Undoubtedly the highlight of Magilton's first season, a lovely move for the equaliser and Danny Haynes doing what he did best.
Town 3-1 Norwich City19th Nov 2006 16:01 Derby goal specialist Danny Haynes was once again the hero as the Blues deservedly recorded their first home win over Norwich since 1998. In the first half the Canaries went ahead through Luke Chadwick, but Town equalised via Sylvain Legwinski, before late sub Haynes netted twice.0
I don't think I've seen this video on youtube before but, despite the awful picture quality, it is well worth watching too:
There is a long way to go before this season can match up to the heights of that one but there are certain similarities, not least in the way a close-knit squad seems to be quietly building momentum.
It's easy to forget how hesitantly the 2004-05 season started, Royle was not just trying to get Pablo's wages out of the club but also trying to flog Shefki. Despite that, the team we started that season with was very much Royle's team; he may have had a more talented squad when he took over but they remained collectively weakened by relegation.
I think many fans felt another play-off spot was a realistic target but there were few thoughts of automatic promotion as the season got underway, going behind early at home to GIllingham on the opening day didn't help that. We recovered and a superb winner from Bowditch got us going but momentum was slow to build.
Two games stand out as being ones that indicated we might just do more than we were expecting: the 3-2 comeback win against Plymouth after Fab's periodic red card against them in September and Matt Richards' late, long-distance equaliser at home to Burnley a few weeks later.
There is something about the last two matches that gives a similar impression: Wolves was as good as we've played all season, solid and competent with some great football on top but Saturday was a real battle against a good side (when they weren't diving around and being thuggish). It could well have gone either way as the game got stretched but we kept going and forced the win.
Despite the disappointments of Norwich and Cardiff, good wins against Fulham, Wigan, Watford and (almost) Forest suggest we can match anyone in this division if we play well. That's a step up from last season when Burnley, Leicester, Wigan and QPR all had a bit too much for us.
There are a few things we would need to demonstrate to show we are genuine contenders:
- Recovering from conceding goals. Royle's team made implausible comebacks almost a regular event, but this side hasn't shown that ability yet. We've been behind in six games and drawn three of them.
- Streaks of form: four wins, five games without a win, three wins is a little odd. Admittedly we could have won three more of those matches but we'll also need to demonstrate that we're not just playing in streaks of form.
- Away wins. For all the general excellence of our home form, we haven't quite won enough away games under McCarthy. The team set up this year should allow for more success though.
Whether we are good enough to sustain a serious promotion challenge, or even a play-off one, remains to be seen but there are some very promising signs at present. Take four points from the next two away matches and the Leeds game on 6 December should be something to look forward to.
Most importantly football feels fun again, the dire years of Keane and Jewell seem to be well and truly behind us. It's lovely having a team we can call our own and properly identify with again. Aside from anything else, that seems to be a key factor in any periods of success, relative or otherwise, that his club has had.
One last thing about 2004-05, when us and Wigan were falling over each other to throw promotion away in the Spring the side that took advantage was Mick McCarthy's Sunderland - perhaps not the most talented of the three but definitely the most consistent when it counted.