Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from 10-man Norwich City’s last-gasp 1-0 FA Cup defeat against Portsmouth
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict from Carrow Road
1. Hanley hell
Not the statement Grant Hanley sought to make in a rare start since his long term layoff with a quad problem. Within 15 minutes he had departed after referee Bond flashed a red card for his body check that floored Ronan Curtis.
The official clearly decided Hanley’s act was deliberate and constituted a denial of a goalscoring opportunity. In real-time both points appeared open to conjecture, given it occurred a full 10 yards or so outside Michael McGovern’s penalty area and Hanley’s full-blooded effort appeared to be an attempt to nick the ball.
The towering centre back had been penalised for a shoulder barge a minute or two earlier. Whether that was still uppermost in the referee’s mind only he can answer.
The card certainly appeared with indecent haste. But television replays were damning for Hanley’s case for clemency. It showed a reckless if a genuine attempt to win the ball and with no covering colleagues was always likely to prove a high risk intervention.
In the bigger picture it means a one-game ban for the Scottish international and more frustration after an injury-hit season that started with so much promise when Daniel Farke entrusted him with the captain’s armband.
2. Cup audition
Farke made eight changes from the line up that battled to a Championship point on New Year’s Day. That carried the potential for numerous sub-plots.
There were rare starts for Felix Passlack and Ben Marshall after stepping out of the sizeable shadow cast by Max Aarons and the likes of Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell.
There was another shot for Tom Trybull and an all too brief cameo for Hanley as it turned out.
But perhaps fellow Scottish international Kenny McLean advanced his cause the most of those lurking in the shadows.
McLean showed glimpses of potential before early season ankle surgery. Here, harnessed in tandem with Trybull, there was obvious signs of rust but a pleasing burst of speed over five or ten yards and the class to pick a pass which may have set Farke’s pulse racing. There was also a stoppage time free kick which slammed into the Pompey wall before their match-winning response at the other end.
McLean is still some way from a league start but you can be sure his head coach wants alternatives for the final push.
3. Crew cut Cantwell
The short, back and sides might take some getting used to but this was another statement of intent from the Dereham youngster. There was a huge vote of confidence when the team sheet was handed in from Farke, given Cantwell was only one of three players retained from the Championship roster.
You could see why on the evidence of the young man’s confident promptings throughout against the League One leaders.
Cantwell veered infield and demanded the ball time and time again.
There was short and long passing and the odd threatening burst. He could have been the hero with a diving 86th minute header clawed away by Craig Macgillivray. While an earlier majestic drilled pass into Dennis Srbeny in the second half underlined this is a player who has moved beyond the first, fledgling phase of his senior career. He clearly now feels he belongs in such company.
And he’s one of the club’s own. Great to see.
4. Zinger Zimmer
Another of the Brentford survivors was Christoph Zimmermann. Setting aside the early loss of his defensive sidekick this was another impressive demonstration of why Farke rates his compatriot so highly.
There were plenty of calls for Hanley to come in at his expense at Griffin Park, after his error for Derby County’s winner. Not from his head coach, who launched a stiff defence of his man on Friday at his pre-match press call.
Farke made it clear Zimmermann had been his most consistent defensive performer over the entire piece so far this season.
That is a big statement, given the displays of Aarons and Timm Klose.
But here he did more than most to make up for the numerical disadvantage. There was two stunning goal line blocks as Pompey surged in the final quarter. The first underlined his sense of danger, after Michael McGovern spilled a shot from the visitors. He might not grab the headlines most weeks but his head coach definitely has his back.
5. Bigger picture
The prospect of a midweek replay trip to Portsmouth hardly held too much appeal. Still it was tough on those in yellow and green who had battled with a man less for nearly 77 minutes until Andre Green slammed home a shot via a post in a telling stoppage time counter for the visitors.
The biggest tribute you can pay Farke’s men is Portsmouth rarely threatened to make their man advantage count. City were more than a match in open play.
But when the dust settled the Canaries’ miserable run in the FA Cup of late continued for another season. But let’s get it straight, as the visitors celebrated like they had won the competition in the press box with the travelling club media, and on the pitch and packed away end, Norwich’s season will be defined by what happens between now and May.
Farke has served up plenty of cup thrills since his arrival in England. Time to focus on another epic chapter or two of league combat.