Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s rollercoaster 2-2 Championship draw against Reading
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his Reading verdict after the Canaries’ topsy turvy Championship draw
1. Keep calm and carry on
At the final whistle, Ben Godfrey cut a dejected figure as he trooped towards the tunnel.
Barely 10 minutes earlier he had thumped Norwich level to set in motion an epic chain of events that brought Christoph Zimmermann’s looping header two minutes later, more heroics from Reading keeper Emiliano Martinez, and then a ridiculously cool sidefoot finish from Andy Rinomhota from the last meaningful kick of a breathless encounter.
It felt like the air had been sucked out of Carrrow Road. But let the dust settle, then take a look at the Championship table.
Sheffield United’s failure to beat Birmingham meant City have a seven point buffer in the race for automatic promotion to the third-placed Blades, with only five league games remaining.
Now look at second-placed Leeds, who well may have made up some ground courtesy of a Tuesday night win at Preston.
But City still have a six point advantage and at this stage a vastly superior goal difference, which in effect means another point in the Canaries’ favour should that comparative tool come into play. Those still look more than favourable odds.
You can be sure both Yorkshire clubs would swap positions in a heartbeat.
2. For my next trick
Talking of Godfrey and Zimmermann, is there any end to this double act’s contribution? At the start of the season they looked like bit-part actors. Now they are leading men.
Godfrey, perhaps, should have got to Yakou Meite a touch quicker before he lashed Reading in front.
But he chose a perfect way to balance the scales. With time running out and Norwich’s creative players unable to puncture a stubborn Reading rearguard he took matters into his own hands.
Surging forward, exchanging passes with Marco Stiepermann, and then smacking a ball so pure it must have singed the netting as it flew past Martinez.
Not to be outdone, Zimmermann rose imperiously to head home Kenny McLean’s corner. The celebrations were epic. The headlines would have been glowing.
This chapter might not have had the best ending, but City’s unlikely central defensive duo remain indispensible.
3. If you can’t beat them, frustrate them
Norwich’s mastery of the ball, the potency of their goal threat, the artistry of their attacking endeavour, has cast a spell over the last two Championship opponents.
Against QPR, City enjoyed 67pc possession. Against the Royals, it was 75pc.
Both visiting clubs packed their own half, opted not to press high up the pitch, and essentially sent out a message they could not take this Norwich collective on at a game of football.
As Farke himself said on Wednesday night, there is nothing in the rules saying it is illegal to park the bus. In fact, the City chief is taking such subservience as a compliment.
Just as well. It might be more of the same for his squad over this promotion run in.
4. Buendia bandage
As Reading parked players in front of Martinez, the game was crying out for a maverick with a magical touch to unlock the door and pick a path through congested areas of the park. Sadly, Norwich’s Emi Buendia was sat in the stands as he served the first of a three match ban for his red card at QPR.
This was just the type of game, like Swansea City’s recent visit, where you would fancy the Argentine ace might have proved the difference.
There is no need now to re-open the case. Farke had his say on the length of ban on Tuesday. Todd Cantwell got the nod in a major show of faith and there was plenty of encouraging signs.
One rising half volley just cleared the bar in the first half and we saw glimpses of invention in tandem with Max Aarons.
But it was painfully evident how big a miss Buendia is to this side. He might not be irreplaceable, to quote Farke, but he is a vital cog in the machine.
5. Wigan. Wagons roll
Norwich’s players will need that 5,000 strong show of support in the north-west on Sunday lunchtime more than ever.
What transpired against Reading was hardly a major setback, but in a game of wildly contrasting emotions it may take a day or two to get out of the system. Wigan will be no less committed as Reading, given they are in the same perilous situation at the wrong end of the Championship.
City must also cope with having to respond to whatever Sheffield United and Leeds can muster the previous day.
But the sight of that yellow wall, the fleet of coaches departing before dawn on Sunday, can surely only inspire and lift Farke’s men to summon one last, decisive effort to haul the Canaries’ over the finish line. Be loud, be proud. One City Strong.