Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' spirited 1-0 Championship win against Derby County

Kieran Dowell fired Norwich City in front at Derby County

Kieran Dowell fired Norwich City in front at Derby County - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Derby County verdict after Norwich City's 1-0 Championship victory.

1. ‘A dirty 1-0 win’ 

Daniel Farke’s squad seemingly have no weak spots. Or at least not enough that can be routinely exploited. When they turn on the style they serve up a display of attacking endeavour that is simply unrivalled in the Championship. That Huddersfield 7-0 win will be remembered as some of the finest football of the modern era in green and yellow. 

But when they have to dig in, when it becomes an arm wrestle rather than balletic beauty, they can also stand up and trade.

Derby dictated the second half after Kieran Dowell’s sublime first half free kick. There looked a tiredness and lethargy to City’s efforts. Lest we forget the gruelling demands placed on this squad around the Easter period, given the close proximity to that recent international break. 

But Norwich resisted. There were some moments of alarm. Notably when Tim Krul dallied and present Colin Kazim-Richards with the chance to pick out Graeme Shinnie who skied over the open goal. But beautiful football alone does not propel you to the big time.

When you are not at your best, when the attacking endeavour is fitful, you have to be able to resist. This was the ‘dirty 1-0 win’ Farke said he would have taken after watching the magnificent seven against the Terriers.  

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2. Three and easy 

Andrew Omobamidele must be wondering what all the fuss is about. He has started three senior games for Norwich now. Bar a 95th minute strike at Preston that slithered through his legs to deceive Krul he would have had three clean sheets. Huddersfield was a cruise but against the Rams, and the wily Kazim-Richards, he was worked over at times.

The Irish teenager stood his ground in the physical duels and on the floor he was as composed as if this was a development game at Colney. 

His central defensive partner and City captain, Grant Hanley, remarked on his maturity earlier this week. The 18-year-old certainly looks ready to operate at this level. Albeit the sample is very small thus far.

Whether he can be a squad option in the Premier League in a few short months is for another day. Certainly Hanley and his head coach feel he is another gem off the academy production line.  

3. Move over, Emi 

If you wanted any visual sign of Dowell’s growing influence on this Norwich line up it was when he pulled rank over Emi Buendia to whip a gorgeous first half free kick past David Marshall. Buendia has tended to dominate the set piece pecking order this season. No surprise there given his wizardry.  

But Dowell had already fizzed an earlier dead ball into the Derby side netting. When he stepped up again in the 21st minute it was a thing of beauty – up and over the Rams’ defensive wall and into the top corner, with a keeper as good as Marshall rooted to his line. 

Worth pointing out also it was Dowell’s initial interception and burst that earned the free kick opportunity, when he was barged over by Craig Forsyth.  

A third goal in his past five outings is the level of productivity Norwich have craved in that key area of the park. Mario Vrancic’s extended run in that number 10 role brought a succession of wins but the Bosnian was unable to plunder on a personal level.  

The shirt is Dowell’s until his level drops or City opt to bolster that area of the squad this coming summer.  

4. The many faces of Max 

City’s highly valued right back appears intent on increasing his assist and goal count during the promotion run in. After popping up in a left midfield role to complete the midweek Huddersfield rout with a ball squared for Jordan Hugill, Aarons gravitated towards the same advanced station in the first half against Derby. 

The final ball from deep evaded him, otherwise the full back was in behind and testing Marshall. His final third entries this season mark out him as the best in class in his position in the Championship.  

But one solitary league goal against Sheffield Wednesday is a slim return. The quality of that strike, swept into the bottom corner in front of the Barclay back in early December, underlined he has the predatory instincts. 

Aarons is a player who looks destined for a long career at the highest level. 

The potential is limitless. But the competition in England is intense. So too the demands on the modern day full back. Defensive soundness is the base, but adding a genuine attacking edge to his game, both as a provider and a taker of goals, offers the type of added dimension that could set him apart from his peers. 

Expect more attacking raids before this season is out.   

5. Champagne on ice 

Norwich did their part of the bargain. But so did Swansea and Brentford. City required both to slip up but their distant promotion rivals engineered big wins on the road at Millwall and Preston respectively. 

That means the stage is set for Bournemouth’s visit to Carrow Road in a week’s time. It would be entirely fitting if the Canaries sealed the deal on their own terms on home soil. Sadly not in front of their own fans.  

That will be the enduring sadness to a season which has restored belief after an abject relegation from the Premier League. 

The ‘Project Restart’ period was painful enough no doubt for supporters barred entry, as the social distancing protocols across society were put in place.

Watching from afar this time around will have felt no less alien one suspects. But as Farke himself has said periodically, if their football team can at least provide a distraction and some comfort in these difficult times then continuing to play on will have carried some meaning.  

The last time Carrow Road was swelled with home fans was a Premier League win against Leicester. Fitting perhaps the first time back should be for another top flight fixture.  

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