Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 2-1 Championship win at Rotherham
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Rotherham verdict after the Canaries’ battling Championship comeback win.
1. Was it ever in doubt?
You bet it was. Norwich exhibited the same lack of clinical intent in the first half. Albeit Rotherham keeper Jamal Blackman was in inspired form. Add in more defensive charity at the opposite end, and Tim Krul’s latest penalty heroics, and this game was heading south.
Even when City produced a team move fit for the Premier League that ended with Michael Ihiekwe bundling Max Aarons’ superb cross over this own line, Paul Warne’s battlers had two excellent chances to snatch the win thereafter.
All the more remarkable given Angus MacDonald’s reckless challenge on Olly Skipp had seen the hosts reduced to 10. Norwich survived and in the 95th minute Jordan Hugill paid back an early instalment on his transfer fee with a coolly taken penalty to open his account for the Canaries.
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It was a win sealed in circumstances that left you feeling this could be the turning point Daniel Farke and his squad desperately need.
Not only to recover ground after a shaky start to life back in the Championship but to finally turn the page on that sour top flight exit. Time will tell. But this could be massive.
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2. Deadline day winners
The fact both Emi Buendia and Aarons remained in Norfolk beyond Friday’s transfer deadline day may, for many City supporters, have paled given the failure to address the limited stocks in central defence.
Something Farke himself added to with his pre-match comments on his desire to bring in a fourth recognised centre back. That will inevitably rumble on if injury or suspension hits between now and the January window.
But if you needed any reminder how crucial two of City’s finest are to the cause it was in the key moments that decided this Championship arm wrestle.
Buendia played the killer pass inside the left back for the overlapping Aarons to collect on run and fire in the cross the Millers’ skipper could only divert into his own goal. Then it was Buendia, sharp in thought and deed, who anticipated the trajectory of a poor clearance and nipped the blind side of his marker who hung out a leg to concede the match-sealing penalty. Small moments perhaps but decisive.
Keep both fit, focused and motivated on the job in hand and Norwich’s quest for upward mobility is immeasurably boosted.
It really was an x-rated challenge from Angus MacDonald that scythed through Skip and sparked a full blown melee. Aarons was closest to the vicinity and was clearly incensed at the horrid challenge on his England Under-21 team mate.
Referee Webb had no hesitation in reaching for his top pocket and in the final analysis perhaps that incident and the fractious aftermath contributed to the five additional minutes that tilted this contest in favour of Norwich.
Skipp thankfully was able to continue after treatment on the pitch. But it was an explosive episode, you sense, borne from pure frustration given it’s close proximity to Nowich’s equaliser.
Farke labelled it a career threatening tackle in his post-match debrief. The lad himself will know he let his side down.
He may well feel the wrath of Warne in the days ahead. But one can only be thankful from a Norwich perspective there was no lasting damage to their young midfielder.
4. Big calls
For a head coach who is routinely questioned for his seeming inflexibility there was some big calls from Farke. Hugill ahead of Teemu Pukki, given the Finn’s fantastic football in the title-winning season, was an acknowledgement perhaps those toothless offerings prior to the international break required a change of personnel.
To bring Adam Idah in on the left hand side in the space vacated by the injured Onel Hernandez was another call that ultimately paid off. Even if the Irishman conceded the first half spot kick in his eagerness to clear his lines.
Idah offered power, physicality and pace to supplement City’s work in the final third. With a decent run in the side, given Hernandez is out until the New Year, it might just be the stage the teenager needs.
But even those late introductions of Pukki and Mario Vrancic from the bench when Rotherham packing down just kept the pressure building.
It will do nothing to halt the scrutiny from here, but Farke got his maths right at Rotherham.
5. Home comforts
Well as much comfort as can be derived from playing at a largely empty Carrow Road. Those in attendance to watch this Rotherham comeback behind glass in corporate areas of the stadium will have enjoyed their Saturday afternoon.
But it will more distance watching against both Birmingham and Wycombe.
Norwich have taken one point from their opening two Championship home games. That is thin gruel for a side with promotion aspirations.
Buoyed by the manner of this hard fought victory, should Farke’s boys harness that burst of confidence and belief and follow up with two home wins then one can justifiably detect some real momentum building. This feels a big week even at this stage. The first hurdle has been cleared.