Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 1-1 Championship draw against Brentford
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Brentford verdict after the Canaries’ 1-1 Championship draw.
1. Up off the canvas
Brentford boss Thomas Frank dismissed pre-match suggestions this could turn into a chess match, with two sides set up to dominate the ball. Rather he felt it could be a boxing match, with the attacking power on both sides of the ledger.
Norwich had to cover up on the ropes for some difficult spells in both halves but managed to avoid a knockout blow.
Ivan Toney underlined his growing reputation at this level after Brentford cashed in with rapier intent on Todd Cantwell’s slack pass from a City throw. They also needed Tim Krul at his shot stopping best. But Norwich found a way. Like they have done since those defeats to Bournemouth and Derby. This was arguably more impressive than any of the three recent late wins.
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Kenny McLean’s deflected 87th minute equaliser was a huge slice of fortune for Daniel Farke’s squad, but even if that cutting edge again eluded them there is no doubting the character or the fighting spirit or it seems increasingly a refusal to bow. They may have been rocked at times against a serious Championship promotion rival. Yet they emerged unscathed. This could be a big point for many reasons.
2. Tough gig
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Bought as a central midfielder, capped by his country as a centre back at under 21 level, and thrown in for a Norwich competitive debut at left back. Before finishing the game on the right of a defensive three. Welcome to the Championship, Jacob Sorensen.
Xavi Quintilla’s hip problem in the warm up saw a swift elevation to the starting line up for the Danish youngster.
Up against the swift Bryan Mbeumo, Sorensen started steadily.
There could be no blame attached to the home opener, when his throw in was coughed up cheaply by Cantwell, and Brentford raided in the space vacated by the Dane.
The loss of Quintilla in an attacking sense was keenly felt.
Sorensen stuck to his task defensively but does not have the Spaniard’s attacking adventure or delivery from wide areas. We await a more considered bulletin in the coming days on the fitness of the first choice left back, but with Sam McCallum back at Coventry on loan and Christoph Zimmermann still absent, Farke will need to get his thinking cap on for Bristol City this coming weekend.
This really was a step up for Norwich from anything they had faced so far in the Championship. Brentford’s press, the speed they moved the ball, the cohesiveness and the general sense this is a team still on an upward curve was impressive.
Farke made the point prior to the game they are club building on and off the park with a brand new stadium and a vibrant young team. In losing Ollie Watkins, they appear to have made an astute purchase in Toney. They also, on this evidence, have no hangover from missing out on automatic promotion.
Make no mistake they are a perfect Championship benchmark for what City wish to achieve in the months ahead. In a league of levels, this felt like an opponent to place in the top bracket.
That Norwich ground out a point from a game they failed to dominate in terms of possession and shots created may conversely provide more confidence and more self belief for the journey ahead.
4. More to come from Mario?
Farke is far removed from your populist head coach. But his decision to promote Mario Vrancic to his starting XI will have met with widespread approval pre-match.
Vrancic decided the games against Birmingham and Wycombe with vibrant substitute appearances. He got the nod here in the attacking number 10 role that looks a perfect fit. But in truth this was a difficult shift, along with the rest of City’s midfield.
Brentford moved the ball with real intent. Vrancic was too often the wrong side of the action and when he did manage to buy some space Brentford swarmed around him. There was one 25 yard strike on his left that curved wide in the first period but that was the extent of his creative output.
This was not a game to judge whether he can exert a more sustained influence at this level. But by the same token, it also did nothing to counter Farke’s previous logic he might be better utilised in a cameo role against tiring opponents when games do open up.
5. Toney top man
Farke was right pre-match. Subduing the Championship’s joint top scorer would go a long way to deciding the outcome.
Alas, Toney was too hot to handle for Norwich’s central defence. The goal poacher reacted quickest when Brentford forced a turnover from a City throw in to have the simplest of close range slots for his eighth in eight league games, since stepping up to the second tier from Peterborough.
His movement and harassment of Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson was a difficult watch. While his aerial threat inside the Norwich penalty area was equally impressive.
Toney was denied a ninth of the season in the first half by a full length one handed save from Krul. Early days it may be but the Bees appear to have pulled off a coup to land the powerful striker.