Missed opportunity for Hernandez to reaffirm his City credentials
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The opportunities were there but Onel Hernandez couldn’t take them, as the tricky winger made his first league start since October.
Norwich City fans know what the Cuban ace is capable of, after eight goals and nine assists during the 2018-19 Championship title-winning season, but injuries have left him frustrated for much of the time since that success.
His best substitute appearance since returning from groin surgery in mid-January arrived in midweek, helping the Canaries to beat Birmingham 3-1 with an important part in the second goal.
So with Todd Cantwell dropping out with a minor calf issue ahead of Sunday’s 2-0 win at Wycombe, Hernandez was the chief candidate to come on to the left wing against the division’s bottom side.
The Chairboys proved stubborn opposition to break down though, as they desperately fight for an unlikely great escape, with right-back Jack Grimmer largely keeping the speedy wide man quiet during the opening stages.
Hernandez grew into the game though, teeing up left-back Dimitris Giannoulis to cross in the 15th minute, with the deep ball headed behind by Max Aarons on the stretch.
He showed good strength six minutes later, to turn past Grimmer, but put too much on his pass through to Teemu Pukki and home defender Anthony Stewart was able to shepherd the ball out of play.
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Soon after a one-two with Kenny McLean very nearly came off but the Scot was beaten to the return pass on the edge of the area, and in the 31st minute he knocked a Ben Gibson header on to Mario Vrancic and charged forward, but didn’t get the return pass.
The former Germany Under-18 international created his first proper opening in the 38th minute after being found by Emi Buendia on the left and blasting a low cross through the box, which McLean thumped low and just wide of the post.
Just before the break Buendia played a fine ball down the right to Pukki to start a counter-attack but as the cross came in Hernandez was forced on to his left and passed to the over-lapping Giannoulis, whose cross evaded Pukki. City worked it back into the box and Hernandez had a shot blocked before Vrancic hooked the loose ball wide.
It was after the break when the fit-again winger really had chances to make a claim for more game time though.
After not being able to get on the end of an initial Aarons cross from the right, the full-back did well to cross again and this time picked out an unmarked Hernandez near the penalty spot, but the attacker got his header all wrong and powered the chance well wide.
In the 53rd minute a lovely, deft flick from Vrancic sent him through on goal but again his execution let him down, firing the bouncing ball straight ahead of him and out of play, rather than testing the keeper with the attempted shot.
Two minutes later and Hernandez really should have had his first assist of the campaign though.
A fine pass from McLean found him in space on the left and after cutting inside and shaping to shoot with his right foot, Hernandez spotted Buendia in space on the right side of the box. He picked out his team-mate but Buendia put far too much power on the shot to fire high over the crossbar.
With that it seemed it wasn’t going to be the wide man’s day, also being caught offside as Vrancic played him into the left channel, before being replaced by Adam Idah in the 84th minute.
VERDICT: Has had enough game time now to get up to speed both in terms of form and fitness. That he did create some chances and sights of goal may suggest that he is close to finding his true rhythm, but he needs to take that next step now if he is to play a big part in the potentially exciting final stages of this season.
RATING: 6 out of 10