Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s thumping 4-0 Championship win against Bolton Wanderers
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict from Bolton Wanderers after the Canaries’ Championship win
1. Top of the league
Questions were inevitably asked after one of those rare off-colour displays from Norwich City this season at Preston. City were harried and harassed and for all the visitors’ long spells of possession at Deepdale undone by self-inflicted blows.
Daniel Farke admitted on Friday the decision to stay in the north-west for the duration could go down as inspired or foolhardy, depending on the outcome on Saturday afternoon. But there was a freshness and vigour to the Canaries that cashed in ruthlessly - with one exception - on a timid offering from Bolton.
With Leeds sitting out this weekend’s round of Championship fixtures, Norwich delivered to move back top.
They needed the win to not only prove what happened in midweek was a blip but to respond to fresh wins elsewhere for Sheffield United and West Brom.
As much as this is all about City shaping their own destiny, we are now reaching the stage where they have to match their promotion rivals as well.
2. Knock, knock. It’s me. Kenny
Alex Tettey’s ankle ligament injury at Preston coming on top of Mario Vrancic’s lay-off may have induced a sickly sensation, given the manner Norwich’s central midfield was over-run in that decisive early stage at Deepdale.
Farke clearly had to perm two from three when you studied his available resource for Bolton.
With Moritz Leitner only back in the fold after his long period on the sidelines and Farke suggesting on Friday he was aiming him at Bristol City next week, that opened the door for Kenny McLean.
The Scot had to overcome his own early injury setback, when he needed ankle surgery following a League Cup outing back in August. This was only his second league start for the club he joined from Aberdeen. The pressure was on the Canaries but it was definitely on McLean.
Blow this opportunity and he might have had to watch Leitner step into the breach. But with Bolton sitting deep he had the time and space to showcase his passing range.
The spot for Emi Buendia to make it three underlined perhaps McLean should not be discounted as a regular starter over the run-in. (*see point five however)
3. Trotting Trotters
Talking of Bolton. For as clinical as Farke’s men were, they found the perfect opponent after that ferocious onslaught from Alex Neil’s Preston in midweek. Bolton strung five in front of Remi Matthews and retreated to the edge of their own area when Tim Krul had the ball.
That afforded Norwich’s ball players time to dictate the tempo and exert territorial control.
Phil Parkinson may not have the resource to rush forward to the sound of the trumpets but surely there had to be a better plan of attack for the relegation-threatened hosts?
Particularly after reviewing footage from Deepdale. Farke demanded a fast start. Bolton got the memo and were happy to comply. For the remainder of Norwich’s Championship promotion quest, rivals would be well advised to adopt the Preston tactic rather than the Bolton one. Give this City squad time and space and trouble will ensue.
4. Take a bow. City’s unsung stars
Teemu Pukki, Marco Stiepermann, Buendia et al will rightly bask in a fresh wave of adulation from the Canaries’ supporters after this emphatic response to a rare setback this season. But both Buendia and Stiepermann were injury doubts going into this one-sided contest.
Farke revealed at the team hotel on Friday afternoon the gruelling nature of City’s recent run had taken a toll on those two in particular.
The German remained hopeful they would pull through but the fact they were patched up and fit to influence this contest is not only a testament to their appetite for the battle, but a reminder this is a huge team effort behind the scenes, with physios, sports science, and support staff all playing their part.
They might not get the headlines but they are a vital component of why Norwich remain in the heat of the promotion battle against rivals with far richer playing resources.
Norwich cruised into a 4-0 lead early in the second half. Pukki is then clipped by Mark Beevers inside the penalty area. Referee Andy Woolmer points to the spot.
The Finnish frontman is on the cusp on his first Norwich hat-trick. Fresh in the memory is that latest spurned attempt from Stiepermann at Preston. Surely the planets are aligned? Get your hat-trick, end the curse, get back on the coach. Job done. Not a bit of it.
McLean strides forward with the ball under his arm. Takes a pause and then cracks a tame effort straight down the middle that hits Matthews in the centre of his goal. You could not make this up now. Farke spoke of his ‘annoyance’ at Stiepermann’s tame effort after Preston.
A penny for his thoughts when McLean became the fifth different Norwich player to fail to convert a sixth penalty this season.
It made little difference here in the final analysis, although many fans may point to the importance of goal difference, but it remains a running sore until someone in green and yellow can accept responsibility.