Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City's battling 2-1 Championship win against Rotherham United
PUBLISHED: 17:13 16 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:34 17 March 2019
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his Rotherham United verdict after the Canaries' hard-fought 2-1 Championship win
1. Consider it matched and raised
Magnificent resolve from Norwich City. Rotherham made this an arm wrestle of a contest. A bare-knuckle, raw-boned test of aerial athleticism and set piece grunt.
Add in the blustery conditions and Sheffield United’s win at Elland Road earlier in the day, which tightened things up considerably at the summit.
Throw in a Rotherham equaliser for good measure, after Kenny McLean’s hooked opener. No matter. Within four minutes, Ben Godfrey had arrived at the back post like a steam train to power home McLean’s corner.
Then Daniel Farke’s men battled, fought and scrapped every time the ball came into their box. Some of the Rotherham punters raged at the perceived injustice of the scoreline and the lack of favours from the officials. It was frankly ridiculous. Norwich were the better side in every department. Character, quality and spirit.
2. Farke flip, flop
The City head coach spoke at length in the build up around his weekly dilemma whether to stick or twist and give some of his former biggest hitters a chance to clamber onto this promotion chariot. But again it was the same starting XI for the sixth consecutive game.
It produced a sixth consecutive win. That, as Farke rightly pointed out, is the only measure to judge how he juggles his resources.
It takes deft man-management and the coolness not to listen to those arguments for the restoration of Moritz Leitner or Mario Vrancic or Timm Klose. You could go on. Farke has got so much more right than wrong this season.
The proof is in City’s leadership of the Championship and the sight of the Premier League now looming into view.
3. Talking on the pitch
Perhaps the main beneficiary of Farke’s faith in more of the same has been McLean. The Scottish international had an injury-hit start to his Norwich career and then a spell kicking his heels while they climbed the standings.
But apart from that fluffed penalty at Bolton on his first league start, McLean has not looked back. It feels tempting to look at what he cannot do as well as others in the same part of this City squad.
But his goalscoring instincts made the opener, in the manner of the anticipation he showed to race onto Teemu Pukki’s clip and then hook a volley beyond the advancing Rotherham keeper.
There was also an assist, with the deep corner thundered home by Godfrey. McLean has done more than enough to keep his place in the next starting line up.
4. Ben Godfrey. Thoroughbred
The Norwich City youngster’s England Under-20 call up in recent days was another signal the one time defensive midfielder is starting to make waves outside of Norfolk.
Many raised an eyebrow or two when Daniel Farke declared he saw Godfrey as a potentially world class centre back earlier this season. That is a high bar to set but in the midst of Rotherham’s direct thrust and set piece assault Godfrey exuded calmness. Not to mention a threat in the opposition box, in the manner he rose to thump home Kenny McLean’s corner.
In the air, he relished the battle. On the floor, he accepted the responsibility of getting his team up the pitch.
Much, rightly, has been made of Max Aarons’ meteoric rise following on from Jamal Lewis’ emergence. But Godfrey has caught both up.
When he was first pitched into City’s central defence he looked a young man trying desperately to grasp his chance. Now he looks a seasoned campaigner maturing by the day.
5. Kind to Krul
Plenty was said and written about the adverse reaction from a pocket of frustrated Norwich fans to Tim Krul’s midweek error that gifted Hull City a goal.
It was a bad misjudgement but the manner both Stuart Webber and Farke underlined his importance thereafter was a timely reminder just what the experienced Dutch international brings to the mix.
Farke’s analysis of the bravery required from his keeper to help bypass the opposition press and bring the likes of Pukki and Emi Buendia into play was a useful insight into both Krul’s ability with the ball at his feet and how intrinsic that approach is to Norwich’s philosophy.
The away punters hailed him before the game. A booming wind-assisted goal kick that almost caught out Marek Rodak as it dipped over his bar would have been too much to ask for. Far more important was the vital punch clear in the last act of the game.
Consider this the perfect response.