Luton Town 1, Norwich City 3: Jordan Rhodes injury scare mars polished Canaries’ display
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The sight of Jordan Rhodes hobbling out of the action was the one blight on a slick Norwich City 3-1 friendly win over newly-promoted Luton Town on Wednesday night at Kenilworth Road.
Daniel Farke will have enjoyed the accomplished manner of Tim Krul's bow, Emi Buendia's growing influence and the reassuring return of Grant Hanley.
But the City head coach will want a positive injury bulletin on his attacking spearhead in the coming days, following a first half exit four minutes after notching from the penalty spot.
Rhodes launched himself into a fully committed block tackle with Jack Senior in the centre of the park but was left on the turf clutching the top of his right foot. The level of concern was obvious by the number of white shirted team mates who crowded around as Rhodes was assessed.
The Scottish international departed under his own steam but after an intensive discussion on the touchline with City's physio, caution prevailed and he headed straight for the tunnel.
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There are much bigger battles ahead and Rhodes had shown again in a 20-minute cameo his importance to the cause.
Rewind 12 months and those pre-season injuries to both Alex Pritchard and Timm Klose cast a shadow over the start of Farke's Championship odyssey.
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City look infinitely better placed ahead of the big kick off at Birmingham City in a few weeks.
Admittedly, Luton were largely ineffective as an attacking force, until a surge early in the second half, but the Hatters were game opponents in a physical work out for the Canaries.
Which is why Hanley's first pre-season outing could not have been better timed. The Scot is a colossus in his own penalty area but made his presence felt at the opposite end in the 10th minute to slot a rebound from Ben Marshall's corner.
Marshall was no less eye-catching in the early sparring, offering width and a mobile presence to supplement Rhodes and Teemu Pukki. Senior was coaxed into a rash challenge on the edge of his own box that referee Young deemed close enough to point to the penalty spot.
Rhodes did the rest.
Calmly sending James Shea the wrong way before his night took a turn for the worst. That appeared to have a corrosive effect on the rest of the opening period, in a prolonged midfield stalemate.
Krul had little chance to showcase his shot-stopping ability until beating away Andrew Shinnie's powerful strike. But there was enough evidence with the ball at his feet that Farke and Stuart Webber have recruited an assured operator in possession.
One misplaced diagonal pass intended for Marshall produced an angry smack of the gloves from the Dutch international.
Those travelling City fans would have savoured the standards the 30-year-old sets for himself. Krul's calmness appeared to transmit itself to a backline, which on occasion this summer had looked vulnerable.
Hanley's re-appearance naturally demanded attention but alongside him Ben Godfrey again underlined why Farke allowed Sean Raggett to join Championship rivals Rotherham United.
A season long stint at Shrewsbury illustrated defensive midfield may be his strongest suit at present, but Farke clearly feels he is good enough to be deployed at the heart of the Canaries' backline.
Here there were glimpses of his passing ability.
None more so than the third goal just before half-time when he picked out the raiding Marshall who delivered a near post ball finished expertly by Pukki.
Farke had seen enough at the break.
Perhaps given Rhodes' enforced exit he was taking no chances with Hanley and Buendia.
The Argentine talent could be pleased with his debut display, which included a crunching challenge on James Justin that earned a rare pre-season caution.
Luke Gambin denied Krul his clean sheet when he cashed in before the hour mark, after the City keeper had foiled Danny Hylton.
The Hatters' frontman then headed over again when well placed at the far post before Jervis clipped a free kick wide.
Todd Cantwell was thwarted by a block from Glen Rea as City navigated the final moments with no real alarms. Another encouraging step but we await news on Rhodes.
• Luton Town (starting XI): Shea, Justin, Senior, Rea, Jones, Bradley, Read, Shinnie, Hylton, Jervis, Gambin.
• Booking: Bradley (foul on Pukki, 68)
• Goal: Gamblin (57)
• Norwich: Krul, Marshall (Husband 71), Hanley (Zimmermann 45), Godfrey, Aarons, Thompson (Trybull 71), Buendia (Leitner 45), McLean (Passlack 71), Cantwell (Hernandez 80), Pukki (Srbeny 71), Rhodes (Stiepermann 22). Sub (not used): McGovern (GK).
• Bookings: Buendia (foul on Justin, 31); Thompson (foul on Justin, 59)
• Goals: Hanley (10), Rhodes (13), Pukki (45)
• Referee: Alan Young
• Attendance: 2,957 (433 away fans)