Michael Bailey: One duo kicks out, another offers promise and it’s all over (maybe) – Six things learned from City’s Bolton stumble
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We’ve been here before, sadly – Michael Bailey issues his half-dozen doses of medicine as Norwich City are held to another frustrating Carrow Road draw, this time by Championship strugglers Bolton.
1 – Farke’s feet can do the talking
Maybe it was the patience of the play on the pitch or the importance resting on the result – but it struck me long before the final moments of injury time, just how much fun it was to watch Daniel Farke during the game.
The German head coach’s arms were flailing about for most of the afternoon – especially whenever City calamity threatened.
It was nice of Harrison Reed to chuck out a little quote to back up the sight: “We already knew he was feeling it. We could hear him on the sideline and we could see his arms.”
Farke’s sending off – the first of his career – was a perfect exhibition of his character too: an explosion of passion, followed by the clear gesture and then vocalised apology of a gentleman who knew he’d gone too far; by about 10 yards, I reckon.
A far calmer “damn” on his way out of his post-match press conference said it all. There wasn’t too much wrong on Saturday – and yet what was, cost them dearly.
2 – Mo likes kicking the post
As Luke Chambers headed home last Sunday and went off to celebrate like Ipswich had won the Zenith Data Systems Cup, Moritz Leitner looked for the closest thing to kick. It happened to be the post he was marking, and he gave it an almighty smack.
It struck me then, this is a midfielder who desperately wants to win. You can see it in his performances too.
So to Saturday, when a lovely move saw Leitner clean through and destined to score – only for his right-footed effort to never head on target, and instead swing past Ben Alnwick’s far post.
Leitner didn’t stop moving. He just carried on towards the goal, knowing what he had to do. At least he shared the punishment by kicking the opposite post. Even more striking was his team-mates’ reactions. Reed, Maddison, Hernandez, Murphy – they couldn’t contain disbelief that was shared by the crowd.
His goal will come – but until them, Leitner will have to wait to prove he can have ice in his veins.
3 – Zimbo is clearly starting to tower
The stats say there are two better centre-backs at Norwich City this season than their number six – Grant Hanley slightly ahead of Timm Klose. But there is something that draws the eye to Christoph Zimmermann – and he was at it again on Saturday.
The man himself doesn’t want to keep referring back to the journey he’s made in a relatively short time-frame.
But when the 25-year-old looks so comfortable both in terms of pace and strength in a Championship game, it’s hard not to think of the strides he’s made – simply since the second-tier exchanges in August.
City are in a no-lose position with Zimmermann from here. If some of the suggested January interest from Premier League clubs actually manifests itself in the summer, Norwich will have a large wedge of profit to take to market.
And if not, they have a defender who looks really able to kick on again beyond his current level.
4 – There is promise in Onel
He must have been desperate for it to happen. With Dennis Srbeny’s start at Wolves and Marcus Edwards no nearer proving he actually exists, Onel Hernandez was the one we were still waiting to get a proper look at.
And in turn, we all have a little more to judge the 25-year-old forward on.
We now know he likes to smile – until the point Moritz Leitner slots wide. There’s no denying he has pace, although we didn’t see too much of it with the ball at his feet. His movement looked useful too, while the Cuban’s strength and ability to get his body in front of the ball bodes well for the Championship battles that lie ahead of him.
What was also apparent was Hernandez is still going to need some time to get up to the pace of the game – which was hopefully what caused his disappearance from the action after the interval.
But certainly, it was an outing that left you wanting to see some more.
5 – Digging in is not as easy as it looks
Eight. That was how many points Bolton had won on the road this season before they rocked up at Carrow Road.
In fact, the six worst away records in the Championship have now visited Norfolk. City beat QPR and Birmingham while Hull, Barnsley and now the Trotters left with a point. Sunderland actually left with all three.
In some ways there should be a lot of credit headed Bolton’s way – certainly for how Phil Parkinson tweaked his side’s shape to ensure their fortunate half-time foothold was something they could really build on.
And you could argue the fact Bolton sat in and were happy to let Norwich pose the first-half questions is a tactic that has worked for other visiting sides this term.
But in reality, Norwich should have taken their chances and altered the entire narrative as the game wore on. Instead that crucial breakthrough eluded them and Bolton beat their own fears to dream of survival.
6 – It’s almost time to say goodbye
I have to say, after full-time on Saturday this was going to be a definitive point. It was over. Ring in the summer and get the preparations going now. No major surprise of course – likewise, it could at least be genuinely accepted.
But as happens a lot in the Championship, things can look a fair bit different once a few more hours pass and the prospect of what’s left to come starts to settle.
It should be over. It probably is. Taking 10 wins from their remaining 12 games would still lead Norwich to just 77 points – and that may well still not be enough to make the cut.
And yet there are sides slipping, while that one remaining top-six place dangles like an ungainly carrot. All this plus the memory of what happened in 2002 taught us all to stay on our toes.
That season City had 58 points with seven games to go, and scraped in. Like City on Saturday, it’s proving hard to put it to bed completely.
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