Connor Southwell’s verdict: City rolling with the punches in the quest for Championship glory
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Fortune favours the brave and in Daniel Farke, Norwich City possess a head coach who has courage in bucketloads.
As the clock ticked and Swansea City continued to dominate, Farke turned to a bench that contained Mario Vrancic, a man who has bailed the Canaries out on multiple occasions already this season, and Jordan Hugill, a consistent goalscorer at Championship level, and instead opted for two teenagers.
Vrancic and Hugill would have been the safe options, they would have been the players being called for if those stands contained supporters, but instead, Farke opted for youthful endeavour.
In a similar way to how he provided Max Aarons with his first City start in an East Anglian derby or exposed Jamal Lewis to his first full taste of Championship action against Birmingham City, after a disappointing defeat, shows that Farke isn’t afraid to drop in youngsters when he feels can make an impact.
The safe option would have been Vrancic. Then Hugill. Instead, eyebrows were raised inside Carrow Road as Bali Mumba and Josh Martin were called by Chris Domogalla to end their warm-ups and prepare to enter.
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And what a stage to waltz onto. A top of the table clash with plenty of quality and intensity. This wasn’t one where Mumba or Martin could absorb their surroundings and get a feeling for the game.
Farke is a deep thinker when it comes to football. He doesn’t act on emotion but on intellect. Prior to a substitution being made, he will sit back in his chair and converse with his staff to ratify and confirm his decision.
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To neglect those experienced options and opt for two 19-year-olds graphically illustrates his courage. Boy, did he call it correctly.
Mumba has played four minutes of Championship football. Only one of those arrived for Norwich.
The manner in which he grasped the game and imposed himself upon it looked like a player with 100 games under his belt at this level. He got at Connor Roberts and terrified the life out of him.
His athleticism provided a different out ball for City. They were looking to engage him one versus one with Roberts knowing his pace would cause issues. The goal arrives from a clever pass into Emi Buendia. Then Marco Stiepermann finished expertly.
This is a young man who was playing for South Shields in the Northern Premier League in the second half of the last season. Eyebrows were raised when he was described as a credible first team option for City. This outing proves why.
Besides Mumba, City were made to work hard by Swansea City who served as the biggest test the Canaries have faced at Carrow Road this season.
Steve Cooper has admirers inside the walls of Carrow Road, he worked closely with sporting director Stuart Webber at Wrexham and Liverpool, and his side have been defensively solid but possessed an attacking edge about the way they operated.
The tactical switch at the break helped the Swans defend their box with more solidity whilst giving them more options in possession during their offensive phases.
Cooper’s switch did give City a chance to dominate the transitions, and they got joy with a few turnovers and counter attacks but lacked the thrust needed to cut through a sturdy defensive unit.
Had it not have been for a combination of some wonderful stops from Tim Krul and the profligacy of Jamal Lowe - this could have panned out differently for City.
They rode their luck. Rolled with the punches and crucially, kept going. They did miss Lukas Rupp’s energy, at times the distance between the double pivot and the offensive four at the top end of the pitch was too grand.
But this was a win that City earned. Their endeavour, quality and relentlessness means they have the capability to grind teams down. This time, it was Mumba who took advantage of a tiring defender to find that moment of quality.
Despite what some might say, this wasn’t fortune. City are up to third in the table, have five wins from seven and are now seven unbeaten. The cogs are beginning to be put in place, with some fine-tuning, City’s only direction of travel will be up.
For a side who lacked confidence and needed to shift their mentality, this win was further proof that a corner is being turned.
Every win is further proof of their quality, every point helps sustain that momentum that is being gathered at a rate of knots.
Now comes a two week period to recuperate and digest their positive form, to iron out some issues and to go again, starting with Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough in a fortnight.