Six things you might have missed after City's draw at Preston
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Following a dramatic draw at Deepdale, David Freezer takes a closer look at six key talking points from Norwich City's valuable Championship point at Preston.
1 - Two-footed threat
Emi Buendia’s charge back to the Premier League shows little sign of slowing. Everyone in the Championship knows how talented the Argentine’s right foot is but he is truly a two-footed threat now.
The 24-year-old's curling, low strike at Deepdale was his 11th goal of the season and the fourth scored with his left foot, the others being during the wins at Reading and at home to Stoke and Brentford.
Daniel Farke admitted after the draw in Lancashire that he nearly took Buendia off at the break, after two heavy tackles. Eventually he limped off in the 82nd minute to ice his right ankle after being trodden on - having scored and created two clear chances for Teemu Pukki.
With 109 ‘key passes’ to his name from 32 appearances, the closest anyone in the division can come to that is Connor Roberts of Swansea (77). The most in recent seasons was from James Maddison, with 124 in 44 games for City during 2017-18.
2 – Fine margins
There’s no escaping the fact that it should have been another win for the leaders though, with top scorer Teemu Pukki agonisingly close to more goal glory.
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It would be easy enough to put that down to having travelled back from Finland’s friendly in Switzerland on Wednesday night, after three goals in two World Cup qualifiers.
Yet there appeared to be little wrong with the Finn in open play, with his probing runs and pace causing Preston constant problems. He clattered the crossbar so hard from a Kieran Dowell pass that the ball almost looked like it was going to spin into the empty net for a split-second.
However, after 14 goals in 14 games for club and country, you’d do well to find a sensible City fan criticising the striker too strongly at the moment.
Let’s not have any complaints about the added time either. Brad Potts’ equaliser hit the back of the net five second over the minimum of four added minutes and City had to be hurried up by the referee after taking almost 30 seconds over a throw-in during injury-time.
3 - Feeling blue
We all know where the true blame lies for the three points being cruelly snatched away anyway; the petrol blue kit.
City have worn their alternate strips for six matches this season, wearing the blue away kit during the League Cup loss at Luton, the league loss at Watford and the draws at Brentford and now Preston as well.
The black and pink third kit was used for the league loss at Luton and the one positive, the 2-0 win at Coventry in February.
Of course, no one is seriously blaming the kit but when playing against a team in white shirts and socks, and blue shorts, it does seem rather unnecessary to not wear the proper yellow and green which Norwich City is synonymous with.
4 – Digging deep
Less than 48 hours ahead of kick-off there were seven City players in international action. Max Aarons and Dimitris Giannoulis missed out because of it and Oliver Skipp was only fit enough for the bench – ending Aarons and Skipp’s run of starting every league game of the season.
Grant Hanley and Kenny McLean started despite playing all of Scotland’s 4-0 home win over the Faroe Islands in World Cup qualification on Wednesday, a few days after flying to and from Israel for a 1-1 draw.
For Canaries skipper Hanley it was a fourth game in a gruelling nine days, maintaining his record of having played every minute of the last 35 Championship games.
For a 29-year-old who has had injury problems in recent years, including missing three months last year with a damaged hamstring, it was a remarkable effort. He must have slept well on Friday night.
5 - Opportunities
Beyond the chances for youngsters Andrew Omobamidele and Bali Mumba to impress, the international issues also afforded Xavi Quintilla and Jacob Sorensen opportunities.
Giannoulis’ arrival in January has kept Villarreal loanee Quintilla on the fringes, making his first league appearance since a frustrating hip issue emerged in October.
The Spaniard had more touches (93) and completed more accurate passes (59) than any City player and pushed forward eagerly but his crosses and set-pieces led to little of substance. Hanley was also required regularly during the closing stages as Preston seemed to target the tiring left-back.
Having only played in the FA Cup win over Coventry in January prior to a positive Covid-19 test, Quintilla can’t be judged too harshly. It would be little surprise to Giannoulis back in the starting line-up against Huddersfield on Tuesday though.
6 - Record chasers
With just one defeat from the last nine away league games, the Canaries have some club records to make sure of during their final three trips; to Derby, QPR and Barnsley.
Farke’s title chasers have already equalled the 2014-15 club record of 13 away wins so one more would claim that outright, and also equal the record 45 away points managed two seasons ago.
Just 18 goals conceded on their travels threatens the 46-game record of 23 from 2018-19, although only 20 were conceded during the 42-game seasons of 1971-72 and 1974-75.
As Reading’s official Twitter account took great pride in pointing out, City now can’t break the Royals’ second-tier record of 106 points, but the club’s second-tier record of 94 remains within reach.
All that really matters now is that 10 points from a possible 21 will seal promotion mathematically, even in the unlikely event of Swansea and Brentford winning all of their remaining matches.