Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s 3-1 Championship defeat at Cardiff City

Norwich City collapsed in the second half at Cardiff.
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City collapsed in the second half at Cardiff. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his verdict following the Bluebirds loss

1. Ref justice - Daniel Farke pledged not explode for fear of an FA rap. But his post-match debrief proved no diplomatic side step.

The German placed the blame for his side's latest defeat squarely on the referee. Two penalties and a clear tug back on Mario Vrancic in the build up to Cardiff's third goal all went the way of the home side.

The problem is, after six winless games previously in the league and fresh evidence in Wales of deep issues Farke is seemingly struggling to address, it sounds like excuses.

Ivo Pinto may well have been harshly punished for a tussle with Sean Morrison that led to the equaliser but Sol Bamba had headed the ball past Angus Gunn fractions of a second after the penalty was awarded.

Similarly, there was plenty of opportunity to thwart Omar Bogle once Vrancic was halted at the other end of the pitch. The City chief needs to look closer to home.

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2. Nelson Oliveira - The pouting Portugal international possesses that selfish streak you need as a striker. Unfortunately it is to the detriment of his team mates at present.

Allowances must be made to a degree, after an injury-hit season that has never fully got up to speed. But each passing start, since his return from a series of fitness issues, is just another exercise in frustration.

Oliveira appears to be playing with the hump. The waywardness of his shooting is turning into an epidemic. Farke must decipher what makes Oliveira tick. Quickly.

Wes Hoolahan was well within his rights to lambast the forward when he chose to shoot with the Republic of Ireland man better place prior to the interval. Yes, he needs a more productive supply line but he has to help himself if City's woeful goal output is to improve.

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3. Style over substance - Technical ability can trump tenacity was Farke's pre-match assessment. Packing your midfield with good ball players was the way to counter-act Cardiff's more earthy qualities.

Farke was right with regard to the futility of trying to out-muscle a Neil Warnock side but his faith in the primacy of Norwich's possession game is misplaced.

City do not have the operators to pass teams into submission. They need a dose of mongrel mixed in with the pedigree. That is how they carved out results in the one fertile spell of the season.

Right now, they are lightweight across midfield. There is no lack of effort or endeavour but the energy levels are suspect. The sense of danger absent. The balance wrong and the game intelligence without the ball, lacking. Each passing setback merely highlights the problem.

4. Winter of discontent? - Games against Brentford, Birmingham and Burton over the festive period now assume added importance. Norwich need to haul themselves out of a tailspin that is sucking them ever closer the wrong end of the table.

Get past a Yorkshire double header against Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds with no wins on the board - following an alarming drop in productivity since beating Ipswich - and they will need to halt the slide against teams likely to be breathing the same air in a similar part of the Championship table.

Forget top 10 aspirations. This is now increasingly looking like damage limitation to avoid spending the second part of the season casting anxious glances over the shoulder.

5. Will the real Marco stand up? - Stiepermann arrived at Carrow Road with a reputation for versatility. There had been precious little evidence of his claim he is a man 'born to score goals' until his sweet left-footed strike deceived Neil Etheridge.

The concern is the former Borussia Dortmund product looks suspect defensively. Nottingham Forest's winner, Bolton's opener and now Cardiff's match-clinching strike have all had one thing in common. Balls crossed from the right with City's designated left-back notable by his absence.

Stiepermann is not the only Norwich player you would question their positioning, but with James Husband yet to convince that left-hand side requires urgent attention.

Jamal Lewis may inject a degree of competition when he returns from injury but it should hardly fall to an untried youngster to solve the conundrum.

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