Paddy Davitt verdict: A tale of two sons of Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 18:31 02 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:15 03 December 2018
What goes around may possibly come around for Norwich City.
On the same day 12 months ago, the Canaries were crumbling 3-1 away at Cardiff City.
Not even Neil Warnock must have fancied the Bluebirds’ chances of getting in the play-off shake up at that point. Let alone clambering into the Premier League via the top two. We all know how that panned out.
Warnock’s team may not have been pleasing on the eye but they had a method and a total buy in from a squad of unheralded players. There the similarity ends.
City’s attacking verve and freedom of expression is a joy to behold; wrapped around the same steely resolve and immense reserves of character Cardiff had. Both were evident against Paul Warne’s spirited Rotherham.
Norwich had to overcome another set piece setback, which stiffened the Millers’ resolve to erect barriers in front of Marek Rodak and challenge the hosts to puncture such discipline.
There was palpable frustration prior to the interval, on the pitch and the terraces; partly fuelled by a sense the officials were not looking favourably on Daniel Farke’s side. But in times past, where that frustration may have festered and perhaps been re-directed towards those in green and yellow it appeared to have a galvanising effect.
That is the glorious by-product from the knowledge this Norwich collective possess the mindset and the quality to find a way.
To re-set when things are out of kilter or haul themselves back into Championship games in a measured, unflustered fashion.
Driven on by a vocal support, Farke’s side simply over-powered the Millers.
By the end it could and should have been a far more comprehensive margin of victory. Rotherham looked out on their feet.
The Canaries are perfecting the art of exerting just enough pressure to tip games in their favour.
There is no panic, no abandoning of Farke’s methods. That was graphically illustrated in stoppage time against Millwall in the previous home game. Here they had sealed the win before the clock ticked beyond 90 minutes.
A victory forged through the precociousness of youth.
The touching personal story around Warne’s return to Norfolk dominated the build up. Norwich is a club close to his heart and his family’s. There will be plenty of goodwill in these parts towards the ex-Diss and Wroxham player in his relegation fight.
But it was another son of Nelson’s County who defined this outcome.
Todd Cantwell may not have fizzed quite so brightly on the first team scene as Jamal Lewis or Max Aarons. Farke effectively plucked both defenders from the development pool and deposited them straight into his starting line up.
Cantwell had to head to Holland and a successful, if abbreviated, loan stint at Fortuna Sittard. Even during this season of limitless promise he has required patience as he shared the limelight down the left flank with Onel Hernandez.
The talent is not in doubt, nor the application. He just needed another opportunity, and Hernandez’s hamstring injury left the door ajar.
But the Dereham youngster is too cultured to smash it down.
He simply picked the lock, let himself in, and closed it behind him during a defining second half cameo.
Mario Vrancic is another midfielder cut from the same mould; a technically proficient operator with an eye for a pass and the ability to execute one. His reverse ball freed Teemu Pukki, who spotted Cantwell veering towards the corner of the Rotherham six yard box.
The whipped finish across his body into the opposite top corner was instinctive.
A memorable way to score your first senior Norwich goal. There is already enough evidence to suggest Cantwell possesses something of the showman. A trace of arrogance borne from belief in his own ability.
A fearlessness to try things that may not always come off but will not dissuade him from repeating the attempt.
The precision of his pass for Aarons’ glancing header to complete the fightback was class; a dart infield and cushioned ball over the Millers’ left back that required the merest flick from Aarons to divert it past Rodak.
Pukki’s 12th strike in 19 club games applied the polish but Cantwell was the catalyst.
When the dust settled and Farke had finished conducting the Lower Barclay at the final whistle Norwich were back on top. To have engineered a run of just one league defeat in 15 is a testament to the Canaries’ staying power.
It should also serve as a warning to promotion rivals.
This football team is not about to go quietly.
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