Brave move pays off for Canary boss
PUBLISHED: 14:42 25 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:42 02 July 2010
It was never going to be the easiest of tasks for the Canaries to reproduce the standards they delivered in their previous game. After all, demonstrating an ability to dominate the opposition on their own patch in the manner that City did at Colchester, and also smashing five goals past them in the process, doesn't tend to happen too often.
It was never going to be the easiest of tasks for the Canaries to reproduce the standards they delivered in their previous game.
After all, demonstrating an ability to dominate the opposition on their own patch in the manner that City did at Colchester, and also smashing five goals past them in the process, doesn't tend to happen too often.
But when City skipper and goal machine Grant Holt was dismissed before the break on Saturday, leaving them to play with 10 men for more than half the match, and without a lead to defend at that, the only task that mattered as far as Paul Lambert's men were concerned was to see if they had capacity to actually win the game.
On reflection, even taking into account the immense effort that was subsequently produced by the Canaries, there's a case for arguing that this game was won as much in the dressing room at half-time as by the wonderful pass from new hero Oli Johnson and cool finish from Chris Martin that ultimately settled the contest.
Because by deploying a 3-4-2 formation in the second half, the City boss allowed his team to continue to operate on the front foot and take the game to their opponents at every opportunity.
It was a brave, bold and confident decision, based on trusting the three central defenders to take care of the two Brentford strikers, and the rest of the team being good enough to push forward in search of a winning goal.
“You've got to try to win the game,” the manager said afterwards, aware that his decision would not only provide his team with the chance to secure all three points, but also potentially leave them exposed at the back when Brentford counter-attacked.
But when there's a chance to move to the top of the table on offer, it is positive calls like that that are required. And it was a call that was to ultimately reap rich dividends.
City started the game as expected of a side that is bang in form. There was a good tempo to their game, the players were energetic and they were creating good chances.
Brentford did force their way into the contest around the 25-minute mark after successfully weathering the early City storm, but Holt's red card immediately put a whole new context on the game.
But that's when we saw what City are really made of. And through a combination of belief, confidence and desire by the bucketful, the Canaries eventually dragged themselves victoriously over the finishing line.
All things considered, and for completely contrasting reasons, it was just as good as anything we witnessed the previous week at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, and anything else this season for that matter. You really can't speak highly enough of the efforts of everyone involved on Saturday.
The tactical acumen, motivation and leadership qualities that were demonstrated from the dug-out, the rousing backing that was provided from the stands, and the players themselves who demonstrated precisely what possessing a winning mentality is really all about - never did a side more deserve to be sitting proudly at the top of the table.
t NEIL'S MAN OF THE MATCH - FRASER FORSTER: Darel Russell worked like a Trojan and must have covered every blade of grass, as did his midfield partners, Korey Smith and Simon Lappin. At the back, Gary Doherty, Michael Nelson and Adam Drury were once again very impressive, while Zak Whitbread produced an excellent second-half performance and looks like a really good signing. But there's no argument from me with the sponsors' choice of the City 'keeper, who has been tremendous during his time between the posts at Norwich, and who once again pulled off several magnificent saves at crucial times in the game.