Frustrating debut for Hugill as City struggled to use their target man at Luton
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Jordan Hugill’s first chance to impress for Norwich City turned into a rather frustrating afternoon for the summer signing, with the Canaries failing to play to his strengths against Luton.
The bustling striker arrived barely a fortnight earlier with a point to prove after a lack of Premier League chances at West Ham, talking about how much he enjoys roughing up the opposition and using his strength to cause some chaos in the final third.
Yet it seems City have forgotten how to use a physical target man, with hardly any balls played forward with the intention of Hugill holding up play and few crosses which gave the former Preston and QPR forward the chance to threaten goal as Daniel Farke’s team slipped to a 3-1 defeat against the Hatters in the first round of the League Cup.
With over 20 players unavailable and five debutants in the starting XI, it was hardly surprising that the Canaries lacked fluency at times at Kenilworth Road, as new team-mates tried to tune in to the same wavelength.
Fellow new boy Kieran Dowell was the first to try and get Hugill through on goal, slipping a pass into the right channel in the ninth minute. The striker timed his run well but keeper James Shea got to the ball and was able to take control of the situation.
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There was an encouraging sign from Marco Stiepermann, playing the role of chief support to Hugill in attacking midfield, after Sam McCallum and Josh Martin has linked well on the left a few minutes later. The German drilled a cross in as soon as he got the chance but the ball flew through the penalty area before the front man had a chance to react.
That hinted that City knew those were the sort of crossing situations they had to get towards the 28-year-old but it wasn’t a taste of what was to come, as Hugill battled with the giant Sonny Bradley and the physical Matty Pearson.
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He dropped deeper to make an interception but showed his frustration at not getting a pass from youngster Martin as he charged through in the 15th minute.
Ten minutes later and again he was coming deeper to get involved, using his strength to hold off Bradley on the right and then getting clattered by Glen Rae as he won a throw. Plenty of players would have rolled around looking for a free-kick but Hugill looked pleased to be involved in some rough and tumble.
Three minutes later his technique let him down as he tried to control a dropping ball and he couldn’t get on the end of a long kick from keeper Daniel Barden in the 33rd minute, catching Pearson slightly with a flailing arm as he tried to disrupt the defender, who didn’t make a big deal of a minor incident - in the VAR world of the Premier League a dramatic fall would almost certainly have followed.
There was nearly a sniff of a chance before the break, when Hatters keeper Shea spilled a powerful low shot from Lukas Rupp but pounced on the loose ball as it spun towards Hugill.
The second half proved even quieter as the man signed in an initial deal worth around £2.5million, which could rise to around £5m eventually, banked his first 90 minutes in a City shirt.
His only clear chance of the game came in the 58th minute when he was too strong for Pearson to squeeze into the left of the box, opening up the chance to shoot from near the bye-line, opting for power from an acute angle but seeing his effort held well by Shea at the near post.
Just after Dowell had equalised in the 81st minute Hugill thought he was through on goal as he controlled a Mario Vrancic chip on his chest and turned, only to be halted by an offside flag.
James Collins soon reclaimed Luton’s lead however and Hugill’s frustration was summed up as he was forced wide in the 86th minute, after being played into the box initially by Dowell, only to see Bali Mumba accidentally take the ball out of play on the right.
VERDICT: No need to be judging too harshly after a highly unusual first game of the season but a rather forgettable debut for Hugill as City seemed to have forgotten how to play with a target man.
Comparisons were quickly drawn with the chief supporting role that Jordan Rhodes played during 2018-19 but his team-mates must play to his strengths if that impact is to be possible.
With Teemu Pukki searching for the form which previously made him Championship Player of the Season and Adam Idah now a fully fledged Republic of Ireland international, but with no further midweek cup opportunities, an intriguing contest awaits.
RATING: 6 out of 10