Six things we learned from Norwich City’s Championship picking off by Preston North End

Alex Baptiste holds off Alex Pritchard at Carrow Road. Picture by Andy Kearns/Focus Images

Alex Baptiste holds off Alex Pritchard at Carrow Road. Picture by Andy Kearns/Focus Images - Credit: Andy Kearns/Focus Images Limited

It all came to a grinding halt at Carrow Road for Norwich City on Saturday. Michael Bailey takes six things to task from the fallout…

1 – Jonny will be seriously missed

As much as there were things wrong on the pitch for City this weekend, that could all be rectified as early as tomorrow's EFL Cup trip to Leeds – and certainly strengthened by a positive result at 'Chris Hughton's Brighton' – as we now have to call them.

No, the really big blow was the one that won't be repaired until next year.

Jonny Howson having to sit out at least the next two months – and with how it's being said, I'd suggest it will be longer – is a huge blow. Sure, Jonny had a slow start to the season but come the end of September he was doing what he does better than anyone else – driving City forward, running beyond the striker, getting crucial goals and offering a spark.

Regardless of dropping to the bench at Wolves, City missed Howson hugely at Fulham and definitely on Saturday.

The implications even stretched to Alex Neil feeling he couldn't rest Jacob Murphy, without having Howson to come in.

Most Read

City have been relatively lucky with injuries in recent times. Not many have been bad, and rarely have they affected key personnel. But this one could prove a real issue until he's back for good.

2 – Midfield has become a Brady magnet

Remember the ongoing debate over Robbie Brady playing at left-back?

Well on the evidence of the last few games, that debate is so last season. Now it should be about Brady's central drift.

Brady seems a player that always wants to be involved; shirking effort is rarely a criticism. And that desire to be involved has seen Brady spend a lot of recent time in central forward areas.

It could be tactical. It could just be one of those organic things that happens on the pitch, and it arguably helped Brady shine at Wolves.

But all it did against Preston was shove Wes Hoolahan wide and leave no central support for Cameron Jerome – in a midfield already lacking drive and movement.

Given Neil said he was wary Alex Pritchard would occupy the same central space as Wes if they played together, Brady needs to make sure he doesn't do likewise – especially at Carrow Road.

A word here for Stephen Martin, who was always available for a pass or a dummy in midfield.

It was just a shame he was the referee and had no awareness of how close he kept getting to the play.

Watch Saturday's edition of The Pink Un Show Matchday from Carrow Road with Michael Bailey and Darren Eadie

3 – It all felt a bit Pritch

You imagine Kyle Lafferty is highly likely to leave City when his contract runs out in the summer, to relight his fire. It could happen come January, with the key question then simply: Who will take the mantel of regular sub the City fans desperately want to see get more action?

Fortunately the auditions have already begun and judging by Saturday, Alex Pritchard is in pole position to land the role – which would no doubt leave him as annoyed as he looked when he jogged out for his first touchline run.

For the record, I have no issue with the tactical argument for Pritchard not starting at Fulham – but having already said PNE would be a similar task to Rotherham, it was a surprise Neil didn't bring him back in. Neil's quote about the game being goalless when Pritchard came on missed the point too – City were far more lively with him on the pitch.

In reality all the 90 minutes did was emphasise that Pritchard should have started – and he definitely deserves more than being kept for starting cameos against the bottom side.

4 – Frailties not confined to a two-goal lead

It was the accident waiting to happen.

In seven of the last eight games – and all of the last five – City have held a two-goal lead at least once. Two of those last three occasions on the road, City have failed to win.

I would put a lot of those issues down to concentration – although Fulham deserved their point in midweek.

But on Saturday, the attacking bail-out never fired – while the defensive weakness hung around.

It's likely Cardiff, Wigan, Burton and City's other visitors will have seen Saturday's result from Carrow Road and thought, that could have been us.

Michael McGovern was adamant City will solve their recurring issues. His post-match poser over whether City's man-marking or zonal defensive set-up was at fault for the goal was a concern.

Credit to Preston too. They played two strikers and didn't park the bus, created chances and earned at least a point. They played to their strengths and City couldn't stop them.

With Take That booked in for a Carrow Road fixture in June, pray City's defence improves by then.

5 – Nelson's journey needs to be upward

I remember watching Chris Martin play for Scotland at Celtic Park back in November 2014. He had a handful of caps before then, but this was his big chance to have the greatest day and get one over England.

And you know what? He was terrible – so much so he didn't reappear for the second half.

At the time, the ex-City striker wouldn't have wanted to admit how badly it went – not to the media. But with Scotland taking on England next month and Martin talking to us after Fulham's draw on Tuesday, he admitted he had a 'very tough night'. His facial expression said even more than his words.

This is a rather long way of getting round to Nelson Oliveira's appearance on Saturday, which at 34 minutes doubled his league contribution so far.

If we asked Nelson about his performance in a few months time, we might get a similar reaction to that of Chris Martin.

For someone who played all last season in the Championship, against Preston he looked lost with how it worked.

Hopefully it will become an amusing anecdote, rather than a taste of things to come.

6 – City's appetite must be insatiable

Let's be clear, City's staff and players all want promotion. They want success. They want to prove points to those who can only criticise. To get where they are, that desire is the minimum requirement. Never forget it.

But wanting something isn't the same as wanting it more than everyone else – and that is the huge question mark hanging over the Canaries following Saturday's defeat.

Watching that game, Preston wanted it more. They worked harder. They were hungrier. Goalkeeper Chris Maxwell's interview at full-time screamed desire like that seen at Carrow Road back in the promotion of 2010-11.

City's quality will get them out of numerous scrapes – but it won't do it on its own. You have to take into account the other sides desperate to taste the big time. And you can't assume it will all come to City because is has before.

Carrow Road was as flat as pancake on Saturday – both on the pitch and in the stands. Garry Monk would change his mind if he knew that.

The lack of spark was a worrying sign of City's slump two years ago – and spells trouble if it isn't swiftly nipped in the bud.

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey and Facebook @mbjourno