Magnificent Canaries are unbreakable
PUBLISHED: 11:21 19 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:50 02 July 2010
It's funny how football throws up so many ironies. Almost 12 months ago, on a similarly sunny afternoon, the Canaries were humiliated at The Valley in a game that ultimately condemned them to a season in the third tier of English football for the first time in 50 years.
It's funny how football throws up so many ironies.
Almost 12 months ago, on a similarly sunny afternoon, the Canaries were humiliated at The Valley in a game that ultimately condemned them to a season in the third tier of English football for the first time in 50 years.
Yet back at the very same stadium on Saturday, City completely redeemed themselves with a truly inspirational performance.
Norwich actually started quite slowly in the opening 15 minutes of the contest, but raised their game to a level that quickly made them the dominant side.
The defence was strong, the midfield was combative in central areas and proactive out wide and the strikers were linking well with each other and providing a decent attacking threat.
City also kept the ball well when it was necessary to do so.
The magnificent Michael Nelson put City in front with a thumping header, and from then onwards it generally became a question of whether or not the Canaries possessed enough discipline, organisation, professionalism and sheer dogged determination from a defensive perspective to see the job through.
And, safe to say, they ticked every one of those boxes . . . and then some. In a word, Norwich were brilliant.
For almost the entire second half, Charlton threw everything but the kitchen sink at Norwich in search of an equaliser, but wave after wave of their attacks were thwarted by hook or by crook by the Norwich players doing whatever it took to prevent the ball getting through to Fraser Forster's goal.
City were unbreakable, and I lost count of the number of blocks, tackles and headers that cleared danger away from inside or around the Norwich penalty area.
Even when the ball did find its way through to the Canaries' last line of defence, the home side then had their hearts broken by the City 'keeper who was in equally magnificent form as the players in yellow shirts in front of him.
It was agonising viewing for more than 3,000 travelling City fans, but with results elsewhere being favourable and promotion edging nearer with every passing minute, it was exciting and exhilarating at the same time.
So, a return to the Championship secured at the first time of asking, and scenes at the away end at The Valley at the final whistle that were about as far removed from those we witnessed some 11 months earlier as it's possible to get.
It was almost the perfect day.
All that's left now to complete a truly memorable 2009-10 campaign is for the Canaries to put the cherry on the cake and seal the League One title at Carrow Road against Gillingham on Saturday.
t NEIL'S MAN OF THE MATCH - FRASER FORSTER: The disappointment at Leyton Orient four days earlier seemed like a distant memory as every single City player performed with such credit on Saturday. And in such a distinguished team performance it's almost inappropriate to single anyone out. But two players were absolutely superb. In addition to grabbing the winning goal, Michael Nelson was a colossus at the back and barely put a foot wrong all afternoon. But it's City goalkeeper Forster who just nicks it for me. His handling, decision-making and shot-stopping were all terrific, and one save in particular from Dean Burton in the second half was as good as anything you'll see from any of the 'keepers in the top flight.