When City visited Manchester United, Anthony Pilkington was one of a handful of players to miss very good goal scoring opportunities, including one most notable one-on-one. More than United’s eventual 2-0 victory, it was City’s created chances and missed opportunities that were documented by most neutrals who witnessed the game.
This week, Anthony Pilkington gave a master class on how to keep your name in the headlines by changing the context.
I can just picture him sat at home; reliving the moment over and over again, like a 1996 Gareth Southgate penalty; the sensation of complete exhilaration as he realized he’d robbed Antonio Valencia, was advancing on goal and all that stood between him and Norwich City folklore was Anders Lindergaard in the United goal. Then diving out of the jaws of glory, Pilkington earned himself a healthy dose of misery as he struck the ball wide of the upright.
If the Norwich midfielder did reflect on his miss ahead of the Swansea game, it did him no harm.
Like a Phoenix from the flames (or a Stuart Pearce from the ninenties) he redeemed himself in glorious fashion. His eye for goal, as early as the 48th second was instinctive as he put Norwich 1-0 with what was then the Premier League’s fastest goal of the season. He went on to solidify all three points for Norwich with a well-taken finish on the turn in the second half. Neither goal will compete for goal of the season, but both showed a killer instinct and an eagerness to make up for missed opportunities.
Character has been a well-documented trait of this Norwich City team since Paul Lambert’s arrival in 2009; late wins, injury time goals, derby day heroics. But that character has always been representative of the team mentality as a whole. Anthony Pilkington showed the strength of his individual character to do what should come naturally to Premier League regulars, but so often doesn’t (just ask Chelsea’s number nine).
Deservedly, Bradley Johnson has been receiving recognition of his consistent performances for Norwich, not least of all from Mr. Capello and his team of watching eyes. Prior to the Swansea game, he was reported to have covered more ground on average per game than any other Premier League player. Once again, at Carrow last Saturday, he was impressive throughout.
When under intense pressure from the Swansea defenders, his composure to calmly play the ball across the face of goal for Pilkington to claim City’s third goal was more than good enough to earn him a second look from England’s scouting team.
Next weekend Norwich are away to Liverpool as they face their third away fixture against one of the Premier League’s so-called “giants”. So far, City have given an excellent account in this type of fixture; away at Chelsea they were worth a point until the John Ruddy red card and then of course there was that tantalizing fixture away at Old Trafford. Norwich will go to Anfield with no fear and provided there are no injuries, I expect Norwich to come away with something.
As cliche as it has become to say, that’s another sign of how far the team has come in eight league games. We’re no longer writing off away fixtures against Liverpool as a guaranteed loss. We’re now giving our opponents a lot to think about as they prepare for our arrival.
I, however, as a devout fan who usually assumes the best of Paul Lambert’s operations, have doubt. I watched the way Luis Suarez terrorized Manchester United’s defense over the weekend with pace, creativity and theatrical flops to the ground and hope that we have the defensive patience to keep him quiet. He’s a talent not to be overlooked.
Whilst fearing the skill and pace of the Uruguayan, I reflect back on the way Leon Barnett and Russell Martin owned Wayne Rooney two weeks ago and have think we have the best personnel in place to keep Suarez quiet.