Paddy Davitt verdict: The veil has been lifted. Time for lift off at Norwich City?
PUBLISHED: 15:31 10 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:38 10 December 2017
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There are few certainties in football. But Norwich City would not have been languishing in the lower reaches of the Championship had Alex Pritchard stayed fit and healthy.
Daniel Farke was clearly intent on building a side around the intelligent, attacking midfielder before fate intervened and ankle ligament damage at Cambridge United in pre-season sparked his lengthy layoff.
The haste with which Farke accelerated Pritchard’s return to the first team fold, after a brief appearance at development level, underlined the desperation to halt an alarming slide.
We may not see the best of Pritchard on a consistent basis until the New Year, given his period on the sidelines.
But the first instalment against the Owls whets the appetite.
After so much angst since that Ipswich derby win and a valiant League Cup effort at Arsenal just close your eyes and indulge for a minute or two.
Savour the prospect of Pritchard in tandem with James Maddison; a young pretender who has manfully matured in such testing terrain this season.
Farke deserves huge credit for the faith and trust he has placed in the 21-year-old but necessity also paved the way for a genuine Championship breakthrough.
The cut and dash from that axis triggered a second half fightback against a Sheffield Wednesday team clearly exuding the same distress signals as we have seen from Norwich in recent weeks.
They finished the first half almost toying with Norwich, following Jordan Rhodes’ clinical finish. But they were well beaten by the finale.
There was a lack of conviction and a fragility from a seven game winless run too often mirrored in Norwich’s output.
Go back merely a week to the manner City had dominated a promotion-chasing Cardiff in the opening period but were washed away by the Bluebirds following the interval.
You genuinely feared the worst again at the break. A fractious mood had taken root among many supporters.
That palpable frustration with a slow, deliberate build up as City toiled for a way back and another unfulfilled afternoon at Carrow Road beckoned was evident.
Heads were bowed as players trooped for the sanctuary of the dressing room.
Farke revealed afterwards he had implored them to hold their nerve. They did that and more.
The tempo and the aggression with which they attacked the task should outweigh any sense they merely capitalised on vulnerability from the visitors.
Norwich went out and dictated proceedings.
Pritchard and Maddison injected a thrust, bolstered by the arrival of Marley Watkins.
There is a player in the Welsh international, but Farke has yet to harness his pace and power for the greater good on a regular basis.
Watkins’ arrival for Josh Murphy added to the variety of City’s attacking urges; maximising the space to probe on the counter as Wednesday committed bodies forward to check Norwich’s surge.
Nelson Oliveira no longer looked the isolated focal point of too many anaemic offerings since his return to the ranks.
The striker’s penalty was a reward for perseverance. Keiren Westwood had foiled him twice either side of the interval.
Oliveira will know his opening side footed effort should have broken his goal drought long before a 95th minute spot kick.
This was a display of character, courage and quality from Farke’s squad.
Add Tom Trybull and the fit-again Alex Tettey to the mix and a trip to Elland Road heralds the start of a festive period that could bring a productive seam of results.
For this to be anything more than brief respite, however, Farke and his players must play with the same intensity, the same assurance and perhaps even arrogance that Pritchard embodies.
City’s talisman struts around the pitch with the air of a man who knows how good he can be at this level.
Maddison has the prefect role model alongside him in the Norwich midfield for the next phase of his development.
The inevitable fears about what January holds for the futures of Norwich’s brightest and best will have to be faced in due course.
But for now this was a welcome shaft of light after a bleak downturn.
Farke has enough talent at his disposal to mould a squad that should hope for more than they have delivered to this point.
We can see the promise. Now fans want results.
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