Bristol City became the first Carrow Road visitors to avoid defeat since January when Bristol Rovers clinched a 1-1 draw on FA Cup third round day.

At least this time Norwich City don’t have to travel to the south west for a replay.

It’s the wrong week to express that sentiment. It’s highly likely that the Canaries’ hard fought 3-1 win at Rovers earlier this season will prove to be their last ever FA Cup replay. Premier League giants don’t want them anymore and so that’s it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Several clubs from the EFL’s lower leagues have put out strong statements railing against the lack of consultation before the FA Cup’s rules were rewritten. It was hard not to punch the air in agreement as each point was forced home more powerfully than a Marcelino Nunez free kick.

Most City fans of my vintage were moved to search online for the quarter final replay in 1992. A 19-year old Chris Sutton with a looping header to beat Southampton 2-1. It was one of the all-time great Carrow Road nights. The Saints had Alan Shearer in their line-up while Matthew Le Tissier and Barry Horne were sent off. It was the world’s most famous cup competition at its best. The sort of occasion to help this nine-year old fall in love with the FA Cup.

All these years on I now realise that being a football supporter isn’t just about magic nights under the floodlights. It involves developing a habit for hypocrisy. It’s impossible to have a truly impartial feeling about the big issues without first thinking about how it might impact your favourite team.

Publicly I agree with all of the arguments about why FA Cup replays should not be scrapped. Secretly though I know that I grumbled with the best of them when the final whistle blew at Carrow Road at the end of the Bristol Rovers game.

A replay in Bristol? What a nuisance that felt like at the time. Norwich City faced an extra, long midweek away trip slap bang in between big Championship matches at Hull and then against West Brom at home.

You only have to look at the current Championship table to see how crucial those games actually were. Josh Sargent was still being nursed back to fitness after four months out. David Wagner even admitted it was a match he could have done without. Extra time and penalties at the first time of asking seemed infinitely preferable to doing it all again 10 days later.

In the end no harm was done and Norwich City safely negotiated their replay while also beating Hull and West Brom. It was the start of a run which saw Wagner tapping the scenic Road to Wembley into his satnav.

If the Canaries are going to get back under the big arch this season it’s going to be via the play-offs rather than the FA Cup.

Eastern Daily Press: David Wagner had to carefully negotiate a packed fixtures schedule earlier this season when

Getting to the Premier League, staying in the Premier League, maximising opportunities in the Premier League it all means so much in terms of finances that teams don’t want extra games in the FA Cup. Replays, unfortunately, were always going to disappear at some point whether lower league clubs were consulted or not.

What about the fans? They have more power than they realise. If supporters decide the FA Cup is important then it won’t lose as much of the polish as is being feared.

If you were one of the 9,000 travelling Canaries at Spurs in 2020 when Tim Krul and his bottle won a penalty shoot-out you’ll have cherished that memory all through lockdown. Sunday’s epic cup semi-final between Coventry and Manchester United and United’s own thrilling 4-3 triumph against Liverpool in the previous round have been two of the games of the season.

All of the above were one-off occasions. No replays were needed to create those humdingers. It would be good to think that clubs at all levels could sit round the table, work together and agree a way forward and a funding plan that would mean no-one would lose out. That though would involve one side seeing the bigger picture, the all-round good of the game and not just serving their own interests.

Unfortunately, that currently feels more far-fetched than any FA Cup upset.


Top Gunn

Angus Gunn was deservedly named Man of the Match in Norwich City’s 1-1 draw against Bristol City.

Without a couple of brilliant saves, and one particularly remarkable one from Scott Twine, the Canaries may well have missed out on a point that could prove vital in the play-off race.

Gunn has been brilliant this season. Having tussled with Tim Krul to be the Canaries number one last season it’s clear to see why he emerged as first choice.

Since returning from injury in December Angus has played 13 matches at Carrow Road, conceding just eight goals. He has benefitted from the tactical tweaks that have made Norwich City more difficult to beat in the second half of the season than they were in the autumn. When he’s been needed though he’s risen to almost every occasion.

Sometimes a goalkeeper making a string of fine saves can be used as a stick to beat a team with. They are regarded as ‘lucky’ to have got anything from the game. It’s not cheating though. Having a good goalkeeper is just as important as a reliable striker and a creative midfielder. It’s hard to think of a successful team that hasn’t had a top stopper.

The Canaries have one of the best in The Championship and he’s a big reason why a play-off charge is still on with two games to go.