Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 2-1 Championship win at Reading
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Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict from Reading
1. Take a bow, lads - Norwich go into the latest international break unbeaten since the last one. For the record, 14 points, league cup progress and a club clean sheet league record into the bargain. Yellows was the cry at the final whistle when the Canaries’ players were serenaded by the travelling support. They deserve that and more. Set Marley Watkins’ rash stoppage time red card and a possible injury to young Josh Murphy to one side and this was another hugely positive episode. The last international break was all about finding a way forward. The latest fortnight shutdown is about maintaining this gathering momentum.
2. Done it once. Do it again now - We can put endless talk of club record league clean sheet records to one side for the time being. The manner of Reading’s leveller, which broke that obdurate streak dating back to Millwall prior to the last international break in the Championship, was a source of frustration. Cameron Jerome lost Liam Moore who crashed Sone Aluke’s deep free kick past Angus Gunn from barely four yards. But City have shown more than enough in setting that new club landmark to suggest they are capable of embarking on another miserly run. That should be the aim.
3. Magic man Maddison - We knew it already. We saw it at Middlesbrough but if you needed a reminder Norwich’s young midfielder can smack a football. After being felled just outside the Reading penalty box there was never any doubt who was going to take the City free kick. Maddison composed himself, stepped up and whipped a fearsome shot around the Royals’ wall and into Vito Mannone’s top corner. Skysports claimed in the aftermath it was Norwich’s first goal direct from a free kick in 99 games. It will not take as long until the next one if the 20-year-old remains in the XI. But there is a downside to such eye-catching goals. He better get used to the rough treatment from Championship opponents as well.
4. Strut your stuff, Josh - Canny man-management from Daniel Farke to recall the youngster immediately after his public rebuke and demotion from the squad at the Riverside. Murphy had a couple of first half strikes thwarted by the Reading defence but his most telling contribution prior to the interval was arguably the surge back towards his own goal to bail out James Husband with a sliding challenge to halt Aluko. Farke questioned his attitude and his professionalism in recent days. The only way Murphy can respond is with whole-hearted, committed performances when called upon. There was plenty of evidence here until an early second half injury exit. The talent is not in doubt. Farke wants to see the temperament.
5. Staying one step ahead - Rightly, Timm Klose and Christoph Zimmermann had been lauded for their pivotal roles in a club record consecutive clean sheet run. That may have ended abruptly at the Madejski when Moore punished slackness at a set piece but there was also a clear policy from Jaap Stam to test out a perceived lack of pace between City’s defensive totems in open play. Balls were fired long and regularly down the sides of both, for the searing speed of Aluko and Garath McCleary. Klose and Zimmermann were routinely dragged out of position in Reading’s better spells. It may be a tactic of choice moving forward from Championship rivals. Farke and his current central defensive partnership will have to prove they can respond.