Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City's 2-0 Championship win against Barnsley
PUBLISHED: 18:04 18 March 2017 | UPDATED: 18:04 18 March 2017
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Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his snap verdict from Carrow Road
1. Hold that bucket and spade - Who would have thought Huddersfield would go to Bristol City and ship four? Or Fulham would implode against Paul Lambert’s Wolves? Or Sheffield Wednesday slip again at home against Reading? More to the point, perhaps, who would have thought Norwich could beat Barnsley, keeping a clean sheet in the process. Okay, you get the idea. Another mad weekend in the Championship but City were the chief beneficiaries of those chasing the play-offs on the periphery of the top six. Five points behind the Owls, with both Fulham and Preston to face over the run-in. Given the bizarre inconsistency of the season to this point we perhaps should not be surprised the Canaries still have an outside chance of the top six. No time to down tools now.
2. Jacob Murphy. Power of 10 - The City academy starlet revealed the other week 10 goals was his pre-season target in what has clearly proved a breakthrough season. To set such an ambitious bar for a wide midfielder unsure of whether he could force his way past any number of senior rivals before a ball was kicked underlines the young man’s self-belief. That thumping opening day strike at Blackburn showcased his undoubted talent. A new deal before Christmas following reported interest from the Premier League was another signpost. Murphy, by his and former boss Alex Neil’s own admission, has showed signs of fatigue at various points since but the coolness of his finish here was a fitting way to bring up a personal milestone.
3. Alex Tettey - The Norwegian powerhouse spoke honestly last month about this possibly being his last chance to get back to the Premier League. That is going to take some chain of events from here given what has happened over the past eight days but Tettey certainly has not given up hope. He was his marauding best. Covering plenty of ground to try and disrupt Barnsley’s smooth style. The Reds still carved out a number of chances but with Tettey patrolling that central area there was some much-needed bite to Norwich’s play. Tettey was absent at Oakwell when City were overwhelmed in that first period. It might have been a different story that day.
4. Alan Irvine - The experienced coach has picked up four points from two home games. But it is his calm demeanour and honesty that you sense will have played well with a dressing room who clearly have struggled to stay on message this season. Irvine revealed on Friday he will take charge for however long is required while the much-trailed revamp continues apace at Carrow Road. City should be thankful they have a steadying influence and a man who seemingly commands respect from those under his temporary stewardship. After the turbulence and the fallout from Alex Neil’s departure, Irvine you sense is the right man at the right time.
5. Paul Heckingbottom. Audition or not? - Given the pre-match soundbites from chairman Ed Balls suggested they are looking for an innovative head coach willing to work within a sporting director framework, there are plenty suggesting Barnsley’s young and impressively assured head coach could be in the running. Promotion last season via the League One play-offs, plus the Football League Trophy for good measure, and a refreshingly bold approach this time around in the Championship. Add in the loss of some key players in the January transfer window, notably Conor Hourihane, and a budget in the bottom rank of the second tier and the manner his side performed at Carrow Road should not have gone unnoticed. Had the Reds had the punch to match their panache in open play, this would have been a totally different outcome. Heckingbottom, you sense, will not be short of suitors in the summer.