Paddy Davitt verdict: The acid test awaits for City. Can they address a damning statistic?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It might be premature to label Norwich City’s win over Bournemouth a turning point. But it certainly turned a page.
The Canaries had failed to beat any rival in the current bottom eight of the Premier League before Eddie Howe's Cherries limped into Norfolk.
They had also failed to keep a clean sheet on home soil in a campaign which for all the rich promise was threatening to tail off in rather submissive fashion.
Mercifully both of those statistics can be consigned to the rubbish. City made hard work of getting the better of Bournemouth, given how this tense affair unfolded at Carrow Road. But they got the job done.
They restored a dollop of belief to a fanbase who had become hardened to frustration, since the high point of those wins over Newcastle and Manchester City.
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It is a start, although Daniel Farke was quick to stress the road remains long and rutted with pitfalls. Understandably, on the eve of battle, the head coach downplayed the significance of this latest relegation skirmish.
Yet he also emphasised the route to safety is tilted firmly towards drastically improving City's productivity at home.
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Nevertheless, they must address the slim rations served up on the road as a matter of urgency, ahead of the midweek trip to a Tottenham shorn of injured England captain Harry Kane.
Norwich have mustered a desperately poor five goals from 11 away league games to this point; two of those coming in the solitary away win at Everton. That is by some measure the worst output of any top flight side.
And it needs to change. It must change, for all the emphasis on the concession column and those fresh, bitter memories of what happened last time out at Old Trafford.
Step forward Mr Ondrej Duda.
It would be unfair to heap the sole responsibility for transforming such a regressive trend onto his broad shoulders and talented feet. But there was ample evidence City may have unearthed their missing link, in a debut display that was denied a goal by Steve Cook's acrobatics.
Farke was candid on Friday when he admitted the lack of a genuine Premier League-grade number 10 had adversely impacted their fitful progress.
Norwich have created ample opportunities in almost every game since the opening night at Anfield, but bar Teemu Pukki or Todd Cantwell their economy rate has been woeful.
Aaron Ramsdale's shot-stopping prowess and City's own inability to add to Pukki's first half penalty could suggest more of the same.
But in the way Duda intelligently linked with Norwich's prolific frontman, in how he found pockets of space and saw pictures around him with his one touch, two touch feel for the ball, and in how he worked in tandem with Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell, it felt like a marked step forward.
Farke gave him the biggest of build ups prior to the match and the Hertha Berlin loanee did not disappoint.
With more game time, more training time to adapt to his new surroundings, Norwich appear to have added a genuine quality edge to their attacking mix in the final third.
Do not underestimate Kenny McLean's re-deployment to accommodate Duda.
The Scot will get none of the headlines lavished on others but his running power, his appetite for work, and the way he embellished Alex Tettey's own endeavour offered a priceless counter-point.
It was the balance across midfield you suspect Farke has been striving for, and which had remained maddeningly elusive on a consistent basis.
This being Norwich there was a nasty twist; a self-inflicted blow, when Ben Godfrey carved out an unwanted niche as the first Premier League player to be dismissed with the aid of the referee viewing pitchside television pictures, following his ugly lunge on Callum Wilson.
Godfrey knew himself before Paul Tierney reached for his top pocket. There was an apology to Wilson for the force of his sliding challenge.
No doubt something similar to his team mates for leaving them in the lurch. Farke spoke benevolently afterwards about youthful naivety.
For a lad who you can just tell loves to play, a potential three-game ban - following on from a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury - will cut deeper than any verbal admonishment.
Grant Hanley will aim to make the most of his reprieve.
Starting with Tottenham and a trip to their high-tech new surroundings. City can leave the tourist trail to others.
They are heading south on business.