Thankless task for makeshift striker Marco in Coventry draw
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It was always going to be a challenging afternoon for Marco Stiepermann - with all eyes firmly on how he would cope with the expectations of leading the line for Norwich City in Teemu Pukki's absence.
For a man who was, by his own omission, 'born to score goals' this was an intriguing experiment to see how he would fare and the dynamic of City's passages of play without the quality of Pukki at the top end of the pitch.
Added to that was the increased difficulty of being a lone striker competing against three centre-backs. It was a complex task and one Stiepermann did adequately.
There were some moments whereby the ball bounced off him and he didn't provide the intelligent movement that those of a yellow and green persuasion have become accustomed to with Pukki, but Stiepermann did offer City with a focal point and he did construct space well by dropping deep and disrupting Coventry City's defensive shape.
To some extent, the inclusion of Przemek Placheta saw that need for him to pose questions in behind reduce. Placheta stretched the play and Stiepermann was able to help City progress the ball and then get them up the pitch.
It did look uncomfortable at times. His instinct was to drop into positions you'd typically associate with a number ten. With a fairly fluid and interchangeable forward line, the pressure was taken off Stiepermann to absorb Pukki's duties and instead contribute to a fluid forward collective.
There were moments where Stiepermann linked the play nicely. The majority of those arrived when he dropped into a deeper position, got his body between man and ball and played first time passes to his team-mates before spinning to find more space.
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Despite improving his hold-up play as the game progressed, Stiepermann found it difficult to make the ball stick in the early stages of the game. On 13 minutes, Alex Tettey's progressive pass found him, only for the former Borussia Dortmund man struggle to get it under his control.
City's makeshift striker had a gilt-edged chance to break the deadlock after being threaded through by Josh Martin halfway through the first-half. Bearing down on goal, Stiepermann lacked the necessary composure to ruthlessly finish and instead sought to loft the ball over the goalkeeper - who smothered his effort well.
The best piece of centre-forward play from Stiepermann arrived on 22 minutes when he received a pass from Tettey after a clever piece of movement allowed him to evade Coventry's attentions.
The German controlled and skipped past a couple of defenders. His pass to Jacob Sorensen saw the Dane slot Ollie Skipp in down the left-hand side of the area. Skipp's cutback found the onrushing Martin, who side-footed his effort straight at Wilson.
Placheta's willingness to utilise his pace in behind allowed Stiepermann to drop into deeper positions. The German looked to set City's winger racing away on 36 minutes but overhit the pass for a Sky Blues goal kick.
It was on the 41st minute where Stiepermann nearly marked a sustained spell of possession with a goal. He received the ball outside of the box before shaping up his body and curling an effort goalward. It was never troubling Wilson in the Coventry goal.
Despite the intensity shifting after Mark Robins utilised his five substitutes, Stipermann remained committed to his role.
There were a few moments of frustration as he sought through passes from Placheta and Mario Vrancic that never came, but his lack of goal threat in the second half was more than reflective of the Canaries approach rather than his individual performance.
His best moment in the second half arrived after he exchanged passes with Sorensen and fired towards goal. Stiepermann's effort lacked conviction and was claimed comfortably by Wilson.
VERDICT: Necessity meant that Stiepermann had to be deployed as a makeshift striker. Overall, it was an experiment that neither party will want to persist with in the long term. Beyond one curling effort in the first-half, the German never looked like scoring. Some nice moments and certainly not his fault that it didn't work.
RATING: 6 out of 10