Norwich City 3 Swindon Town 2 match report: Nervy Canaries seal League Cup second round place
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City edged a tense League Cup first round win against plucky Swindon Town.
Olly Lancashire and Paul Mullin cashed in on poor defending from Daniel Farke’s men but Cameron Jerome, Wes Hoolahan and James Maddison sealed the victory.
If there was any doubt Farke is a man of his word it was visible in the consistency of selection from Fulham. Eight of those who carried the club’s colours from the outset at Craven Cottage were entrusted with the first step on City’s League Cup quest. Ivo Pinto and Wes Hoolahan were elevated from the bench as they strive to compensate for a disrupted pre-season.
Nelson Oliveira’s absence was the eye-catching omission. Farke made it abundantly clear when he faced the media for the first time since the Portuguese striker’s public act of defiance he wanted an end to the matter. The team is everything for the Canaries’ head coach and Oliveira’s antics have proved an unwanted sideshow. There was no chance for an encore against the League Two Robins.
Jerome was again entrusted with the responsibility of leading the line, Marley Watkins provided cover in reserve. Those on the outside can read too much into these brief episodes that routinely pepper a football season, but for a man angered by his limited involvement at Fulham you suspect his removal from the Swindon matchday squad was another pertinent reminder.
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It is far easier to make a point with the ball at your feet and a shirt on your back. Enter stage right young Maddison. The former Coventry starlet had to head north and Aberdeen for game-time last season. Maddison refused a second tour of duty in the Scottish top flight last January and after a brief cameo under Alan Irvine he has started this season as a mainstay. The two assists were classy to cancel out Lancashire’s near post opener before a thumping strike on the turn underlined his oozing confidence.
The 20-year-old looked a mirror image of Norwich’s captain in a blistering first half from the duo. Hoolahan by his own admission has entered the veteran stage of a sparkling career in these parts but he is still an influential operator in the right setting. He is also the perfect role model for his apprentice.
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The telepathy between the two was all too evident after Jerome had levelled from Maddison’s initial surge. The youngster then exchange passes with Hoolahan in a sliver of space on the edge of the Swindon area before the Irishman rifled a shot high into the roof of the net that Lawrence Vigoroux could only parry goalwards. The favour was returned swiftly in the closing stages of the opening period. Hoolahan the provider, Maddison the finisher. It was a vibrant taster of what Norwich fans might be in for this season in the most creative spells of the campaign. But Swindon’s two goals were another reminder there is work ahead. Mullin had already burst in front of Christoph Zimmermann to head straight at Gunn. Lancashire made no mistake from the same area of the Norwich box to when he rose unmarked to crash home Chris Hussey’s free kick.
That vocal encouragement prior to kick-off was momentarily silenced. But Jerome dragged City back on level terms within three minutes. On such interludes a season can shift. Even at this embryonic stage. There is so much latent goodwill and positivity behind Farke and his new look squad but a prolonged struggle against League Two opponents may have tested the patience of those in attendance at Carrow Road.
Each passing sight of the German’s approach suggests the benchmark for what lies ahead is how robust City can remain when they are out of possession, when Championship opponents strive to disrupt the rhythm and attempt to match technical quality with physical endeavour.
Mullin profited again from Norwich’s inability to defend set pieces just past the hour mark. Once was careless. Twice was criminal. The mood went flat. Russell Martin’s late entrance, along with another experienced team mate in Alex Tettey, was a signal what should have been a routine passage to round two had become something of a grind. Gunn brilliantly denied Mullin in the 85th minute with a point blank parry.
• Norwich City: Gunn, Pinto (Martin 78), Zimmermann, Franke, Husband, Reed (Tettey 78), Hoolahan (Watkins 88), Maddison, Vrancic, Murphy, Jerome. Subs (not used): McGovern (GK), Wildschut, Stiepermann, Godfrey.
• Bookings: Franke (foul on H Smith, 61); Vrancic (foul on Dunne, 90)
• Goals: Jerome (28), Hoolahan (39), Maddison (42)
• Swindon Town: Vigoroux, Purkiss, Hussey, Thomas, Robertson, Lancashire, Mullin, Dunne, Brophy, T Smith (Iandolo 50), H Smith. Subs (not used): Henry (GK), Young, Twine.
• Bookings: Dunne (foul on Jerome, 33); Iandolo (foul on Vrancic, 76); Vigoroux (foul on Jerome, 77)
• Goals: Lancashire (25), Mullin (62)
• Time added on: 2 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Geoff Eltringham (Durham)
• Attendance: 13,166