Shot-shy Canaries sunk by Ipswich Town old boy

Wes Hoolahan was back in the Norwich line up at the City Ground.

Wes Hoolahan was back in the Norwich line up at the City Ground. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Daryl Murphy pounced late on at the City Ground to extend Norwich City’s winless Championship run to five games on Tuesday night.

Daniel Farke’s men had plenty of possession, and looked more threatening at times that a tame display at the weekend against Barnsley, but Murphy punished a chronic lack of cutting edge when he got across Christoph Zimmermann to divert Mustapha Carayol’s low cross past Angus Gunn in the 77th minute.

Farke had demanded a greater tempo and urgency to Norwich’s pretty passing.

There was ample evidence in the opening skirmishes when Nelson Oliveira was bundled over but James Maddison’s free kick slammed into the home wall.

Wes Hoolahan cleverly threaded a pass into Marley Watkins in the 11th minute but the Welsh international was unable to bring the ball under his spell and could only roll a tame shot wide of the near post.

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The Reds had their moments of promise at the other end. Murphy thumped a rising shot at Angus Gunn after shrugging off the attentions of Grant Hanley. Gunn’s next intervention was even better, clawing Kieran Dowell’s drive around his near post from Murphy’s cutback.

The inclusion of Watkins certainly injected a sense of dynamism into City’s lateral rhythms. Marco Stiepermann sought out the pacy attacker with another probing ball over the top but Watkins had strayed offside.

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The intent was clear, as the prowling Farke patrolled his technical area. Norwich sought to be the aggressors; to force the pace rather than wait for events to unfold.

The number of away shirts in close proximity to Oliveira was another tangible signal. Ivo Pinto drifted a cross to the far post but Tendayi Darikwa headed clear with Watkins sensing another opportunity.

The danger, in the midst of such encouragement, was those residual issues across a midfield shorn of the combative Alex Tettey. The hosts clearly sensed a vulnerability to the swift counter, with the likes of Mario Vrancic and Maddison caught the wrong side of the ball on two occasions. Timm Klose held up Murphy long enough for reinforcements to arrive but Farke’s side were fortunate to escape in the 25th minute when the former Ipswich striker planted a towering header over Gunn’s bar from eight yards.

City emerged from a spell of pressure on the edge of their own area with a smooth series of passes ended abruptly by Vrancic’s heavy attempt to find the overlapping Stiepermann.

Vrancic’s failure to impose himself since his arrival from the Bundesliga had dominated much of the discourse since a drab goalless affair against Barnsley. Farke predictably perhaps sought to defend the Bosnian international in the build up, but there was an implicit warning his words. Opportunities are running out for a prolonged run in the starting line up with, Alex Pritchard edging towards a first team return and Tettey to add to the midfield mix.

Deployed alongside Harrison Reed, with Tom Trybull succumbing to a back injury, there were glimpses again of his potential in the opening period. No-one is likely to fault his attitude or application but City fans want to see much more productivity. The same applies to his team mates.

That tendency to overplay, to become too intricate in their passing motions was still lurking just beneath the surface. Hoolahan and Watkins tried to fashion a shooting chance but contrived to disappear into ever decreasing circles inside the home penalty area.

There was far more thrust from the duo four minutes before the interval when Hoolahan picked out the Welshman but his deflected shot spiralled into Jordan Smith’s hands.

Zimmermann emerged for the second consecutive game as a half-time replacement for the limping Klose. If that looked injury related, Forest’s removal of Darikwa triggered a switch to a defensive three. Maybe a compliment to Norwich’s growing threat in possession.

Oliveira certainly brought the best out of Smith with a dipping 25 yard free kick touched behind as the Reds’ keeper dived full length to his right.

The unease rippling around the City Ground amongst the restless home fans was audible. Mark Warburton sought to appease the natives with introduction of Carayol who drilled a shot at Gunn in the 71st minute.

Carayol then picked out Murphy to deliver the blow; the ex-Tractor Boy getting across Zimmermann at the near post to divert a low cross beyond Gunn from close range. Norwich’s play had been pleasing on the eye but lacked the killer punch. A familiar refrain.

• Nottingham Forest: Smith, Lichaj, Mancienne, Bridcutt, Murphy, McKay (Carayol 69), Osborn, Dowell (Bouchalakis 88), Vaughan, Darikwa (Mills 50), Worrall. Subs (not used): Henderson (GK), Clough, Brereton, Cummings.

• Booking: Bridcutt (foul on Oliveira, 49)

• Goal: Murphy (77)

• Norwich City: Gunn, Pinto, Klose (Zimmermann 45), Hanley, Stiepermann, Reed (Jerome 85), Vrancic, Watkins, Maddison, Hoolahan (Murphy 74), Oliveira. Subs (not used): McGovern (GK), Wildschut, Franke, Cantwell.

• Booking: Reed (foul on Dowell, 64)

• Time added on: 1 minute / 5 minutes

• Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland)

• Attendance: 23,831 (1,466 Norwich City fans)

• For the latest Norwich City news and opinion follow Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt on the following channels…

Paddy Davitt on Twitter @paddyjdavitt

Paddy Davitt on Instagram @pj_davitt

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