Plaudits come with a price for Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The temptation to dismiss Bournemouth as one of the Championship's lightweights would disguise the fact Norwich City may not endure a tougher test all season.
Eddie Howe has melded a group light on star names but over-compensating in substance. Whatever the factors that tempted one of the managerial fraternity's bright young things to swap Burnley for a return to his south-coast stronghold, Howe has been afforded time and perhaps a less pressurised environment in which to construct a team who can mix it with the best in the second tier.
Bournemouth do not have the infrastructure or the financial muscle to perhaps make it all the way to the Premier League, but they possess more than enough talent and class to upset plenty of the genuine promotion contenders.
Howe was adamant in his post-match media dealings that table topping Nottingham Forest had earned a fortuitous league win at Dean Court earlier this season. Blackburn had profited from his side's defensive deficiencies the previous wekeend, but apart from the blemish that allowed Lewis Grabban too much room to crash a header past Lee Camp there was little visible signs of any such brittleness.
Bournemouth's measured urgings oozed confidence and belief in Howe's philosophy. Possession football is the mantra and the patience prior to fashioning a killer opening for the equaliser owed as much to his methods as it did Norwich's own obvious failings.
Alex Tettey and Bradley Johnson were not the dominant midfield force that set the tone for home victories and the derby success at Portman Road. Wes Hoolahan found himself forced to forage ever deeper towards his own penalty box in an echo of those opening day struggles at Molineux.
Howe altered his own formation to try and thwart the Dubliner. It was a back-handed compliment Adams and his side can expect with increasing regularity over the coming months.
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The manner Norwich swept aside Watford and Blackburn will have resonated far and wide. Teams will come to Carrow Road intent on stopping City playing. Bournemouth opted for a more refined approach than mere physical exertions, based on starving the hosts of the ball and suffocating the freedom their talismanic number 14 had to weave patterns around Grabban.
Bournemouth defended deep and broke with precision, with an outlet in Callum Wilson who looks every inch as potent as the man he replaced during the summer.
Wilson's cunning and voracious appetite for work occupied both Russell Martin and Michael Turner far more than the higher profile duo of Jordan Rhodes and Troy Deeney ever managed.
Bournemouth can go about their business away from the limelight and the glare of expectation, but it would be no surprise to see Howe's homely, unfashionable outfit challenge the establish order for the entire duration.
The Cherries' cultured obduracy fanned a sense of powerlessness as the game meandered, and a palpable sense of frustration grew around the stadium and on the pitch as Norwich only sporadically threatened to muster the same surgical incision sparked by Nathan Redmond's dynamic burst to set up Grabban.
Tettey threw his arms up in exasperation after Josh Murphy failed to heed his instructions in the closing stages. It was that kind of day; one where Norwich found an opponent unwilling to let them dictate or fearful of the consequences in trying to push them back.
Redmond's shift spanned the whole range of emotions. His own public admission afterwards on his culpability in not tracking Simon Francis for the equaliser was a measure of the 20-year-old's maturity. Yet in the opening 40 minutes he was as dangerous and as direct for a sustained period as he had been arguably since he first flowered in those promising early months of his City career.
Redmond induces frustration from sections of Norwich's fan base simply because they see the same flashes of inspiration and genuine promise as his most ardent supporters. The manner he squared up Charlie Daniels and then darted beyond before whipping in a first-time cross Grabban merely had to flex his neck muscles to despatch was wing play of the highest order.
Redmond's range of passing was accurate and penetrative; that surge of confidence from a key assist propelling him onwards and upwards.
But it was a personal display tinged with inconsistency. The questionable decision-making and the rashness of his long-range shooting returned after his inadvertent role in Bournemouth's equaliser.
He was not alone in yellow and green. Bournemouth's craft and guile was the antidote to Ipswich's uncomplicated endeavour. Skill rather than sweat from a set of players Howe has bonded into a tight unit.
The Cherries do not have Norwich's enviable depth of resources you suspect to sustain a promotion push. Nor perhaps the attacking power to puncture the most organised defences, given John Ruddy's relative workload. But there will be few league opponents capable of dictating to quite such a commanding degree in City's own backyard. In that context, the residual value of this game may be in a point earned rather than a performance to savour.