Dowell's first City assist continued encouraging progress
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It's been an important week in the Norwich City career of Kieran Dowell, claiming his first Championship goal and assist for the Canaries after a frustrating search for form and fitness after injury.
The creative midfielder's signing from Everton was widely praised by City fans last summer but an ankle injury during the early stages of his Carrow Road debut in September kept him out for three months.
Having shown glimpses of promise since returning to action tentatively in December, it was at Sheffield Wednesday last weekend when the former England Under-21 international forced his way back into contention.
His impressive performance from the bench, helping the leaders fight back to win 2-1 at Hillsborough, brought a start in the absence of Emi Buendia at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old grasped his opportunity with an eye-catching performance and a lovely strike, smashing home the second goal of the 2-0 win in just the 13th minute, showing the strength of the left foot which has caused damage while on loan previously at Forest and Wigan.
That 88 minutes on the right of City's attacking midfield trident kept Dowell in the starting XI as Blackburn arrived in Norfolk looking to prevent City from winning a 10th consecutive match, with Buendia replacing the injured Lukas Rupp and Dowell moving to the centre.
The former Under-20 World Cup winner may not have sparkled quite as much against Rovers, with some stray touches at times, but he certainly held up the creative end of the bargain during his first Carrow Road start in over six months.
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He played striker Teemu Pukki into the right channel in the 13th minute and with the Finn unable to work a shooting angle, he passed to Emi Buendia in the box, whose bouncing shot was held by keeper Thomas Kaminski.
In the next 10 minutes he dropped deep to receive a kick from Tim Krul and set Oliver Skipp on the charge, only for a vital interception to prevent Pukki going clean through, and also fouled Joe Rothwell on the edge of the Blackburn box after the midfielder had read Buendia's pass towards Dowell.
A lovely one-two was exchanged with Buendia on the left in the 27th minute before Dowell sent Dimitris Giannoulis down the left, who found Pukki in the box but the move broke down.
That dangerous left boot was used again six minutes later, whipping a free-kick from the right into the box, with Kenny McLean moving to the near post to meet it but only able to loop his header over.
Dowell linked with Buendia again to create a big chance in the 36th minute, stealing possession and charging into the right channel before turning with neat footwork to tee up the Argentine near the penalty spot, whose deflected prod was palmed onto the crossbar by Kaminski.
The first signs of tiredness crept in before the break, with a loose pass to a Rovers player and being caught in possession, calling for a foul after the sliding tackle from Taylor Harwood-Bellis.
City came out for the second half fired up and it was Dowell leading the high press to close Harwood-Bellis in the 48th minute, but Buendia couldn't quite find Todd Cantwell.
That first assist in a City shirt created the breakthrough though, in the 53rd minute, completing a one-two with McLean on the edge of the box with a delicate touch into the Scot's path, who smashed low past Kaminski for 1-0.
He was in the thick of a flowing move four minutes later, linking with Buendia while pushing forward, but couldn't squeeze a cross in from the right.
There was also a pass dripping with class just after the hour-mark, dinking a Ben Gibson pass out to Jacob Sorensen on the left, using the spin of the ball to find the substitute left-back.
With his energy levels understandably starting to dip during a third game in seven days, he passed on the baton to Marco Stiepeermann in the 67th minute, as Daniel Farke decided it was time for a rest.
VERDICT: Arguably looked more impressive on the right at Forest than centrally against Blackburn, perhaps due to such similarity in style with Cantwell and Buendia, as that trio tried to strike the correct balance. That could well provide an interesting glimpse into the future though, given the expected summer interest in Buendia.
However, a good assist, two clear chances created, involvement in more chances and other promising moments continues an encouraging return to prominence for the summer signing, outweighing the occasional sloppy moments.
Has the international break to take a breather and keep working on his rhythm in training, before trying to build on this momentum so that he can finish the season strongly and put himself in a good position ahead of next season.
RATING: 7 out of 10