Stevenage 2 Norwich City 2: Defensive woes as Canaries pegged back
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Daniel Farke’s menacing presence on the touchline may prove just as compelling as watching Norwich City’s labours on the pitch this season in the Championship.
The German clearly failed to get the memo a trip to League Two Stevenage on a wet summer’s night was simply another friendly exercise in preparation.
Farke cajoled, berated and encouraged in equal measure at the Lamex Stadium as the Canaries’ slimmed down squad get the type of competitive work out they can routinely expect in the second tier.
City’s head coach barely moved from the same spot at the front of his technical area in the opening 30 minutes; a study in concentration as he demanded more from his frontline troops.
Paul Jones felt a blast when he attempted to launch a high clearance in the direction of the diminutive Wes Hoolahan. That is not the Farke way. That is not the Norwich City way this coming season. The downside is the palpitations generated from using City’s last line of defence as a trigger for their attacking play. Stevenage pressed ever higher, as the visitors rode their luck, and were rewarded when Alex Samuel slotted from close range, after Ben Godfrey attempted a pass back inside his own penalty area.
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It was the moment perhaps when Farke and those who had made the trip from Norfolk were reminded this is very much still a work in progress. City’s Championship rivals will swiftly wise up to the Canaries’ tactical preference. Norwich need to be far sharper and far more composed then they were at times against the League Two outfit.
But context is everything. These are the first days of Daniel’s reign. Games are being fitted in around a ferocious training regime at Colney. If that defensive vulnerability is a negative, the positive is a freedom of movement and clever interplay when Norwich can probe at pace. Jamal Lewis underlined again why he is starting to blossom under Farke’s tutelage with a penetrating burst into the home box ended by Luke Wilkinson’s crude lunge.
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Nelson Oliveira cracked a low penalty past Joe Fryer. Alex Pritchard doubled that early lead, when his low shot from a corner routine squirmed past the Stevenage stopper. But even at that stage Farke’s body language betrayed little trace of being anything other than suitably unimpressed.
Mario Vrancic was implored to calm the play, to try and establish a measure of controlled possession; perhaps the lasting antidote to those jitters in their final third when this new philosophy beds in. But not even a magician like Pritchard is immune to Farke’s scrutiny. One wayward pass earned a verbal lashing, his later failure to bring the ball to heel, an audible anguished cry. At half-time when the rest of his team mates departed for the warmth of the dressing room, Pritchard and his head coach embarked on their own private debrief at the mouth of the tunnel. It tells you everything about the standards the ex-Borussia Dortmund II coach demands. There will be few favourites on his watch; this is a meritocracy. You can see that in the early sparring with the elevation of Lewis and the presence of Jones and Godfrey in a defence woven around Christoph Zimmermann in the first few close season affairs.
Cameron Jerome’s arrival at the interval pepped up the visitors. Jerome headed over at the near post from James Maddison’s corner. Vrancic then dragged wide when he overlapped Pritchard. There was promise if not precision. But we already knew that about the rump of the squad the German inherited. It is his ability to marry such forward thrust with defensive discipline on which hopes for Norwich City hinge this season.
Farke’s frustration remained barely concealed as the game meandered. Yanic Wildschut’s heavy touch in losing possession right in front of his coach triggered a slashing gesture from his boss that thankfully for the Dutchman was just out of reach. You suspect the manner of Stevenage’s second would have irked him further, when Godfrey handled a deep cross and Dale Gorman hammered home the spot kick.
• Stevenage (first half): Fryer, Martin, Franks, Wilkinson, Beautyman, Turgott, Samuel, Ferry, Henry, McKee, Trialist.
• Goals: Samuel (32), Gorman (67)
• Norwich City: Jones (McGovern 45), Godfrey, Zimmermann, Klose, Reed (Husband 77), Josh Murphy (Wildschut 45), Vrancic, Lewis, Pritchard, Hoolahan (Maddison 45), Oliveira (Jerome 45). Sub (all used).
• Goals: Oliveira (7), Pritchard (24)
• Referee: Darren Deadman