Academy duo survived tough Canaries debuts with credit in the bank
PUBLISHED: 15:56 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:56 15 August 2018
Finding a way past Stevenage may not have come easily for Norwich City but the emergence of two academy products added extra interest to the Carabao Cup for supporters.
Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons were among 10 changes to Daniel Farke’s starting line-up for the first round tie at Carrow Road.
For Cantwell his full debut followed on from his high-profile first appearance, coming on at Stamford Bridge in the 86th minute of City’s FA Cup third round replay at Chelsea in January, which eventually ended in a valiant penalty shootout defeat.
Fellow academy product Jamal Lewis introduced himself to the wider football world that night with a dramatic header to grab a late equaliser in front of millions watching the game on BBC television.
The left-back has gone on to establish himself as the new poster boy for City’s academy system, having already won his first cap for Northern Ireland, but had to watch on from the bench against Stevenage as his hope of minutes to top up his fitness after missing pre-season were denied by the Canaries struggling to get past their League Two opponents.
It was Cantwell playing ahead of Aarons on the left flank instead, an unfamiliar position for both, with head coach Daniel Farke clearly animated in his instruction to his two young starlets to help guide them through the game.
Dereham-raised Cantwell is more of a playmaker and played as a central midfielder when shining on loan for Fortuna Sittard during the second half of last season.
It was the 20-year-old’s quick thinking which helped get City go 1-0 up, playing a short corner to Moritz Leitner, who curled over a fine cross to give Marco Stiepermann an easy header at the back post.
Similarly for Aarons, who has come through the youth system at right-back, it was a shift of surviving on the left flank in which he just about did enough to suggest he is worthy of more chances to impress. The 18-year-old signed a new contract this summer and became the first player born in the 21st century to play for Norwich on Tuesday night.
However, in a team with an average age of just under 24 – which drops to under 22 when keeper Michael McGovern is excluded – this was a cup tie where an unfamiliar starting XI needed first-choice players Kenny McLean, Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki to come on and get the job done.
Cantwell made way for Pukki in the 78th minute as he started to tire and Aarons banked a valuable 90 minutes in a 3-1 win over a stubborn opponent.
Loan spells may yet follow for both – with Cantwell in particular likely to have summer signing Emi Buendia for competition – but full judgment can be reserved until the youngsters get a chance in their preferred positions.