Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke expressed the importance of his side’s 2-1 win at Rotherham United on Saturday, describing the three points as ‘massive’.
The nature of the victory - Jordan Hugill scoring a penalty deep into stoppage time - didn’t do anyone attached to the club any favours as far as stress levels are concerned!
“I know the Championship well, and you can’t get as old in real life as you get during a game on this level,” Farke joked. “It was a cracking game. For the neutral, overall it was a top class Championship game with lots of intensity.
“It was no coincidence that Rotherham had a good start, having had just one loss before this game. They never conceded more than one goal in those games. Of course, it was difficult because several of my players had only been back for one day on the training pitch.
“We spoke so much about how important it is to be brutal in the final third and fully committed. With the ball, we had a good first half and created an unbelievable amount of chances - Marco Stiepermann was one-on-one with the goalkeeper, Adam Idah was one-on-one and had a good shot but the goalkeeper made a decent save. Emi Buendia had a decent shot. Jordan Hugill and Stiepermann within the 18-yard box, for an away game, couldn’t create more.
“We still missed so many chances and were back because after two minutes we were not really switched on and were a bit unlucky. It was difficult for Grant in his first start in a league game since lockdown, but he reacted top class with his performance afterwards.
“Adam Idah had his first appearance in the starting lineup on Championship level and have away an unnecessary penalty because the opponent was on the escape from our box but gave the referee a decision to make, although I think it was a soft one.
“Because of these situations we were 1-0 back. Tim Krul, the best goalkeeper in the league was able to be there with an outstanding save. Everyone was a bit down at half-time but I liked our mentality.
“I said ‘listen, keep going. We can be annoyed because we created so many chances and missed so many, but we have to keep going.’ The attitude that my lads showed in the second half to force the result, first with a great equaliser and then a late penalty, is top class.
“It’s a big win and I’m fully convinced that not many teams will win here in Rotherham, especially at the beginning of the season when they play with all their rhythm after promotion, so it’s definitely a massive win for us.”
It’s now seven points from five games for the Canaries, who rose to eleventh in the Championship following Saturday’s win.
“I love this team and I like the mentality that we have,” Farke added. “We had a good start with four points out of two games - a good average that’s enough to finish in the top two positions. The last two games were difficult for us.
“Both times, we were the better side but had to return with no points. Of course, in terms of self confidence it’s not easy to move on to the next game, not really prepared for such a difficult game when many players are away.
“The odds seemed again to be against us, 1-0 back after just a few moments in the game. To concede a penalty and have the mentality to keep going and keep our cool, it’s quite important.
“I’m pleased with many individual scenes and how we forced the goals. It was definitely a win of team spirit. When I judge our equaliser, it was an own goal, but you can take it as a role model piece of our football - the build up was technical with top class passes and a great cross from Max Aarons.
“Jordan Hugill forced the own goal and for the second goal, Teemu was first involved with his cut-back and Emi was quick in his head in the 95th minute to force the penalty. Jordan, thank God, kept his cool. I’m pretty delighted for Emi as it’s his first assist for a while, the same with Max.
“It’s important for Jordan to be in the spotlight today but it was definitely a win for the team so many compliments for the lads.”
Importantly, Saturday’s game showcased City’s character and ability to come from behind to salvage three points late on - a trait frequently displayed during the 2018/19 season.
“It feels like in the five games we were never in the lead, but we have already seven points so that says a lot,” Farke said. “We came back out of losing positions and added late goals during the games. That was one key part of our success two years ago.
“I’d like to be in the lead during the games, but when you have such a difficult period with speculation in the transfer window and the international break, it’s important to grind out some results.
“It’s difficult to be always that fluent. With the ball, I think we had a good game. Against the ball, it was difficult. When some players are making their debuts on Championship level or back in the game after five months, of course they are a bit rusty, but compliments to these players.
“I’m delighted that we seem to grow into the season and it’s definitely a good win for us.”
Rotherham’s Angus McDonald saw red for a dangerous challenge on Oliver Skipp during the second half, but the Tottenham loanee thankfully wasn’t too seriously hurt.
“Skipp seems to be okay,” Farke said. “I don’t want to speak in a negative way about our opponent today or bad intentions - it’s not my style - but I have to say in this scene I felt his loan may have come to an end. Such a situation can sometimes be the end of a career and it looked horrendous.
“Thank God Oliver’s physical condition is a bit special. I was delighted he could go further on. We have to assess him but it seems that there’s nothing too serious, so I’m happy he came out of the situation without a major injury.”
Farke was also keen to comment on the individual performance of Grant Hanley, who slotted in at centre-back following a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
“Grant’s last game was a friendly away at Tottenham and he has been out for three and a half months before returning to team training,” he said. “It couldn’t be a worse start to the game - after two minutes it was a complicated situation for him.
“To show the mentality and mindset to be absolutely concentrated, a leader on the pitch and defend everything right, I’m pretty delighted so many compliments for him in this game.”
The busy period of two games per week now begins in the Championship, with Norwich welcoming Birmingham City to Carrow Road on Tuesday night.
“You can spend team building days away from the training ground, but there’s no replacement for wins and such memories,” Farke said. We stick together as a team. The bench players are in the dressing room and we want to create this mentality with them.
“They’re brilliant from the stands to push the team. Sometimes, after two losses, a few players are a bit moody and hope the team doesn’t do well so they can come into the starting lineup.
“Today, we had great togetherness and team spirit. To have the winning feeling back in the dressing room with relief and joy, there’s no replacement for this.
“It’s a good start and we’re far away from over-interpreting these three points, but it’s definitely important ahead of a busy period.”