Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s opening day 1-0 Championship win at Huddersfield Town
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Huddersfield verdict after the Canaries’ 1-0 Championship win.
1. Not pretty. Pretty effective
This was not the polished, smooth Norwich we might see deep into the Championship season. But it was the battle-hardened, streetwise variety. And for an opening weekend assignment with so many questions to answer it was reassuringly effective. Huddersfield were committed and keen to claim an early scalp to impress new boss Carlos Corberan.
The Spaniard was practically a 12th man, constantly cajoling and encouraging his players to press in the manner he clearly absorbed working under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds.
Norwich looked rusty for long spells. That getting to know you process still on going. They were just a fraction off, both in thought and deed.
But when it mattered they showed a ruthless edge. Teemu Pukki cashed in on a poor attempted back pass from Richard Stearman and then calmly drew the keeper before unselfishly rolling in Adam Idah to smash home a priceless winner.
Even this early in the proceedings to emerge with a clean sheet victory, to finally turn the page on that unwanted run of consecutive league defeats, felt big.
2. Come back VAR. All is forgiven
Not really. Not after all that angst and heartache for Norwich City during their Premier League struggles.
But the video assistant referee system may have confirmed Ben Godfrey’s first half header clearly struck Juninho Bacuna’s outstretched arm inside the Huddersfield penalty area from Xavi Quintilla’s corner.
Bacuna had turned his back but his arm was well away from his body.
Those Norwich players in the immediate vicinity were convinced it should have been a penalty. Even Daniel Farke led the appeals to the fourth official.
There was another huge shout in the second period when Max Aarons was clattered by Josh Koroma.
Referee Eltringham thought otherwise on both occasions. Although Farke’s revealing post-match admission the referee had apologised to him for both errors was scant consolation. It would be the irony of ironies if City fall the wrong side of too many such incidents in the months ahead. Not that they should rely on officialdom. Farke has the squad not to rely on assistance from outside quarters.
3. Solid Skipp
Norwich discovered if they did not already know it that in the Championship you will never get things all your own way.
Tim Krul may have been largely redundant, apart from some pressure relieving catches towards the end, but Huddersfield were aggressive and determined to stand toe to toe.
In settings like these Oliver Skipp already looks an inspired loan signing from Tottenham. Skipp has the poise you would associate from anyone who has come through the Spurs’ academy.
But he also has a tigerish streak, a willingness to throw himself into tackles and a composure to play his way out of tight spots.
Norwich’s fans will warm to such a trigger in a key area of the side. The pairing with Kenny McLean offers some real promise. But there is also Alex Tettey and Jacob Sorensen to throw into this competitive mix.
Yet Skipp already looks like a staple.
4. Bench pressing
When Norwich can afford the relative luxury of three summer signings on the bench and two of those have come from the Premier League it says much about the relative depth of resource at Farke’s disposal.
That is before you add the suspended Emi Buendia to the mix, plus the likes of Marco Stiepermann and Mario Vrancic who were unable to make the matchday 18. Farke stacked his replacements with attacking threat in Jordan Hugill, Idah and Przemyslaw Placheta.
Placheta and Idah were introduced for the final stages. And it was the Republic of Ireland international who clinched the three points.
This is a long road ahead but to have the ability to keep opponents off balance, and for Farke to look behind him at the front his technical area and know he has genuine options to tilt Championship games in Norwich’s favour, offers a soothing degree of reassurance.
5. Carrow Road mission next
Alas, no fans will be in attendance again next weekend when Alex Neil’s brings his Preston to Norfolk for the seasonal re-appearance at home. But after that wretched run of Project Restart defeats, City must build on three points in West Yorkshire.
To get to where they want to go this campaign, Carrow Road will have to return to a place where rivals fear to tread.
We all hope, desperately hope, supporters can eventually return this season. Those tentative plans for as many as 8,000 to be part of a test event are now back on hold after fresh government announcements this week in response to the virus transmission rate heading in the wrong direction around the country.
For now, Norwich’s players and staff must do it for themselves. Certainly opponents may appreciate not having to contend with a raucous Carrow Road at full pelt.
But there is enough quality and nous at Farke’s disposal to render that a simple aside. Follow up a victory at Huddersfield with another against Neil’s side and there will be real momentum building.