David Freezer: Unforgettable moments are making Carrow Road the place to be
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Carrow Road celebrate a goal as loudly as this week. Daniel Farke was spot on when he described it as ‘like an explosion’ – but I have an admission to make.
For all of those who decided to head for the exits early, missing out on injury-time drama that will live long in the memory, I feel your pain.
Not on this occasion, of course. I have a feeling my bosses at Archant wouldn’t be best pleased had I decided to leave the press box early during Wednesday’s 3-3 thriller against Forest.
My first – and last – experience of missing out on the big moment due to my own impatience was, funnily enough, the last time the Canaries managed to overhaul a three-goal deficit: the 4-4 epic against Middlesbrough in January 2005.
City have, of course, been involved in plenty of memorable battles that have seen the scoreline sway in either direction since then, but hitting back from 3-0 down against Forest was the first time they have managed such a fightback since that top-flight draw with Boro.
At the time I was 18 and learning to drive, so still buzzing around on a 50cc scooter which was so, when Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink fired Boro 4-1 ahead in the 78th minute at Carrow Road that afternoon, putting Nigel Worthington’s team well on course for a sixth defeat in seven Premiership matches, I decided it was time beat a hasty retreat.
At the time I was working at a restaurant in Aylsham and was expected to make it in for 6pm for the usual busy Saturday night. As I walked away from the Barclay I heard a cheer, which I would later learn was a Dean Ashton goal, giving City hope in the 80th minute, but saw little reason to try and get back into the stadium.
When I nipped home on the way to work to get changed my step-dad was eager to hear all about the drama I’d just witnessed, only for his jaw to hit the floor when he realised I had no idea that Leon McKenzie and Adam Drury had salvaged one of the most memorable comebacks ever seen at Carrow Road.
I honestly thought he was winding me up.
So if you missed the Onel Hernandez brace – and I’m sure most early leavers have a decent excuse – then you have my sympathies, as it truly was epic. For such wild celebrations to greet an equaliser proves it was an extraordinary moment.
Those moans and groans about home form and boring football of last season seem like dim and distant history already, such has been the amount of drama witnessed in NR1 recently.
In the last four games at Carrow Road there have been: 22 goals in total, four scored in injury-time, two of which were City winners and 10 points claimed from a possible 12 by Daniel Farke’s team – all from losing positions!
It’s little surprise we saw the biggest crowd of the season so far on Boxing Day; everyone wants a bit of the action at the moment.
That spirit, determination and character is contagious but it still comes down to football ability, to Ben Godfrey driving forward for both of City’s injury-time goals, to Teemu Pukki winning back possession, to Timm Klose’s dummy in the heat of the moment, to Hernandez hitting the target in the eighth minute of the most action-packed game you could wish to see.
I’m still not quite sure how there were no red cards, as referee John Brooks totally lost control of the game. Marco Stiepermann – by the letter of the law – should have seen red in the first half, Jack Robinson clearly handled for a penalty before making it 2-0 himself and Danny Fox somehow avoided a second yellow despite trying to fight Pukki, who was booked. It was chaos at every turn – and it was great entertainment.
So what will Derby make of it as they pitch up in Norfolk as the latest Championship rivals trying to derail this unexpected and exciting promotion push?
One man they may be looking to is keeper Scott Carson, as without Costel Pantilimon there’s no way Forest would have been in such a strong position on Wednesday.
His denials of Pukki and Jamal Lewis at 0-0 and then Pukki, Dennis Srbeny, Ben Godfrey and Timm Klose during the mayhem left the huge Romanian stopper unfortunate to not be part of a winning team.
As great as it is to see City run opposition teams into the ground with their superior fitness and control of possession, taking the lead really would help with the blood pressure if this push for the Premier League is to continue.
Scoring just five goals in the opening 30 minutes so far this season is a clear target for improvement, particularly against a dangerous Derby team with the attacking talents of Harry Wilson and Mason Mount.
• Defensive issues
After all the fun and games of Boxing Day’s comeback subsided it’s been clear to see that seven goals conceded in four games is a trend which cannot continue.
Since Timm Klose pulled out in the warm-up ahead of the 3-2 home win over Bolton, that knee issue has broken the consistency of a centre-back partnership with Christoph Zimmermann which had conceded 10 in the last 13 league games.
While Klose had to step back in to replace the ill Zimmermann against Forest, youngster Ben Godfrey again got the nod in central defence, with Grant Hanley still being kept in reserve.
Godfrey has performed pretty well, his determination to burst forward for two of the goals on Wednesday was vital and how he’s not scored a goal yet I’m not quite sure.
But that defence must settle down again if City are to make it 13 games unbeaten, matching the last time that was achieved at this level, under Glenn Roeder in 2007-08. Hanley’s experience must be tempting for Daniel Farke.
• Sound familiar?
As brilliant as the Boxing Day thriller was, it wasn’t the first time City have fought back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Forest at Carrow Road.
Thanks to my esteemed colleague Chris Wise for the pointer, as it was well before I was born, but almost exactly the same scenario played out in February 1978.
It was a top-flight battle at the time, with Forest on their way to lifting the First Division trophy under Brian Clough at the end of the campaign, before becoming champions of Europe in 1979 and 1980.
The visitors romped into a 3-0 lead, top of the table and set to go 12 unbeaten after goals from Peter Withe, Colin Barrett and former Norwich favourite Martin O’Neill put them in control after 23 minutes.
John Ryan’s penalty started the comeback before the break, Colin Suggett continued it in the 68th minute and debutant Keith Robson fired home the equaliser two minutes later. Not quite as dramatic but a lovely symmetry.