Paddy Davitt verdict: Brave or foolish? We will find out against Millwall
PUBLISHED: 13:36 31 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:07 01 January 2018
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It was certainly brave. Whether it was foolish or not now hinges on Norwich City’s capacity to exorcise some demons against Millwall on New Year’s Day.
Daniel Farke’s logic behind six changes to a side who had comprehensively dealt with a fellow Championship struggler at Birmingham - for a similar task at Burton - was sound.
The presence of Lions’ chief Neil Harris in the stands at the Pirelli a visible reminder Millwall travel with a festive advantage from playing the night before.
True also, the likes of Alex Tettey, Alex Pritchard and Tom Trybull have to be managed after heavily disrupted injury absences in recent months.
Likewise, Jamal Lewis, who sparkled on his full debut at St Andrews.
The flaw in the plan comes when those Farke opted to deploy fail miserably to get anywhere near the same performance level. Both individually and collectively the efforts of those on duty at Burton left much to be desired.
The hosts had lost eight on the spin at home yet the sluggish, lacklustre manner a much-changed Norwich started the game handed Nigel Clough’s battlers the initiative.
City could and should have been behind before Tettey’s afternoon off turned into a 70-minute shift, when Harrison Reed pulled up lame.
There may have been far more understanding shown towards Farke if Norwich had not stumbled into a pivotal festive spell of winnable contests on the back of one win in 11.
Credit is in scarce supply.
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Birmingham was an afternoon of enlightenment but Burton brought those deep-rooted fears back to the surface.
City looked vulnerable against the direct thrust of a home side who relished the close quarters action.
Farke’s post-match mitigation included an acceptance he wanted more physicality to deal with Burton in their tight surroundings, but a midfield of Reed, Mario Vrancic and Wes Hoolahan was never going to match Clough’s muscular approach.
Nelson Oliveira, as a by-product, cut an isolated figure; lacking in support or decent service.
Any wonder when Alex Pritchard and James Maddison looked on from the bench until the final quarter.
Clough was almost gleeful when he basked in the warm afterglow of a first home shutout in nine long months.
Here again, you could reasonably contest Farke’s gameplan and rotation laid the foundations to nick a late winner, with an injection of creativity.
But both Maddison and Pritchard struggled to make a meaningful impact in the minutes that remained; bar one dash from Pritchard and low shot gathered by Stephen Bywater.
That prompted ironic cheers from the massed ranks behind the goal after fashioning a rare shot on target.
Such frustration bubbled up in the final stages at Carrow Road last time out as Brentford eased across the finish line.
It was always going to take more than a correction at Birmingham to tilt the balance.
Farke knows that. Which is why he stacked the deck for the Lions’ visit.
City need a huge performance and three points on Monday.
Not simply to ring in 2018 on an optimistic note but to get a home support onside who have seen fewer Championship home wins this season than all bar Sunderland or the Brewers.
Sweep aside Millwall and Farke’s bravery will be applauded.
Deliver more of the same in front of their own and it will be another pressure point.
That 4-0 early-season trouncing at the Den was a watershed moment.
It prompted Tettey’s return and a new system that underpinned the one genuine fertile period of growth under Farke.
They should hardly lack for any extra motivation - given the fury that was whipped up after an embarrassing defeat that exposed the deficiencies in Farke’s quest for patient possession.
City need another watershed moment.
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