reach the Premier League, but the cohesiveness of their approach, that sense all the players were on the same wavelength, and a style of football dripping in composure underpinned a long unbeaten run during the second part of the previous campaign.
That included a Good Friday 2-0 league win at Carrow Road, when the Cottagers almost toyed with Farke’s side until a couple of second half goals eased them over the finish line.
There was an admirable economy of effort, a dash of attacking threat, and a devastating counter punch or two. The parallels at present are simply too obvious to ignore.
That is not to say Farke has cracked the code and the same delicious destination awaits come May. Injuries to key men, suspensions or those inevitable inconsistencies of youth may all hinder the rate of progress from here.
But the way Norwich now control games over the entire piece, the smoothness in possession, the balance across midfield and pace in the final third, is all reminiscent of the Cottagers’ successful template.
No-one by the River Trent embodied all that and more than Todd Cantwell.
Farke, you suspect, was in the minority who felt it should be Cantwell and not Emi Buendia to make way for the fit-again Onel Hernandez. Thankfully for the Dereham prospect, Farke’s opinion is the only one that counts.
Buendia was kept in reserve, Hernandez switched to the right and Cantwell’s seamless transition from the playing fields of Colney moved up a gear.
The touch, the bravery and the poise were marked features of City’s most productive moments in the first period.
There was one pass with the outside of his right boot that gloriously pierced the home backline, veering effortlessly into the path of the overlapping Jamal Lewis, in a move that ended with a glaring miss from Marco Stiepermann.
Another blurring passage of dancing feet prior to the interval conjured a cushioned pass into Hernandez, who dragged a shot against the post.
The willingness to dart infield looking for work demonstrates the trust Cantwell already has from his head coach and those around him on the pitch.
There was also, dare one savour it, a cynical foul to halt Ben Watson that earned him a late booking, but halted a potentially dangerous Reds’ counter.
Contrast that with the naïve flick deep inside his own penalty area at QPR that provoked a furious verbal blast from Tim Krul.
These Norwich youngsters are learning fast.
They have to, in order to keep pace with a season that is hurtling along at breathless speed.
The celebrations at the final whistle in front of the packed away end evoked memories of successful seasons past.
Farke may have to keep his feet firmly planted but Norwich fans are starting to believe and starting to dream about more than another season of Championship consolidation and financial constraints.
The feelgood factor is here and the manner of this latest comeback in the East Midlands should ease any concerns the previous home defeat to Stoke, prior to the international break, was the start of a painful decline; such was the case around this stage 12 months ago.
Austerity might not quite be over but milk and honey is back on the menu.