Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 1-0 Championship win against Rotherham
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Rotherham verdict after Norwich City's tense 1-0 Championship victory.
1. No pictures on the scorecard
This was 90 minutes that might well have felt like 90 hours for Daniel Farke and his players. Norwich got their noses in front in predictable fashion from Teemu Pukki and appeared able to carve their way through almost at will in the first half at Carrow Road.
But that elusive second goal did not materialise. A factor that merely bolstered plucky Rotherham under the vocal urgings of Paul Warne. The second half was uncomfortable viewing from a Norwich perspective.
The Millers pressed with energy and aggressive intent. City were unable to get on the ball and take the heat out of the visitors’ efforts for prolonged spells.
Norwich still had chances to seal the win but when the fourth official’s board flashed up seven additional minutes there must have been a palpable sense of nervousness in the vicinity of Farke’s dug out.
But City, in truth, saw out the time with few alarms. Nevertheless, the sigh could be heard from Yarmouth to King’s Lynn. A big win. A workmanlike win. But a win.
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2. Let him stay out there, Daniel
A fourth goal in eight days for Pukki served up further evidence the Finnish international is back to his vibrant, energetic, deadly best.
Rotherham attached a bow to his latest composed finish in the manner their backline parted. But Pukki still had a good 40 yards of grass and plenty of thinking time as Millers’ keeper Viktor Johansson advanced. But in this form the outcome was never in doubt.
His head coach revealed after a Stoke brace ended a five-game barren run his star man had put in the overtime on his finishing at Colney in the week leading upto the Potters’ recent visit.
There is no doubt Emi Buendia’s return from suspension is another part of this equation. Marco Stiepermann is also closing in on a return to first team contention after his lay off. We all recall how he looked the perfect foil for Pukki in that title winning success two seasons ago.
If the GOAT keeps getting the service, he looks hungry for more goals.
3. Trusty Zimbo
It will have a been a tough watch for Christoph Zimmermann with Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson forging an impregnable central defensive pairing. Not because the hugely popular German is not the ultimate professional, who for all his frustration on a personal level would see the greater good. But maybe Zimmermann justifiably feels a little short-changed.
He was a totemic figure alongside Ben Godfrey two seasons ago. But that career high tilt at the Premier League never materialised.
A delayed start due to pre-season surgery and then that horrendous challenge at West Ham on his top flight debut from Sebastian Haller. Zimmermann must have felt even with Gibson’s arrival he could stand his corner back in the Championship. But this was only his first league start since December 29.
It came after Gibson work up with a back issue. There was some inevitable signs of rust and one or two uncomfortable moments in possession. But a clean sheet at the end of it. Nearly a goal at the other end as well, with a near post flick header from Buendia’s corner. But we never thought he would let anyone down. Did we?
Norwich’s blip might have been the best thing they could have done. It firstly gave Brentford and Swansea encouragement they could be reeled in. But it also appears to have induced a corrosive effect on the chasers.
Brentford lost a third straight league game in Saturday’s lunchtime kick off against Coventry at St Andrew’s - a place Norwich returned with three points in midweek.
Then remarkably stout Swansea leaked four goals at Huddersfield. The most watertight defence in the Championship. Add in further defeats for both Reading and Bournemouth and this might in time be a defining weekend in the promotion stakes.
Norwich have opened up a seven point gap to the Bees and surging Watford. Farke himself said after they were briefly deposed he wanted to get back to the summit as soon as possible. Those were not empty words. Norwich positively relish leading from the front.
5. The power of 10
Mario Vrancic got a public show of support from his head coach in the build up. But this was another shift that promised so much but again failed to translate into any tangible end product. He simply had to score in the 10th minute when teed up but Pukki. His sidefooted effort lacked any real conviction. We have seen that too often in an extended run in the attacking midfield pivot.
He will know, as will Farke, with Stiepermann and Kieran Dowell in the wings Vrancic needs to find that punch to go with the panache, the quality of his passing and tactical awareness.
Then again, if Norwich keep winning and those around him continue to plunder the Bosnian may feel in his rights to expect the status quo to continue.
But when injury does not intervene it still feels like perhaps the only area of Norwich’s current starting line up where there is a spot up for grabs at present.