Norwich City 2 Preston 0: Canaries turn on the power to spoil Alex Neil's return
PUBLISHED: 23:53 22 August 2018 | UPDATED: 00:42 23 August 2018
Norwich City sunk Preston with a late double in a 2-0 Championship win that earned the Canaries their first three points of the new season on Wednesday night at Carrow Road.
Teemu Pukki and Alex Tettey’s thunderous hit inflicted a defeat on Alex Neil’s side and transformed the restlesss mood.
Tettey, frankly, had endured a stinker, which might have explained the joyous reaction that saw him race towards the home dug out with his shirt off in an act that earned him a booking.
Now the visit of Leeds can be attacked with renewed relish and vigour. But Daniel Farke is not the type of meticulous operator to airbrush what went before City’s glorious late salvo.
City have been too reliant on Onel Hernandez to inject that dynamism when the smooth passing rhythms are nullified.
Preston started on the front foot to set the tone; Neil’s side may not have any eye-catching names in their ranks but they have youth and energy and a collective sense of purpose.
There was a telling moment four minutes in when Ivo Pinto and Ben Marshall watched North End take a throw in and then cut a reverse ball in behind Marshall that eventually came to nothing.
It spoke volumes for the difference in urgency; all the more surprising given that painful twist at Bramall Lane and the need to give a home support something to cling to in the quest for an opening Championship win.
Leitner dropped ever deeper in search of work.
One swerving diagonal pass freed Hernandez to make a rare foray in behind Darnell Fisher but the white shirts retreated.
Rudd was a virtual spectator, prior to the interval, on his first playing return to his former home.
Tim Krul was pressed into service in the 26th minute to parry a rising shot from Lukas Nmecha before Fisher reacted quickest to sky the rebound; another signal which team were exhibiting the greater appetite.
Marshall, deployed further forward after some testing outings at right back, whipped a free kick over the bar before Krul grasped an overhead effort from Louis Moult.
Perhaps Rudd’s lack of activity drew a lapse in concentration, when he came flying out to intercept a Marshall corner as Timm Klose rose in front of him, but the man heavily touted with a Bundesliga return headed over.
Right on the stroke of half-time, City snapped around the heels off Alan Browne to force a turnover that saw Leitner exchange passes with Hernandez but club his right-footed effort off-target.
Farke resisted the urge to make personnel changes at the interval.
Moult rose unchallenged at the start of the second period but Krul’s positioning was again secure.
Marshall drifted a corner to the back post for Klose to rise highest only for the central defender’s miscued header to slither wide.
More imprecision, more fitful attacking productivity. Nmecha unleashed a powerful shot that cleared Krul’s bar but there remained more intent from the visitors.
City’s fans sensed those in yellow needed a lift and raised the decibel levels.
Farke even lost the beige coat just shy of the hour mark as he pondered his next move. The head coach responded by introducing Emi Buendia for his league debut as Marshall made way. It was a bold move. It was a proactive move the type of which the majority inside Carrow Road had been craving.
But City had a huge let off in the 73rd minute when Tettey’s weak pass was intercepted and Callum Robinson smashed a shot against the underside of Krul’s bar.
Jamal Lewis took matters into his hands to break the deadlock. The dart and the step over were matched by slide rule pass for Teemu Pukki to drill beyond Rudd. The roar was tinged with relief.
It got even better. Remarkably Tettey inflicted a dagger blow with a right foot hammer from 22 yards that nearly burst the net. Tettey raced away with his shirt torn off in delight. Neil bowed his head. Farke spoke of fine margins in the build up. He was right.
• Norwich City: Krul, Pinto (Zimmermann 75), Hanley, Klose, Lewis, Tettey, Marshall (Buendia 66), Leitner (Trybull 90), Pukki, Hernandez, Rhodes. Subs (not used): McGovern (GK), Godfrey, Srbeny, Thompson.
• Bookings Leitner (unsporting behaviour, 65); Tettey (unsporting behaviour, 87)
• Goals: Pukki (80), Tettey (87)
• Preston: Rudd, Fisher, Pearson, Clarke, Robinson, Browne (Harrop 90), Moult (Johnson 70), Hughes, Huntington, Barkhuizen (Barker 79), Nmecha. Subs (not used): Maxwell (GK), Davies, Ledson, Burke.
• Bookings: Pearson (unsporting behaviour, 61); Browne (foul on Lewis, 84)
• Time added on: 2 minutes / 5 minutes
• Referee: Gavin Ward
• Attendance: 24,936