Freezer’s Five: Key talking points from Norwich City’s home draw with Preston
PUBLISHED: 18:57 25 November 2017 | UPDATED: 14:24 26 November 2017
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Canaries correspondent David Freezer takes a look at some of the main talking points following Norwich City’s 1-1 draw with Preston.
The value of City’s prized asset just keeps creeping up, after a simply superb free-kick from James Maddison.
The playmaker, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Thursday, so nearly proved the difference with a free-kick befitting of the top level.
Curling a high shot from the set-piece to the left of the penalty area lifted the roof off Carrow Road, leaving Preston keeper Chris Maxwell with absolutely no chance of saving the effort.
It takes his tally to the season to five, having also scored a free-kick in the 2-1 win at Reading – and came against the manager who signed him from Coventry, Alex Neil.
Perhaps that relationship, which saw the youngster get little chance to impress under Neil, was behind his dart towards boss Daniel Farke in the aftermath.
Alongside another bright performance, teeing up Wes Hoolahan for a fine chance to double the lead which wasn’t taken, plenty of scouts will be taking notice of Maddison’s obvious talents.
Alex Neil admitted after the game that it had felt quite strange coming back to Carrow Road as an opposition manager and that he was satisfied enough to leave with a point.
The Scot received little in the way of stick from the home fans and shared plenty of smiles and waves with the crowd ahead of kick-off.
The 36-year-old insisted he held no grudge against City or that his return added more motivation than any other game and the game petered out to an extent following the unusual lengthy delay for a local referee to take over as the fourth official.
David Thornhill sits near the away dugout and got Neil’s attention to say that he could step into the breach, with the Preston boss alerting referee Tim Robinson.
The draw added to a 2-1 win at Bristol City on Tuesday night, which finished a six-game winless streak. Four points from two away games is a fine return for North End but his hard-working team look likely to be sharing a mid-table battle with the Canaries.
With around five minutes to go there were plenty of confused and worried looks in the stands at Carrow Road, as linesman Mark Jones limped off injured.
The official looked in some distress as he limped across the pitch and a lengthy delay began, resulting in both sets of players being called across to the dug-outs.
To the amusement of many in the stands, Norwich Evening News columnist David ‘Spud’ Thornhill rode to the rescue, taking off his Norwich shirt but still wearing jeans as he helped the officials get the game back in action.
There was never a risk of the game being postponed, with the officials preferring to try and find a fourth official before restarting, but for a worrying few minutes it seemed a possibility.
With a few players going down injured afterwards in cold conditions, the momentum of the game was completely broken and a point was probably a fair result in the end.
Added to Yanic Wildschut’s number earlier being held up as a replacement for Harrison Reed, struggling with a foot knock, only for the City bench to change their mind and the Dutchman putting his training top back on – it was a strange day for the officials.
Pritchard’s early return
Injury problems forced Farke to name Alex Pritchard as a substitute, when the playmaker had not been expected to return from his pre-season ankle ligament damage until next month.
He received the biggest cheer before kick-off and a great reception from Canaries fans when started to warm up in 29th minute.
Farke then opted to roll the dice with the score at 1-1 and sent the former Tottenham man into battle in the 76th minute. Just three minutes later he fired a trademark shot from the edge of the box towards the top-right corner but saw his effort saved.
After that there were a few signs of rust from the 24-year-old and after the game he revealed he will still start Sunday’s under-23s game against Aston Villa at Carrow Road (2pm) as he keeps collecting game-time.
A start in a tough game at Cardiff next Friday may come too soon but the sight of the £8million man closing on a full return is an encouraging sight for City fans after so much injury gloom
Poor home run continues
As the dust settles on a bizarre afternoon, the reality of City’s home struggles hits home.
It will now be three months without a win at Carrow Road, since the 1-0 victory over Birmingham on September 9.
City’s next home game is against Sheffield Wednesday on December 9, when they will again try to bring an end to a run of seven home games without a win.
It is the worst Carrow Road run since Bruce Rioch’s team went a horrendous 11 games in the second tier back in 1998/99.
On this occasion the hosts had plenty of chances to break that pattern but looked lacking in the confidence needed to take those opportunities.
Boos rang out once again at full-time, as they did after last week’s draw against Barnsley, but Farke will feel he has some good moments to build on for Friday’s longest trip of the season, to Cardiff.