Paddy Davitt verdict: Two-faced Canaries must set alarm bells ringing
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Nothing quite illustrates renewal at Norwich City than the sight of two teenagers unleashed in the heat of a Championship turf war.
Swansea were by some measure the best side Daniel Farke’s crew have faced. Brentford had spells of dominance recently but this was a forensic working over; a stress test of a second half at Carrow Road.
Norwich were indebted to Tim Krul and, in Steve Cooper’s view, an incorrect penalty call from the referee when Jake Bidwell tumbled in the vicinity of Max Aarons.
The Swans’ chief was self-aware enough to also highlight his own team’s toothless offering.
That echoed Farke’s calls for greater ‘efficiency’ from his side. This was uber efficient. A resolute, robust defensive effort spearheaded by Krul and embellished with one clinical, razor sharp incision finished by Marco Stiepermann. A goal which owed much to Emi Buendia’s touch and Bali Mumba’s adventure.
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The 19-year-old was plucked from Sunderland in the summer after a spell on loan in non league. He will not be going back there any time soon on the evidence of this vibrant cameo.
It is telling Sam McCallum was allowed out of the building to re-join Coventry City on loan, after the duo had started the opening League Cup defeat at Luton Town.
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Mumba remained because in Farke’s view he is a viable first team option. And then some. Like Aarons on the other flank, he appears to share a fearless attitude and a perfect temperament.
Mumba relished not only the challenge of trying to subdue Swansea’s key man, Andre Ayew, but the responsibility to add a forward threat. There had already been some encouraging darts into the penalty area before his decisive late intervention.
Inevitably there will be calls for Mumba to now start ahead of Jacob Sorensen at Middlesbrough the other side of the international break, should Xavi Quintilla be unfit.
Farke is not a man swayed by public opinion. Few would have called for either Mumba or Josh Martin to be introduced at a pivotal moment in a contest which for the most part rattled along with a play-off intensity.
City have largely had things all their own way this season.
The groaning volume of possession and shots on target statistics have more often than not failed to translate into goals. But Farke, and more importantly his players, must extract more belief and confidence from a match where they did not have everything in their favour than a landslide.
It was uncomfortable viewing in that second half, it was impossible to call and yet they found a route to the finish line. This was a result and a performance of character. It was also another signal Farke has a squad at his disposal that should compete at the sharp end.
Not only in the manner Mumba and fellow teen Josh Martin responded, but in the elevation of Christoph Zimmermann and Kenny McLean to the line-up.
Ben Gibson and Lukas Rupp had been key figures in this gathering tide of momentum. To be without either against a genuine promotion rival induced a degree of unease prior to the game. Yet their replacements more than played their part in a collective effort that married stubbornness and fighting spirit.
Add Todd Cantwell to the mix, plus the longer-term absentees, and Norwich have the resources to maintain this growing charge.
Farke’s brave, bold double change paid off handsomely, with what he himself conceded was a risky hunch.
This was not simply three points, it was perhaps another reminder despite the sad descent from the Premier League Norwich have a coach who knows what it takes at this level.
The Championship is arduous terrain and in Farke they retain a man who understands the ingredients required.
The sight of Ryan Bennett in Swansea’s ranks highlighted the point.
Bennett was part of a Norwich squad under Alex Neil’s stewardship that tried to bounce back a different way; by retaining the bulk of the same personnel. That approach crumbled after a similarly bright start and ultimately paved the way for Farke and Stuart Webber.
The duo engineered a summer squad overhaul designed to injected dynamism and energy into the attempt to buck the trend. Mumba’s introduction against Swansea underscored this is now a marriage of old and new.
It is not more of the same, it is a turning of the wheel, and the manner they edged out Swansea showed there is more than one face to Norwich’s approach.
They can play teams off the park when it clicks. They can also dig in.
It feels a heady mix.