Paddy Davitt delivers his Leeds verdict after Norwich City’s goalless Championship play-off semi-final, first leg.

1. 'Yellows, Yellows'

A surreal sight at the end of this play-off semi-final first leg stalemate as David Wagner and his players were applauded and cheered on a lap of the Carrow Road turf for what was their home swansong. But the job and the season is far from done.

Now Elland Road awaits. 90 minutes, maybe extra-time and penalties to decide who goes on to Wembley to contest the self-styled ‘richest game in football’ for that final place in the Premier League.

Norwich failed to strike the first blow but given Wagner labelled his side ‘underdogs’ in the build up you sense he will urge his squad to play on that weight of expectation now firmly on the shoulders of Daniel Farke’s side.

The concern in the immediate aftermath was the sight of Josh Sargent dropping to the turf in the closing stages before he made way for Sydney van Hooijdonk.

With Ashley Barnes out injured it was the last thing Wagner would have wanted to contend with. Sargent’s near four month absence with that ankle injury perhaps was the defining factor in why City were not able to keep pace with those in the race for the top two. Since his return the goal contributions have underlined his huge value to the cause.

In truth, he struggled in his hold up play with the robust attentions of Joe Rodon and Ethan Ampadu. But City’s chances in the second leg would diminish greatly if Sargent is ruled out.

Wagner sounded a cautiously optimistic note in his post-match media. The German confirmed it was the ankle he felt some pain but expected his American international talisman to be fit for take two.

In a season framed by injury interludes and the absence of key players, one more plot twist would be entirely in keeping.

2. Game within a game

A tight first leg was perhaps to be expected. Both managers were quick to dismiss that 17-point gap that separated the clubs in the final Championship standings. This was a new phase in the campaign, and the hoped for journey towards the Premier League.

Norwich played with a refreshing freedom in the early sparring, despite the scale of the occasion and the energy-sapping nature of a lunchtime kick-off in warm sunshine.

But Leeds dictated the play with each passing minute after the interval. City visibly appeared to withdraw within themselves, and looked to hit on the counter.

Illan Meslier was chronically underemployed from a Norwich perspective. But the Canaries' head coach declared himself satisfied with the outcome.

Wagner started his successful play-off tilt with Huddersfield back in the day with a goalless first leg against Sheffield Wednesday.

In the hunt for those fine margins perhaps the experience in the Norwich camp will tell when it really matters now at Elland Road. Farke dismissed any fears his youthful Leeds side would be at a disadvantage. But there looked a nervousness from the Whites in the first 30 minutes of the first leg. While Meslier with the ball at his feet looked anything but assured. 

The average age of the Leeds starting line-up was a shade over 24. You look through the Norwich ranks and from Shane Duffy and Ben Gibson to Kenny McLean or Grant Hanley or Danny Batth on the bench, the Canaries should relish what lies ahead.

3. Crowd pleasers

Norwich City’s fan base delivered. There was a riot of colour and smoke and yellow shirts swarming around Carrow Road in the spring sunshine before kick-off.

You could hear the ripples of ‘On the Ball, City’ from the pre-match watering holes as the pilgrims descended towards the ground.

After all the travails and talk of disconnects at various stages of this turbulent campaign, the sense of unity was palpable. Wagner referenced that unity again in his post-match verdict.

It hung in the air and echoed around the stands before kick-off. It was partisan when Leeds appeared to warm up and fevered when McLean led his team out five minutes before the start.

When Wagner himself was asked what was his pre-match message to the fan base he merely referenced the din they created for the latest Ipswich derby win. Then he stopped himself. No more needed to be said.

He knew they would turn up, and the focus for the head coach was ensuring his players did the same. Around the 57th minute mark, as Leeds ticked up their possession count, there was a swell of ‘David Wagner’s Yellow Army’ rose up. Like they sensed it was time for a lift from the terraces.

Now it is the bear pit of Elland Road. Those travelling support will be heavily outnumbered but just remember the Farke vintage of 2019 who defied the odds and the decibels in a promotion-defining 3-1 away win. Mario Vrancic’s double and one from the maestro Teemu Pukki.

Leeds can feel an intimidating place but the demands those home fans place on their side can also weigh heavy. City must play on that underlying anxiety around a club who blew their shot at automatic promotion.

4. Battle joined

Crysenio Summerville underlined his soaring reputation as one of the best Championship attacking threats in the two league wins for Leeds. Norwich had been cruising at 2-0 up before he led the Carrow Road fightback with a brace in late-October.

He was also the difference maker when the sides met again in Yorkshire. His pace, close control and unerring finishing marked him out as a key man in this play-off match-up.

That meant Jack Stacey needed to come to the party. The full-back’s own attacking instincts come naturally, but Stacey’s defensive work at times this first impressive debut season in green and yellow have been brought into question.

In a duel with so much at stake now for both clubs, this felt like one of the key showdowns. If Stacey was on the front foot, and taking Summerville back towards his own goal, then Norwich were more than holding their own.

So it proved in a vibrant first 30 minutes or so, when the raiding full back turned on the power and served up chances for Marcelino Nunez and what proved in a game of few chances arguably the best opportunity for Sargent to head wide under pressure.  

When Summerville did escape, Dimi Giannoulis read his intended cut back. Duffy left a painful calling card that earned him a booking and left Summerville needing treatment but there was retribution exacted by the flyer on this occasion before he departed for Dan James five minutes from the end.

Stacey will have to be even better at Elland Road to get the better of his direct rival.