It now feels like I am gushing every time I write, but it is a great feeling. There is NO ONE who could have predicted this when Cellino announced Garry-with-two-Rs was our new manager. Even, I, the eternal optimist, did not predict this. I secretly thought that we might just be within spitting distance of the top 6 by the end of the season, but THIS, no way Jose.
Norwich had gone into this game having lost to us on penalties and then a 5 nil drubbing by Brighton. Alex Neill had only one thing on his mind, and a hurt animal is always a dangerous animal. Yes, we had sold out our allocation at Carrow Road, and it was going to be a great atmosphere, but I was happy to take a draw that day. Leeds United look good, our defence looks solid, our midfield pair of Phillips (still only 20) and O Kane are shaping up to be the next Batty and MacAttack. I thought The Duke had earned his place after his magnificent show against Burton, and dare I say it, how great it is to have players fighting for a place on the first team! I still think there are a lot of options for Monk in midfield, and he can work this to his advantage depending on what style the opposition plays. But while he tinkers with the midfield, he has still has the likes of Luke Ayling running at the defenders and supplying crosses, and of course Captain Bartley and his headers. Pablo, Sacko and Roofe are still improving, just lacking the final touch, but storming in on their heels is young Ronaldo Vieira. So we now have a midfield with the Phillips and O Kane partnership, which is unbreakable in my opinion, and then the choice of Bridcutt, Dallas, Grimes, Hernandez, Mowatt, Sacko and Vieira in combination with Wood plus either The Duke or Antonsson, depending on who we are playing. Like I EVER thought that I would be able to say that and not be tongue in cheek!
We started brightly enough, having the lion’s share of possession in the first 15 minutes, young Kalvin Phillips having a shot saved from outside the area. Norwich fought back, Green got caught way off his line in the melee at the goalmouth and it was 1-0 at half time. It looked like it was just not going to be our day. Until, of course, Jansson popped up at the far post with a brilliant header from Pablo’s corner. The passion absolutely exploded and he threw himself headfirst into the crowd. That display of pride and belief, not only in his goal and his team, but his heartfelt appreciation of what the fans bring, was immense. As a long suffering fan, this is the stuff that dreams are made of. A team of players who play for the shirt and play for the fans. I hope this lasts all the way to the end of the season, and it is what propels us back into the Premiership. If not, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Chris Wood then put us 2-1 up after a good bit of passing between Sacko, O Kane and Ayling of all people. Ayling had worked hard all game and was there to provide that telling pass for Wood to finish emphatically. Chris Wood took and still does, take a lot of stick from our (misguided) fans. Mysteriously, he has still to win over the doubters, I say mysteriously as I have no idea why they have no faith in him, given he was our top goal scorer last season, despite only playing two thirds of the season. Anyway, then the final flourish, Lafferty comes on as a sub. The man once mouted to be one of our targets early doors, and duly scores from the far post. At this point I had conceded that it really wasn’t going to be our day. I was happy with the two goals and a draw, little did I expect that rocket of a shot from young Vieira. In a previous post, I have already said that Vieira would struggle to score another memorable goal than his penalty against Norwich, but he did it again, and what a goal! To coin a phrase, unbelievable!
So, a happy trip back to Harrogate ensued, despite leaving the ground and going past the ground the other way to get out.