Paddy Davitt verdict: Brentford battering must be a watershed for Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
This was an emphatic way to lift the storm clouds gathering over Norwich City's Championship quest.
Brentford were the unfortunate victims at Carrow Road as Alex Neil and his players appeared to unleash all that frustration and pent-up fury from a dire run.
Norwich attacked with zeal and intelligence. Alex Pritchard underlined he is a worthy alternative to Wes Hoolahan in those key central areas so crucial to Neil's template. Jonny Howson delivered a composed return, just behind the marauding Pritchard. Howson is an excellent footballer but he exudes a calming influence on those around him. Steven Naismith and Jacob Murphy roamed with precision when all too often during a miserable spell Norwich's work in wide areas bore a lack of clarity and purpose.
Behind both were attacking, overlapping full-backs to flood the final third with a dazzling array of yellow shirts at times. Nelson Oliveira was the chief beneficiary and his first Championship goal for the club illustrated in the right setting and with the right service the powerful striker can plunder at this level.
A thumping victory merely served as a reminder Norwich possess the craft and guile, the heavy artillery and the artists to beat teams in the Championship. But it will take more than one clean sheet to soothe that uneasy feeling they remain vulnerable defensively against promotion rivals. Either side of the interval, despite Norwich protecting a merited lead, there was a palpable sense the Bees would be gifted a way back into a one-sided contest. Scott Hogan miscued a free header before rifling a volley over John Ruddy's bar. City's commitment to try and trigger forward propulsion with ball-playing centre-backs always runs the risk of a costly turnover in dangerous areas. On this occasion there was no such charitable donation but Norwich's upward mobility hinges on retaining a miserly pride in protecting Ruddy.
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Neil's squad can not always expect to sweep aside opponents in such dismissive manner. Yet there is no doubt when they move through the gears there are few finer sights in the Championship. Pritchard was the catalyst. Freed from the restrictions of holding his station wider on the left, the 23-year-old was a potent energy source. This was the perfect canvas, a dominant home side giving him the platform to weave his patterns. The instinctive, cushioned reverse pass into the feet of Brady for Norwich's third goal was a move of pure quality. There is a vigour and a freshness to the former Tottenham starlet that Neil must harness for the greater good.
In that regard, he is no different to Hoolahan. There will be afternoons and opponents suited to their unique gifts. But there are also days ahead when it will need the muscle and the industry of Alex Tettey or Youssouf Mulumbu. It is Neil's job to find the right mix and having key figures such as Howson and Ivo Pinto available again can only improve the odds.
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The manager tellingly spoke afterwards of his failure to extract the most from his resources during the recent tailspin. It was an admission not only those on the pitch but their leader have come up short. When you witness a demolition on this scale you understand why the trauma and the post-mortems have been so prolonged. Norwich City's squad should not lose five on the spin in the Championship; irrespective of who they play. Beyond Norfolk that may be interpreted as arrogance but it is true nonetheless. The complacency Neil alluded to, which set in after a winning surge, must not be allowed to take root again this season. If there is one positive to cling to from this hellish period it is the sense Neil and his players will not make that same grave, mistake again. Brentford's last visit to Carrow Road early in his tenure proved a watershed moment. It must do so again.