Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-0 Championship cruise against Bristol City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Bristol City verdict after Norwich City's 2-0 Championship win.
1. Sailing into the distance
This was routine for Norwich. Barely did they have to slip a gear. The only question was could they add a second goal for extra insurance to avoid a nervy finale. Bristol City threw attacking reinforcements on but the Canaries were barely troubled defensively.
Jordan Hugill deserves his headlines for a brace deputising for Teemu Pukki. A victory that moved them seven points clear of second-placed Swansea.
Yes, teams in their slipstream have games in hand but the gap is beginning to look like a chasm.
If Norwich can deal with the absences of key men like Pukki here or Tim Krul prior to the festive period and still power forward it is hard to offer the chasing pack any encouragement.
Daniel Farke continues to reiterate nothing has been achieved yet. But maintain this relentless onslaught and a Championship coronation is inevitable.
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2. Hungry Hugill
The big striker’s towering header to open the scoring was another example of his aerial prowess, at the same end of the ground as his FA Cup goal against Coventry. His second underlined his predatory instincts when he chested a rebound from Max Aarons’ dart.
With Pukki out injured this is the time for the former Preston forward to state his case.
Prior to his opener he had just spurned an easier chance from close range, when he diverted Kenny McLean’s cross at Daniel Bentley. But he had no time to dwell on that when he rose imperiously to guide home Todd Cantwell’s whipped cross.
He is a different option to the Finnish international but at present he in no less effective. He is weighing in with goals and his all round game appears to have moved up a notch.
Hugill had a physical tussle with Alfie Mawson where no quarter was asked or given. He will get another chance this weekend at Barnsley with FA Cup progress at stake.
You could see by the warmth in the celebrations after he opened the scoring what a popular figure he is in the City dressing room.
But along with Ben Gibson he has also brought a streetwise edge and a leadership which was badly needed in a group wounded by the manner of their Premier League exit. Keep it up, big man.
3. A season to remember, Tim
The final chapters remain to be written. But this is turning into some story for City’s number one. He was perhaps the only member of Farke’s squad to embellish his reputation in the top flight last season.
Krul started this campaign as indisputably the best in the Championship. His shot stopping prowess was needed in those early uncertain outings, when Norwich looked anything but the class act they are at present.
Then he completed the circle at international level with two starts for Holland in the Nations League after a long absence triggered by a knee injury playing for his country that altered the direction of his club career.
But since then it has been a test professionally and personally. A thigh injury at Stoke saw him sidelined for weeks. Then he contracted coronavirus and, according to Farke on Tuesday, was laid low by the symptoms.
He deserves another fertile patch now. This was a gentle return to the fray. Not one save worthy of the name. Tougher tests will lie ahead. But to have him back on the pitch feels big.
4. Another level
Farke had to bat away a question after Cantwell’s inspirational display in the 2-1 weekend Championship win at Cardiff whether the youngster had taken his game to a new level.
Farke is loathe to heap praise on his young talents, unless in his view they have maintained a rich seam over a prolonged period. It is why perhaps he was willing to be so effusive towards Aarons after he clocked up 100 senior appearances for the club earlier this season.
But Cantwell underlined again he is heeding his coach’s advice with the perfect whipped ball headed home by Hugill. The 22-year-old has contributed to a goal or an assist in five of his last seven outings.
He really can do no more at present.
It must be so satisfying for Farke to see after that summer transfer window induced loss of focus.
But above all it must tell Cantwell himself he is firmly on the right track to fulfil his undoubted potential. The raw materials are all there. Now he is adding the punch on a regular basis.
5. Safe hands Sorensen
Well technically safe feet Sorensen. Another composed display at left back. Defensively sound, ambitious in his attacking urges. You can scarcely believe the Dane had never played at full back in his professional career.
Testament to Farke who backed his hunch at Brentford that night when Xavi Quintilla was ruled out in the warm up.
With Quintilla and now new signing Dimitris Giannoulis – subject to the formality of a work permit application next week – shaping up to battle it out for supremacy, it will be fascinating what the immediate future holds for Sorensen.
He looked the part as well in his preferred central midfield berth in the FA Cup win over Coventry City. One might reasonably expect him to return there for this weekend’s fourth round trip to Barnsley. But by Middlesbrough’s league visit to Carrow Road both Quintilla and Giannoulis should be in play.
Should that lead to Sorensen’s removal from the starting line up it is likely to only be temporary. He looks set for a key role in the next phase of Farke’s journey.