Six things you might have missed after City's win at Derby
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As a Premier League return edges ever closer, David Freezer takes a look at six key subjects following Norwich City's 1-0 victory at Derby County.
1 - Dowell’s determination
Kieran Dowell is receiving plenty of well-deserved praise for his beautiful free-kick but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he also won that set-piece impressively.
It was the discipline of Emi Buendia which began the move in the 20th minute, chasing back after Derby keeper David Marshall had thrown the ball out to left-back Craig Forsyth, forcing his opponent to turn backwards.
From there it was Dowell taking over, intercepting a poor pass and charging goalwards, with Forsyth eventually deciding to haul the midfielder down and take a booking rather than allow a shot.
Then it was all about the Everton youth product’s classy left foot, somehow getting the ball up and over the Rams wall from a yard outside the box to find the top corner majestically.
Having already rippled the side-netting from one free-kick, Dowell also went on a superb run in the 33rd minute that deserved better than his low effort which drifted wide.
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2 – Desperate Derby
The lowly Rams deserve credit for the spirit and hard work which saw them emerge from this 1-0 defeat with heads held high, having rattled the leaders.
It shouldn’t be overlooked that part of them getting a foothold however was three players being booked for cynical fouls to halt Dowell, Todd Cantwell and Kenny McLean attacking the penalty area.
Patrick Roberts was also booked in the second half for catching Cantwell late and Emi Buendia limped off in the 62nd minute after looking thoroughly fed up with the rough treatment he was getting, as he had done at Preston on Easter Monday.
Fortunately, the Argentine ace walked back to the City substitutes looking to be okay after assessment in the dressing room, carrying a bag of ice.
Derby committed a total of 17 fouls to drag the leaders into a scrappy battle and Kamil Jozwiak should definitely have been booked for a late tackle on Max Aarons in the first half as well.
3 – Disaster averted
As the City defence scrambled and Grant Hanley stood defiantly on the line, Graeme Shinnie had the chance to finish from the edge of the box for Derby and inflict a late equaliser on the Canaries for a second successive away game, after a mistake from Tim Krul in the second minute of injury-time.
Yet there was Alex Tettey, chucking his body between the ball and goal, helping ensure the shot was blasted high over the bar.
As pointed out by @NCFCnumbers on Twitter, the former Norway international joins Iwan Roberts, Craig Fleming, Wes Hoolahan and Dion Dublin in representing City after their 35th birthday since the turn of the century.
He’s unlikely to join Dublin in still wearing yellow at 39 but that legendary company is where he belongs – emphasised by his trademark beaming smile while celebrating victory with Daniel Farke at the final whistle.
4 – You shall not pass
That late let-off ensured City had done enough to keep the eighth clean sheet during their current unbeaten run of 13 matches, conceding just 14 in 26 league matches since the 3-1 loss at Luton in December at the peak of their injury crisis.
Hanley was once again magnificent and Krul made some good saves and dominant claims to earn the luck that saw his late error go unpunished by the Rams.
Andrew Omobamidele continues to impress in possession as well, making the most accurate passes (98) of any City player at Pride Park, as he tries to keep things simple during this major test of his abilities at just 18 years old – enjoying back-to-back clean sheets.
The leaders made 23 tackles in total, having to make more in just two matches so far this season. Oliver Skipp made five of them, with the Tottenham loanee again demonstrating his game intelligence regularly.
5 – Championship context
Twenty teams have reached 90 points in the last 20 Championship seasons – all of them have been promoted automatically.
In five of those campaigns, no team broke the 90-point barrier. In eight of them the only team to hit 90 were the champions, while a final total of 90 was enough for Bournemouth and Wolves to lift the trophy in 2015 and 2009 respectively.
Just three went on to hit 100 though: Reading in 2006 (106), Newcastle in 2010 and Leicester in 2014 (both 102).
The first target for City will be to break the club’s second-tier record of 94 points, from 2004 and 2019, but with 15 points still to play for they can also target triple figures.
With 28 conceded the Canaries could also prove to have one of the best defences. West Brom conceded just 29 in 46 games in 2002 and just four teams have let in 32 or fewer in the years since.
6 – Full steam ahead
Celebrations were reasonably muted at full-time but it didn’t take long for relieved looks to be replaced by smiles, as the reality of promotion inevitability returned – which in truth had been secured by the brilliant 7-0 smashing of Huddersfield.
Derby ensured City didn’t have it all their own way but with Watford, Swansea and Brentford all winning, the party had already been delayed.
It’s possible that promotion will be confirmed before Saturday’s 8pm kick-off against play-off chasing Bournemouth at Carrow Road, with rivals due to play beforehand. However, the equation is simple.
Beat the Cherries and the party can begin, even if the chasing trio all win. Follow it up with victory three days later against Watford and the trophy will be lifted as well.
With pubs re-opening amid restrictions today, some welcome celebrations will be so heartening to see as we all edge back towards normality – and the Premier League.
Although, with some of the shocking VAR decisions in the top flight in recent days, perhaps Norwich are better off applying to remain in the Championship...