Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 2-1 Championship win at Reading
PUBLISHED: 14:35 20 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:36 20 September 2018
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict from the Madejski Stadium
1. Toasting Todd
Dereham’s finest certainly does not appear to suffer from stage fright. Championship debut. Box ticked. First league assist. Box ticked. Glowing praise from his head coach for a mature display. Box ticked. Cantwell has the strut and arrogance you need to make the huge transition from promising academy junior to frontline starting option.
Daniel Farke admitted afterwards even for a head coach with impeccable credentials for blooding young talent this was a big call, to fill the seismic hole left by the injured Onel Hernandez.
Cantwell is about as far removed from a direct replacement for the speedy winger as you could find in Farke’s depleted ranks.
But the manner he drove through central midfield before a clever reverse pass freed Teemu Pukki to open the scoring underlined not only does he possess the skill but the intelligence to make a big impression on Norwich City’s season. How big depends on the man himself.
2. Forget the youth vote. Put your cross in Marco’s box
Perhaps in the midst of such a focus on the bright, fresh-faced youngsters getting their chance under Farke it is easy to downplay or disregard the renaissance of Marco Stiepermann.
Here is a player who, frankly, was something of a squad filler - if you want to be particularly brutal - to this point of a Canaries’ career which had made a virtue of his versatility.
In the last two Championship wins, the German has responded to what you sense is a re-deployment in his favoured position.
That might beg the question why it has taken until now for Farke to try him in an advancing central role; albeit James Maddison may have had something to say about that last season.
But the manner he careered down the left before producing the late cross that led to Mario Vrancic’s winner at Reading was another illustration whether by accident or design, Farke appears to have tapped into a much richer resource than most Norwich fans felt was possible.
3. Punchy Pukki
City’s Finnish international is a force of nature at present. It was not just the clinical way he slotted his seventh goal of the campaign for club and country but his all-action, front-running style, which helped to release the pressure in the second period.
There was even a needless show of selfless endeavour, when he cut into the penalty area late on only to square a pass to Alex Tettey. Given the goalscoring form he is in, maybe Pukki was keen to display his charitable side.
Jordan Rhodes’ demotion for the last two wins is in itself a testament to Pukki’s impact.
The Sheffield Wednesday loanee arrived in the summer with a degree of fanfare and seemingly the job of leading the line for the Canaries this season. Not any more. Not if Pukki continues in such devastating form. Nor will the presence of Nelson Oliveira remain anything more than a footnote.
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4. Midfield riches
There might be a lingering sense City’s upturn in results is being achieved through adversity. Each pre-match bulletin at present feels like a fresh opportunity for Farke to deliver a painful injury blow.
There can be no doubt the likes of Grant Hanley, Hernandez and Kenny McLean are big misses, but Farke also has an enviable resource across the middle of the park.
Reading was not just another chance for Stiepermann or a first league opportunity for Cantwell. It also marked another step on the road to recovery from a pelvic problem for Vrancic.
The match-winner delivered a pertinent reminder to Farke he should not be disregarded, when the debate rages on who merits a start.
Vrancic, by his own admission, needed most of last season to grasp the physical dimensions required to operate in a congested part of the pitch. The technical ability is not in doubt. Produce the level of his second half cameo at the Madejski on a consistent basis from here and the Bosnian makes a compelling case for inclusion.
5. Long memories
Norwich have the misfortune to face one of the few Championship rivals on an even better run of form this weekend.
QPR have gone five games unbeaten, under Steve McClaren’s guidance, including a 2-0 London derby success over Millwall on Wednesday night.
Rangers appear to have turned a corner, aided by some astute late transfer moves, following that humiliating 7-1 crushing at West Brom.
Talking of humiliation, Farke would do well to dust off the tape of the Canaries’ Easter Monday capitulation at Loftus Road last season.
City were left battered and bruised by the towering presence of Matt Smith.
There appears more refinement to QPR’s philosophy this time around, with McClaren in charge, but those who were on duty in West London should not lack for motivation.