Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City's 2-2 Championship tussle against Sheffield United
PUBLISHED: 22:10 26 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:34 27 January 2019
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict from Carrow Road
1. Trading blows
There was a heavyweight feel to this content inside the opening few minutes. The tempo and the intensity felt a notch or two higher than a standard Championship game.
There was a fair dollop of mutual respect from both sets of players as well, although that did not seem to extend to the respective coaching staffs, who indulged in a spot of verbal jousting towards the end of the opening period.
The stakes both clubs are playing for could not be higher. Norwich will rue not holding onto the lead twice. Emi Buendia’s rashness in attempting to halt Enda Stevens to concede a spot kick crashed home by Billy Sharp was painful on every level; given how near it was to the half-time whistle.
The Blades were excellent after the interval, in the manner they pushed the hosts back. A point might not be the worst outcome in the final analysis. When the dust settles,
Leeds will feel they have been the victors this weekend after a comeback win at Paul Warne’s Rotherham. Norwich felt the same last weekend. But with City now heading to Elland Road there will be plenty more plot twists ahead.
2. Finishing school
Two of the Championship’s finest were on display at Carrow Road. Sharp might have edged his personal duel with Teemu Pukki, when he peeled off the back of Christoph Zimmermann to double his tally for the afternoon. But the Finn’s 17th league strike of the season was joyous. The movement to anticipate Max Aarons’ cut back and then the dexterity to whip a right-footed shot across his body into the opposite corner was high class.
Both Sharp and Pukki are spearheading their respective sides’ promotion pushes. Which is why even when a game is perhaps tilting away from them, their team mates know they always have a ace to play.
3. Peace and Love
Not quite but both Daniel Farke and Chris Wilder were willing to concede a point was fair return from the latest instalment of a rivalry that continues to grow since Farke arrived in Norwich.
You could not encounter two more different personalities. Farke is smooth, Wilder is spiky by trade and the City chief spoke of two contrasting philosophies in the build up.
But Farke also acknowledged the fully committed traits stamped through Sheffield United’s play are the embodiment of their abrasive manager.
For his part, Wilder on this occasion in his post-match briefing opted not to discuss time keeping or coach driving.
He simply acknowledged this had been his side’s hardest game of the campaign and revealed his players had returned to the away dressing room singing the praises of the Canaries. A dressing room the Blades’ backroom staff had worked overtime to disguise the pink tones on the walls. Something that actually produced a smile across Wilder’s features rather than his customary scowl. Peace indeed. For now.
4. What about that opening goal, though?
Norwich moved from back to front, twisting and turning, passing at speed with a high level of precision before Onel Hernandez calmly and coolly slotted Pukki’s cushioned pass beyond the advancing Dean Henderson.
It was a goal of breathtaking execution that was arguably the purest form of Farke’s philosophy seen yet. Norwich have scored many late goals, many crucial goals but not quite as beautiful in terms of the team ethic and quality of their collective efforts.
In such a highly pressurised environment, against a direct promotion rival, it was another signal how rapidly this group of players have matured into a seriously dangerous attacking force in the Championship. Confidence oozes from every pore.
Credit to the Blades and Sharp for their fighting instincts to hit back and earn a deserved point. But that was the highest watermark of this contest.
5. There is a bigger picture
Norwich have now lost just once in the last 16 league games. Repeat that over the remaining body of work and there is no question the Canaries have a great chance of finishing the right side of the line in the promotion stakes.
A trip to Elland Road will need no extra hype. Then the derby visit of Paul Lambert’s relegation-threatened Ipswich brings its own sub-plots aplenty. But there is an even bigger picture at play now for the Canaries.
The return of frontline options such as Timm Klose, Alex Tettey and Moritz Leitner. Drop those three influential figures back into this group of players and Norwich will undoubtedly be even stronger for the defining battles ahead.