Annoying Norwich City is a dangerous game in the Championship
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Not all that long ago a Norwich City concession spelt danger. Now it's a warning sign for Championship opponents to batten down the hatches.
Neil Adams' side have conceded the first goal in four league games already this season and walked off the pitch each time with points to add to their promotion quest; only Birmingham denied them a victory.
So it proved again in a recurring feature which could come to define their campaign against a plucky Blackpool, who belied their lowly status and the backdrop of terrace unrest towards their figurehead, to genuinely test the Canaries.
The Seasiders' soaked up pressure and attacked on the counter with pace. That was the gameplan from the opening few minutes and the precision of their incision 48 seconds after the interval was deadly, despite John Ruddy's best efforts to thwart Ishmael Miller.
The luckless Donervon Daniels then intervened twice in the Canaries' favour, but there was no disputing they were worthy victors.
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Adams deserves huge credit not simply for instilling an attacking mentality and recruiting players to embody his beliefs, but encouraging his team to embrace the expectation and positively enjoy the adversity they have routinely faced.
Trips to the north-west this season may take in Blackpool and Wigan rather than Manchester and Liverpool, and that huge gulf in quality is a given. City will not be punished as heavily for their indiscretions or forced to raid with quite the same degree of economy in terms of their creative output.
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Those are mitigating factors when assessing the scale of Norwich's achievements in coming months, but Blackpool served to illustrate once again they relish this weekly challenge to their authority.
The world-weariness, the deference, the sense of limited ambition has been swept away on Adams' watch.
Proving they really belong for a sustained period in the Premier League remains the ultimate objective; the longer term strategy. Getting there must be the extent of their immediate horizons.
By the time of the next international break following two home league games against Charlton and Rotherham, City will already be a quarter of the way through this Championship season.
They can now justifably aim to reach that point ahead of the rest. There is nothing fortuitous about their current lofty status. Norwich deserve to be top because they have played the most attractive, potent brand of attacking football tinged with enough defensive resolve and midfield industry to earn top billing.
Tucked in behind are many of the clubs most would have expected to be in the promotion shake up in this relentless division, where draws are almost marking time results. Akin to treading water in the deep end.
City's capacity to get back on level terms and grind out a share of the spoils, or better, in all those league tussles where they conceded first this season is a priceless trait when the league is so congested.
Adams demanded a degree of circumspection in the Blackpool build up to check such a trend, and there was plenty of supporting evidence in a cautious opening period at Bloomfield Road.
City quickly established control of territory and possession but Blackpool were well-drilled in front of Joe Lewis; denying Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond the space to pick holes in the Tangerines' rearguard. On the one genuine occasion it occurred prior to the interval Lewis Grabban miscued.
Nathan Delfouneso's volley within a minute of the restart could have fuelled the fear this was the day when Blackpool would pick up a long overdue maiden win at City's expense.
Such a scenario would have prompted fresh introspection; maybe even stirred some deep-seated doubts amongst the pessimists in the manner of the post-mortem that followed the opening loss at Wolves.
Much was made of Wanderers' promotion momentum ahead of the first weekend of the new season. Such a premise contained a counter-argument, in respect of City and their relegated rivals. New personnel in the changing room by itself was never going to reverse the decline; it also needed a response from those who had experienced the darkness. Men like John Ruddy, Russell Martin and Bradley Johnson, who may privately have harboured the same concerns as some supporters.
The goals of Cameron Jerome and Grabban allied to Norwich's vibrant attacking play reveal much about this new-look squad, but Adams will have learned even more from the reaction of his longest servers at Cardiff, Birmingham and now Blackpool.
Falling behind in games should not always be the trigger for concerted action, but in such an even league Norwich can expect to encounter adversity. What they proved again at Blackpool is that merely inspires this set of players and management.
The latest episode re-enforces a sense of forward momentum as well as fosters a growing reputation, amongst their peers and promotion rivals, that this Norwich City side, unlike the one of recent Premier League vintage, is never more dangerous than when it is behind.