Six things you might have missed from Norwich City’s rare FA Cup victory
PUBLISHED: 10:49 06 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:49 06 January 2020
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Following an enjoyable FA Cup weekend, David Freezer takes a look at six talking points from Norwich City’s break from the pressures of the Premier League survival scrap.
1 - Savour the rare magic of FA Cup
A win, in the FA Cup? City fans had almost forgotten what this feels like.
In fact, ahead of victory at Deepdale, the Canaries were on the longest winless run in the competition of any of the current 91 clubs in the top four divisions in England. It was back in January 2013 that the last FA Cup win had been enjoyed, a 3-0 success at Peterborough during Chris Hughton's first season in charge - but the joy was short lived.
Slumping to a 1-0 home loss to Luton in the fourth round saw City become the first top-flight club knocked out by a non-league team in 24 years and sparked a miserable run of results in the world's oldest club competition.
Third round losses to Fulham, Preston, Manchester City, Southampton, Chelsea and Portsmouth meant there was next to no magic of the cup in this neck of the woods.
So savour this rare FA Cup fun, as City set their sights on getting past the fourth round for the second time in just 13 seasons.
2 - Record is broken by teen star
Canaries fans can largely enjoy that rare feeling of progress in the FA Cup thinks to the impressively clinical instincts of young striker Adam Idah.
Not only did the Irishman grasp his opportunity with both hands by scoring three goals and looking more than ready for first team football, but he also wrote his name into City's record books.
At just 18 years and 328 days old, Idah becomes the youngest player to ever score a hat-trick for the Canaries, moving ahead of two very notable former players in Craig Bellamy and the late Justin Fashanu.
Bellamy was 40 days past his 19th birthday when he scored three in a 4-2 home win over QPR in the second tier in 1998 and Fashanu was 178 days after his 19th birthday, when he scored three in a 5-1 home win over Stoke in the top flight in 1980.
Idah goes down as another scouting success for City's academy, following Max Aarons in emerging from the 2017-18 Youth Cup squad.
3 - Signs of recovering confidence
Much has already been written about Idah though, so who else was able to further their claims for Premier League action?
The chief candidate is Marco Stiepermann, having set up two of the striker's goals and having had key roles in the build-up to both the strike from Onel Hernandez and the spectacular strike that Idah made it 3-0 from - both with a significant helping hand from Preston keeper Connor Ripley, who had an awful day.
I had thought Stiepermann as showing some better signs during the draw with Spurs recently as well, so it's good to see him recovering some creative confidence.
It has to be said that this was a game played at a pace and intensity nowhere near to top-flight battle though, with an overall tally of 34 shots at goals emphasising just how open the game was.
Stiepermann has proved he can handle the pace of the Championship though. Can he now keep those chances flowing in the top flight, either for Idah or Pukki?
4 - Mo moves out of the shadows
City fans were given their first sight of Mo Leitner in two months during City's fun day out at Deepdale.
The German looked to be one of the players primed to make the step up to the Premier League and the early signs were good, as he ran the show during the 3-1 win over Newcastle.
However, the search for defensive rigidity led to Leitner being moved into a more advanced role, which didn't really work out, and his last appearance had come to an end at half-time during the 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United.
At Preston there were signs of the usual desire to find space in midfield and find the passes to trigger attacks, but also signs of shaking off the rust at times.
Mario Vrancic and Alex Tettey look to be the central midfield duo in the best form at the moment however, so Leitner - and Tom Trybull as well - will need to force his way into the starting XI if he is to play a major role in the remainder of this season.
5 - Reminder of pre-VAR experience
I was quite looking forward to not writing about VAR this weekend, yet there is no denying the flow of this game felt like a throwback to a more enjoyable time.
It took me by surprise quite how conspicuous VAR was in its absence, being able to relax once the ball had hit the back of the net, knowing that unless the officials signalled an issue within seconds, it would stand.
The fact that VAR was being used at Premier League grounds but not for ties being played at EFL stadiums did seem rather ridiculous as well, but we should expect little else from the decision makers at the moment.
However, the conundrum arrives when you look back at the highlights and see that Idah was probably offside as he ran through to win his penalty and maybe even for Hernandez's goal as well.
VAR may well have chalked off Preston's second for offside too, so the result may not have been affected - but these are strange times indeed for football.
6 - Who will City hope to face?
And so attentions turn to tonight's fourth round draw, with all of the non-league sides already out and just two League Two sides going into the hat.
A home draw against one of the lowest teams is the obvious preference, particularly as City's league fate could well be clearer by the time the fifth round rolls around - unless that big upturn in form we're all hoping for materialises.
Should relegation look likely then at least they could have a crack at the FA Cup and keep spirits up - so Northampton at home looks the plum tie, although Carlisle are also still in the running, with a home replay against Cardiff awaiting.
Another of interest could be Oxford, who City haven't faced since 1999. An away draw against the U's would also mean a new stadium, although the U23s did play at the Kassam Stadium in the EFL Trophy this season.
Knowing City's luck, it will be Fulham away and the Craven Cottage jinx.