Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-1 win against Southampton

Grant Hanley headed Norwich City to a 2-1 Premier League win over Southampton

Grant Hanley headed Norwich City to a 2-1 Premier League win over Southampton - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paddy Davitt delivers his Saints' verdict after Norwich City's thrilling 2-1 Premier League victory.

1. Project Restart 

In a former Norwich life, Southampton pitched up at an empty Carrow Road and inflicted a 3-0 defeat which triggered the final, sad descent out of the Premier League. That City collective were too meek, too mild and too defeated. 

The past week or so has brought managerial change, and on the evidence of this pulsating second half, renewed belief on and off the park the Canaries can pull off the impossible dream.

City were fortunate to be on level terms at the interval.  

But Dean Smith set about addressing the balance. Josh Sargent was introduced for Todd Cantwell. The shape was tweaked, City appeared to press higher, condensing the space with a ferocity that electrified the home support.  

Grant Hanley rose majestically to head home Billy Gilmour’s winner. 

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Every where you looked across the park, Smith got so much more right than wrong.

This was a remarkable effort given the chronic lack of preparation. From a club written off and deemed to be too accepting of their fate, this was an emphatic response.  

Norwich are not done. Not by a long chalk.   

2. Captain fantastic 

Given how Hanley started this game, the match-winning manner he finished it illustrated the character and the leadership of City’s skipper. He looked rusty and off the pace against the pace and direct thrust of Che Adams and Adam Armstrong.  

There were two opportunities to clear the danger, before Adams’ guided Southampton in front. There was another sluggish loss of possession in the opening period that required a tremendous one-handed parry from Tim Krul.  

But there was also a large body of interceptions peppered across the 90 minutes before he clambered over Brandon Williams to direct Gilmour’s corner inside the near post. 

What an eruption of noise inside the stadium. This was big for so many reasons, but also for a player who seemingly in a club and also an international shirt is always justifying his selection in certain quarters.

Hanley was a rock in the club’s Championship title defence. He is not alone this season in enduring some uncomfortable moments.  

But as Smith himself said on Friday, he needs the leaders and the experienced players to buy into his methods. Quickly. Consider this crucial dressing room relationship already consummated.  

NCFC Extra: Dean Smith's reaction after Norwich City 2-1 Southampton

3. Happy Gilmour 

Most expected Chelsea’s young midfield star to be brought in from the cold. Smith labelled him an ‘outstanding’ talent in his opening Norwich press conference. Then recounted a glowing reference from his former Aston Villa charge, John McGinn.  

For whatever reason, Daniel Farke was unable to shoe horn the Scottish playmaker into his line up.

Had he remained in post, Gilmour was heading back to Stamford Bridge in January. Now there may well be a reprieve.

With Southampton on the front foot for long spells before the interval he struggled to get on the ball, bar one brief passage of play when the ball appeared magnetised to his boot. But with City on the front foot his influence began to grow. He also claimed that match-winning assist for his compatriot Hanley.  

The 20-year-old does not appear to lack for confidence. But he should march back into Colney with his chest puffed out and a sense he may now have found a head coach who believes in him. Smith told a post-match anecdote how he watched one of Gilmour's first senior appearances for Chelsea when he had 'ran the show' against Liverpool.

He certainly feels he can be a cornerstone of a season which was meant to offer Gilmour a chance for a serious Premier League breakthrough. 

4. The more things change, the more they stay the same 

A priceless gem in Farke’s tenure. Still the jewel in the crown for Smith’s attempts to arm this squad with the residual cutting edge they need in the Premier League. A fourth goal in 12 Premier League games  for a team languishing at the wrong end of the table is testament to Teemu Pukki’s perseverance. And his ability to forage on limited service.  

His early first half equaliser here was a superb piece of anticipation, to get across his marker and go beyond the near post before directing his header from Max Aarons' cross past Alex McCarthy. 

The Saints’ keeper should have done better. But Pukki’s predatory instincts look sharp as ever. Study Smith’s attacking options at present and Pukki stands out like a beacon.  

He is an experienced frontman who knows his game inside out, and if City can funnel the right service in his direction he will score goals at the highest level.

But as Smith himself said in the build up, Norwich cannot afford to rely on one man. Even if he is a talisman.     

5. Tough on big Andy 

Given how events turned out, and how clear Smith’s crystal ball was, few will now question the wisdom of restoring Hanley to his line up and leaving out Andrew Omobamidele.  

Quite aside from the message it may have sent to leave his fit-again captain on the outside.

You could see the logic in a line up accommodating both Cantwell and Gilmour, after relative inactivity, to also retain the Irish youngster in the starting roster may have been a bridge too far. Not on the basis of his backs-to-wall display at Brentford, mind, when he again showed maturity beyond his tender years.  

But Smith must find that balance between youth and experience to inject early momentum into his tenure.  

Hanley responded after rocky first half moments, while Ben Gibson was superb in his reading of the balls raining in from wide areas in that uncomfortable opening stanza. Expect both to retain their places for the league home test against Wolves, barring any unforeseen injury or fitness issues.  

But with Omobamidele in the wings, and Ozan Kabak not even in this squad, they both must know places in City's line up hinge on more than senior status.