Paddy Davitt delivers his Cardiff verdict after Norwich City’s stunning Championship comeback

1. That’s why we love it

What a finish to a game of football. Norwich were labouring to a ninth league defeat in 12, and the inevitable heat being turned up even more on David Wagner with a change of guard now complete between Stuart Webber and Ben Knapper.

Christian Fassnacht’s birthday strike cancelled out by two sloppy concessions in four first half minutes that put further dents in the worst defensive record in the Championship. The script was written. For Norwich and in all probability for Wagner.

How big a moment Ryan Wintle’s inadvertent touch - diverting Fassnacht’s swivelling cross over his own line inside the six yard box - is on Norwich’s season will unfold in due course.

But it was matched and raised here within two minutes when Adam Idah’s predatory instincts snaffled the rebound, after Jak Alnwick parried Jon Rowe’s strike.

For a brief moment in this corner of Wales it felt like Norwich’s players and fans were not quite sure how to react. It has felt an eternity on this depressing, downward spiral.

Idah then raced away towards that pocket of hardy away supporters. The raw emotion was etched on the features of Onel Hernandez and Kenny McLean and Jon Rowe as a posse of yellow shirts converged.

After such a dispiriting period it was the sweetest of moments. Norwich navigated the remaining minutes with few real alarms for a first away league win since August 26, and Cardiff’s first home defeat since August 12. A mad, unpredictable slice of Championship action.

2. Fight or flight?

Wagner revealed at his pre-match team meeting with the players he offered them a simple choice: ‘either pull the blanket over your head and wait for the end. Or fight.’

The German had to bat away accusations whether he had the right type of characters in that dressing room at his pre-match press. Whether too many had turned it in, downed tools, and given up on the German and his methods.

What unfolded in the final minutes at the Cardiff City stadium was certainly the visible representation of his words. Both to the media and from his players listening to his impassioned plea at the team hotel.

But he was also quick to caution this can only be the start of something, not a raging against the light or a final hurrah.

Much bigger than whether he is the right man for Knapper, or not, is are these players good enough to push the club forward?

Not just the rest of this season but beyond. Few if any, surely expect Knapper to produce a quick fix to all the energy-sapping issues that have dragged Norwich into the lower reaches of the Championship approaching the end of the year?

Wagner will now sit down with the new incumbent over this international period and attempt to set out a more positive direction of travel.

It was telling he highlighted two players in his post-match media. Danny Batth, for the professionalism to put his own personal disappointment to one side at not starting until injury and suspension robbed him of Grant Hanley, Ben Gibson and Shane Duffy. But also captain McLean, for the manner he has tried to drive his team mates through a dark period.

Those are the type of characters who must come to the fore in the days and weeks ahead if this group is to counter the narrative that was taking hold.

3. The final curtain

Maybe Webber does have an alchemist touch after all. He certainly stage-managed the perfect ending to his six-and-a-half years in control at Carrow Road.

There were times in that glorious ascent alongside Daniel Farke when it felt like the youthful sporting director had the game in the palm of his hand.

A clear footballing identity, a progressive coach, faith in youth, upselling for big profits in the transfer market, and transformative projects at Colney in bricks and mortar.

But the trends had been regressive for too long. There was copious self-reflection from the outgoing sporting director in a near 2,000 word farewell released on Friday night, that forensically went through many of the highs and lows of his tenure.

Webber admitted to mistakes and ‘misjudging situations on occasions’. Under him there was two Championship titles, magical matches, memories and a steering of the ship away from a financial abyss. When it was good, in tandem with Farke, it was sublime.

But that felt like a different era with each passing season of decline. The squad looks aged, the balance sheet precarious. The lack of identity, the recruitment over successive windows, once that transfer tilt prior to a second Premier League campaign backfired, have weighed down Webber for the second part of his lengthy Carrow Road stint.

That and the £30m hole he, primarily, had to plug due to the global pandemic.

Wagner was right to highlight in the build up to this game the Colney transformation. That will be his lasting legacy, and if that modern facility is populated by the right people within City’s academy set up, in the mid to longer term it can produce a seam of fresh talent.

At the final whistle he embraced Wagner and then the players one by one, who in turn formed a guard of honour. Wherever you stand on the man, or his legacy, you could not deny him that moment.

4. A game of patience

Wagner may point to Idah’s match-winning impact as justification for his latest selection shuffle. The German opted to make four changes, three to his backline, and was then prompted to replace his two new full backs at the interval. While Fassnacht justified his selection with a goal and key role in the equaliser.

Yet still we await Borja Sainz’s full Championship debut. A delayed start to his Norwich career was out of Wagner’s hands, when he suffered an untimely ankle injury in pre-season. But since a goalscoring cameo at Fulham in the League Cup, when he offered genuine thrust and intent, it has been a series of substitute outings.

Four to be precise prior to the stirring Bluebirds’ comeback, and four defeats. Quite what the young Spaniard is expected to do when dropped into such a testing environment, with the Canaries on the back foot in games, is anyone’s guess.

To watch Callum Robinson spark Cardiff’s surge in the first half was to pine for the sight of Sainz in yellow and green. A similar attacking player with the instincts to intelligently drop into those pockets of space between midfield and attack, and then use his drive to put defenders on the back foot.

Wagner opted to keep Sainz on the bench, and few could argue with the epic finale. But there remains a myriad of issues to solve in and out of possession. Norwich look porous at the back, brittle in midfield and bar the Idah-inspired late interlude toothless up front.

A sustained run in the starting line up for Sainz looks like an easy win the other side of the international break.

Then it would be up to a player who arrived in the summer, to genuine excitement among a fan base who crave something uplifting, to really deliver and perhaps help build on this result.