Six things you might have missed following City’s pressure relieving win at Rotherham
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After a pressure-relieving victory at Rotherham, David Freezer assesses Norwich City’s Championship progress with six things you might have missed during the win at the New York Stadium.
1 - Positive trends so welcome
City finally got the monkey off their back on Saturday, winning a league game from a losing position for the first time since February 2019.
It was something Daniel Farke’s team didn’t manage once last season, not even claiming a point - after being so good at fighting back during the success of 2018-19, claiming five wins and nine draws from losing positions.
There were further good indicators as well, firing 21 shots at goal, something that was managed just once last season, and having seven shots on target away from home for the first time since the 3-1 win at Millwall in March 2019.
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In fact, City now top the Championship possession averages (56.8pc) and the pass completion rate (81.3pc), with only Blackburn averaging more than their 15.4 shots per games and 5.4 shots on target per game.
Given the doom and gloom that some seem desperate to cling to, those trends look very encouraging for a squad which is still trying to settle and gel properly.
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2 - Krul save may prove so crucial
This was also the first away league win and the first time the Canaries have scored twice away from home in the league since the 2-0 victory at Everton last December.
Rotherham ensured Farke’s team had to work so hard for the points though, aided by a sloppy early concession and some wasteful finishing from Marco Stiepermann and Adam Idah in the first half.
The victory owed a huge deal to the penalty saving prowess of Tim Krul though, the man brought on for a World Cup quarter-final shootout in 2014.
Fresh from being unable to save two recently, for Holland and City, the 32-year-old guessed correctly to deny Freddie Ladapo - taking his tally to four saves from 12 penalties faced for Norwich, not including his FA Cup shoot-out joy against Spurs.
Should the Canaries kick on from here and start to build some momentum, his save in the 21st minute in South Yorkshire will be remembered as a crucial turning point.
3 - Hugill has talismanic potential
Jordan Hugill of course is owed a great deal of credit for turning this game around though, showing potential as a talismanic figure.
Michael Ihiekwe’s equalising own goal was forced by the striker launching himself towards a fine cross from Max Aarons, after a slick passing move in midfield, which he looked certain to head home had it not been for the defender’s intervention.
He also tested Millers keeper Jamal Blackman with a fine shot from the edge of the box in the 90th minute, before claiming the ball ahead of the penalty in the fifth minute of injury-time.
The very purposeful routine which followed suggest a spot-kick expert but in fact it was just the fifth penalty goal of his Football League career, also missing one for Preston in 2017.
Teemu Pukki’s unfortunate failure against Derby came after the Finn had scored both of City’s penalties in the top flight last season but six of seven were wasted in the Championship in 2018-19.
4 - All about fitness for skipper
Few teams will provide quite as much of an aerial bombardment this season as Rotherham, with 54 aerial duels contested.
Winning more than anyone else on the pitch was City skipper Grant Hanley, with 11, playing in his first competitive match since March - when he’d been in his best form since 2018.
The Scotland international injured his hamstring in a friendly against Tottenham ahead of the season’s restart in June, missing all of the games after lockdown.
He was given an early shock as Aarons and Oliver Skipp were beaten in the air and Ladapo quickly took advantage but began to find composure and rhythm as the game progressed.
Alongside Ben Gibson in central defence, and ahead of Krul, there was plenty of vocal encouragement and direction coming from the back, with a welcome aggressive edge. The big question now is: can his body handle another six games in the next three weeks?
5 - Battle for wide role heating up
With Onel Hernandez ruled out until January after groin surgery, Todd Cantwell nursing bruising after a training ground collision and Przemek Placheta only fit enough for the bench, it was Adam Idah getting the nod on the left wing.
The Republic of Ireland international really should have equalised soon after Rotherham’s early opener but also forced an excellent save from Blackman.
He had little to complain about after conceding a penalty with a rash attempt to win back possession, only for Krul to spare his blushes, but did offer a threat.
His pace and power were an attacking asset but at times his desire to get into the box did limit the options of Xavi Quintilla as the full-back pushed forward.
Cantwell and Placheta are strong competition but these were more valuable minutes for the rapidly developing 19-year-old, showing that he can be a wide asset but also that he is far from the finished article yet.
6 - Prepare for stubborn resistance
Football’s a funny old game, as the traditional saying goes.
Had Krul not made that penalty save and had City gone on to lose, there would have been a huge amount of pressure on Daniel Farke going into this week’s home games against Birmingham and struggling Wycombe.
It’s a pressure the German is familiar with from two years ago, when a slow start was spectacularly shaken off. Win both and the Canaries will almost certainly be in the top six but as is already being proven, there are many competitive and bruising encounters ahead.
Teams underestimated City for much of 2018-19. There is no chance of that now. Each team will be fired up to take the scalp of a club relegated from the top flight.
Birmingham will be solid and well organised under former Boro boss Aitor Karanka, while Wycombe pose a banana skin with no points and just one goal so far. Momentum is the name of the game now though.
- You can listen to the new edition of the Pink Un Podcast above, recorded following the Canaries’ win in South Yorkshire