Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 1-1 Championship draw against Preston

Emi Buendia celebrates his goal with Xavi Quintilla in Norwich City's 1-1 Championship draw against Preston

Emi Buendia celebrates his goal with Xavi Quintilla in Norwich City's 1-1 Championship draw against Preston - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Preston verdict after Norwich City's 1-1 Championship stalemate.

1. A sting in the tail 

This was so nearly a tale of triumph against epic odds. In the final analysis Brad Potts’ deflected 95th minute leveller for Preston will feel like a defeat. It should not. Norwich went into this game with all manner of issues around player availability and a chronic lack of preparation for the international contingent. Dimitris Giannoulis and Max Aarons were left behind in Norfolk.  

Irish teenager Andrew Omobamidele made his full debut in a backline with an average age of just over 22. 

Yet Emi Buendia put City in front and they looked to have contained Frankie McAvoy’s side with relative comfort. On another day Teemu Pukki closes the gap even further at the top of the goal charts to Ivan Toney.  

But perhaps it was inevitable given the huge shocks to Norwich’s defence that 17th clean sheet eluded them. Daniel Farke must be proud of the character and the resolve and the fighting spirit. Beat Huddersfield on Easter Tuesday and this period will go down as another massive obstacle cleared in their pursuit of the Premier League.  

2. Mr Cool 

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No pressure young man. But we have two senior centre backs injured. One definitely out for the rest of the season. The other possibly out for the rest of the season. And your partner is playing his fifth game in 13 days. Good luck. Not the easiest hand Omobamidele will be dealt for however long his professional career lasts. What a debut. The 18-year-old played with a composure and a fearlessness that bordered on the remarkable.  He definitely did not deserve to see Potts' deflected stoppage time strike fly through his legs to deceive Tim Krul. 

There was one positional lapse early on when Krul came to this aid to foil Emil Riss. But his reading of the game, his confidence to step into midfield, and his all-round coolness justified yet again Farke’s faith in youth. 

The safe play would have been either Jacob Sorensen or Alex Tettey slotted into that central defensive vacancy. To blood a teenager with a couple of minutes of Championship action under his belt was the brave play. 

Farke speaks often about leading young talent towards the door. Then they have to walk through. On that measure the Irish youngster is now firmly in the room and at the forefront of the conversation to forge an unlikely alliance with Hanley for the run in. 

3. Hail Hanley 

You can be sure his young understudy would be the first to pay tribute to the captain’s influence on his big day at Deepdale. Hanley was indispensable before injuries to Ben Gibson and Christoph Zimmermann. Now he needs to be awarded protected status.  

He was still making clearances in the final moments. The captain was literally seconds from posting yet another clean sheet. Preston’s equaliser will cut deep. 

But his fitness levels to play five full games in the space of 13 days should finally sell a lie to those persistent concerns and injury absences, which until this campaign had pockmarked his Norwich tenure. 

Hanley has been an ever-present. An influential figure on his team mates and a man who in the view of his head coach can still get better. This season should end with another Premier League promotion under his belt. But the difference this time around is he has led from the front, after it was Zimmermann and Ben Godfrey who anchored the previous title triumph.  

There might be those who look at his muscular bulk and need convincing of his technical ability. Or his speed. But surely few inside Norfolk doubt Hanley’s indelible mark on this Norwich side. 

In all probability he should also have a European Championships to look forward to this summer with Scotland, after featuring heavily for his country during the international period. These are heady times for the City skipper. Just please stay fit for another month or so. 

4. Glimpse into the future? 

Olly Skipp’s international workload saw him left on the bench before a late, late cameo. Sorensen got a rare chance in the position he was recruited for alongside the impressively consistent Kenny McLean. He looked energetic, athletic and measured in possession for the most part. 

The Dane really has been a remarkable find at Championship level. As he said himself in a recent interview this has been a surreal introduction to life in England, given his prolonged emergency stint at left back.  

The arrival of Giannoulis perhaps harshly relegated him to the shadows in recent weeks. But with Skipp only on loan from Tottenham, Sorensen will know this was an opportunity to push his claims for what everyone at the club hopes is a Premier League-bound destination. 

Norwich will clearly need to weigh up whether to bring in additional resource in a crucial area of the pitch should they be unable to entice Skipp back to Norfolk. But the answer may also lie within.

Farke labelled McLean ‘indispensable’ the last time Norwich were in the top flight. The Dane has proven himself equally important in his debut tour.  

5. Deep. Very deep. 

It really does say everything about the squad assembled by Farke and Stuart Webber City could handle all the negative issues around this fixture and emerge with a positive outcome.  

To leave behind an England Under-21 right back and a Greek international, who was on World Cup qualifying duty a couple of days ago, on top of the existing injury absentees illustrates City have a roster second to none in this season’s Championship. 

It is why they have been able to ride waves of adversity this season that would have blown pretty much every other rival off course in the second tier. There was palpable concern on Friday when Farke announced Zimmermann had joined the sick list.  

A few again highlighted whether the recruitment decisions had left Norwich needlessly short in the centre of defence.  

Perhaps the same constituency questioned why Moritz Leitner and Tom Trybull were deemed surplus to requirements. 

There is still a little work ahead. Particularly after letting two points slip from their grasp at Deepdale. But should this campaign end back in the Premier League, and possibly another championship trophy in the cabinet, then City’s brains’ trust have delivered.  

Webber said after last season’s relegation he left Farke firing blanks after a patchy performance in the transfer market. This time around they look to have raided the armoury. 

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