Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-1 win over Reading
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Reading verdict after Norwich City's 2-1 Championship win.
1. 2-1 to the Norwich City. 2-1 to the Norwich City.
City might need to borrow that old Arsenal tune from the George Graham era. (Ask your parents). A fourth consecutive 2-1 Championship win is a remarkably consistent return given the injuries and the gruelling schedule.
Emi Buendia put Daniel Farke’s leaders in front. Reading hit back within three minutes. But the second half was a masterclass in game management from the visitors.
Norwich controlled the pace and the direction of travel. Michael McGovern was only required in stoppage time to foil Michael Olise from a dipping free kick. But it was largely a watching brief thanks to those in front.
Norwich return east with a six point cushion to third place in the table and perhaps more tellingly at this stage, a 10-point gap to seventh. The view from the top looks lovely.
This is a relentless, unforgiving assault from the Canaries that must surely be sapping the belief of their nearest challengers.
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Whatever hurdle is put in front of Farke’s boys to this point, they have the quality and the character to clear it.
2. Busy Buendia
Farke is in no doubt Buendia is edging back to the player who cast such a large shadow over the Championship in the title winning season.
The City chief mapped out prior to this game how Buendia’s selfless endeavour and full focus are good signs. The talent is never in doubt.
A fifth goal of the season to open the scoring against Reading to sit alongside the six assists is an impressive body of growing work.
But again he picked up the ball in that pocket of space roughly 20 yards from goal that has brought dividends in the previous games against Nottingham Forest and Blackburn.
Farke wanted more end product and to do that he needed the Argentine to take as much satisfaction from finishing moves as the regular manner he serves up chances for his team mates.
This was another positive sign Buendia is emerging rightly as one of the Championship’s best creative forces.
3. Cantwell & Dowell
It sounds more like a well heeled gentlemen’s outfitters than two gifted young English attacking midfielders in Norwich’s ranks.
But what a signal City’s injury woes might be behind them that Farke could introduce both at the interval.
That quality told in the second period. Cantwell was excellent. Taking the ball in tight spots and using his skill to keep Norwich on the front foot.
The whipped pass for Max Aarons invited the England Under-21 full back to drive into the Reading box in the move that brought Teemu Pukki’s penalty.
Dowell almost got on the scoresheet himself when a first time shot brushed a Royals’ defender and clipped the outside of a post.
His signing last summer triggered genuine excitement given his pedigree at England youth level.
The prospect of both Cantwell and Dowell in tandem from here should have City fans salivating and opponents shifting uneasily.
4. The power of 10
It seems like every passing game now brings a personal milestone for Mr Pukki. At Blackburn his brace brought up a half century for the Canaries in his 100th appearance.
Here he moved into double figures for the campaign with a composed penalty rolled past Rafael to earn his side another three points.
What more is there to be said about the Finnish free transfer? He has repaid the faith of Farke and Stuart Webber many times over already. He will be remembered rightly as one of the club’s finest ever frontmen.
But what is really pleasing is the growing sense he still wants more and he is still capable of striking fear into Championship defenders.
The zest and the clinical edge in front of goal appear to be back after a draining second half to the Premier League season.
Reading fans may have cast him in the role of panto villain after he celebrated his penalty in that corner of the Madejski where the pocket of supporters were housed. But in Norfolk he can do no wrong. The Canaries are lucky to have him.
5. Big moments call for big players
Norwich have navigated some turbulent waters to handle a lengthy injury list that has tested Farke’s resourcefulness to the limit one suspects.
But prime amongst those absentees has been Tim Krul’s exit at Stoke City with a thigh problem which has kept him out for six full games.
Farke was right to highlight the composure of McGovern during that spell. His stoppage time save from Olise here was top drawer. Results have also tracked in a positive direction but there is no doubt the Dutchman’s soothing presence and influence has felt a big loss.
It is not simply the saves or his ability on the floor with the ball at his feet, but he sets the tone more often than not.
Given his experience and injury record Krul was right to err on the side of caution for a trip to Reading despite returning to team training earlier this week.
Cardiff’s pending visit to Carrow Road this coming Saturday should mark his return, barring any setbacks during the rest of this week.
That will provide a huge festive boost for team mates and fans alike. City have engineered themselves a great position in a congested pack at the top of the Championship.
But the real business is about to begin as they prepare for the defining phase of this campaign entering 2021. To have Krul back in harness feels massive.