Paddy Davitt verdict: All there for City if they do not take liberties
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Appearances can be deceptive. But there was compelling evidence Norwich City have turned a corner.
Certainly not in the manner of the performance at Huddersfield. Which was patchy, scratchy and forged more in effort than effervescent quality. Not even in the result.
Which was a welcome return to the win column after those endless, painful run of club record defeats in competitive fixtures.
Not even in the rarity of a clean sheet for a team that remains set up to attack under Daniel Farke.
It was more in the body language, the attitude of those who failed to make the starting line up, and in a largely empty stadium the volume that greeted Idah’s winner.
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City coaches and players poured out of the away dug out while Idah was engulfed by his team mates on the pitch.
Unity and togetherness are more than words. They are defined by actions.
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Of course the real tests lie ahead. City will face plenty of adversity and they will not have things all their own way, but a win and a clean sheet when there is so much more to come from this group should reassure supporters they are tacking back in the right direction.
Given the large scale turnover to a squad bruised and battered by the manner of their Premier League relegation it was never going to be conduicive to fostering early cohesion.
Nor the huge disruption to Farke’s build up caused by losing 15 players on international duty.
But step over Luton and that cup exit and this was a continuation in many respects of the positive pre-season signals.
Jamal Lewis may have departed for Newcastle but there was plenty of comfort in the sight of Tim Krul, Max Aarons and Ben Godfrey returning.
Xavi Quintilla, as his head coach made clear, has it all on to try and compensate for the loss of Lewis.
There was some flutters at the manner Huddersfield got in too easily down his left side in the early sparring, but they were amply outweighed by the threat he brings on set pieces.
Godfrey was denied a clear first half penalty when his header from the Spaniard’s corner struck Juninho Bacuna on the arm inside the Terriers’ penalty area. There was another inviting deliver in the second half met by a towering Zimmermann leap that just cleared Ben Hamer’s bar.
For Quintilla, read Norwich in general.
Patience and a degree of realism is required at this embryonic stage.
Farke himself spoke before and after this victory about a bumpy period between now and the first international window, set against the backdrop of a transfer window which will bring fresh speculation around more potential departures.
But it was ever thus. It has been the same in every window since Farke first showed faith in young talent. And if Idah continues in the same goalscoring vein you can add his name to the gossip columns come January.
For Farke to publicly reveal afterwards he felt compelled to question Idah’s focus during the build up, after his headline-grabbing elevation to the Republic of Ireland’s international ranks, is another encouraging sign.
It suggests there is a culture of searing honesty and a quest for self-improvement.
Farke sets the tone but it will need the experienced operators within the dressing room to enforce it.
Despite the slender margin of a first league win of many this season, courtesy at least initially from a poor pass from Richard Stearman, player-of-the-year Tim Krul was largely a bystander.
There was none of the routine shot-stopping heroics we saw in the top flight. Just a calmness and a commanding air to how he claimed catches as Huddersfield tried to salvage something tangible from a committed outing under new head coach Carlos Corberan.
There are significantly better sides in this division. But Norwich did what they had to do. The found the answer to the questions posed.
Take one look at Farke’s substitutes’ bench at Huddersfield.
Add the likes of the suspended Emi Buendia, the injured Sam Byram and Grant Hanley and even the omitted Timm Klose, Marco Stiepermann and Mario Vrancic and Farke should have the answers most weeks.
But if they start to take things for granted, maybe even allow a trace of complacency to seep in, and this Norwich will discover as the Alex Neil vintage did in 2016/17 you cannot take liberties in the Championship.
Norwich have rightly been tipped by many to buck the trend of relegated clubs.
That brings expectancy and pressure. Can they deal with it?