Six things we learned from Norwich City’s deserved home success against Birmingham
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Following victory over Birmingham, David Freezer assesses the state of play as Norwich City close in on a return to the Championship play-off places.
Strike options re-emerging
Alex Neil is faced with a selection poser ahead of Saturday's trip to Cardiff, following a display full of effort and power from Cameron Jerome.
The experienced striker missed three games in December due to a back injury and Nelson Oliveira grabbed his chance, scoring seven goals in seven games, before a stupid red card at Rotherham.
That three-game ban allowed a fit-again Jerome another chance and the 30-year-old is getting back towards his best form.
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His power, pace and eye for goal were a pivotal part of promotion in 2015 but a season of toil in the Premier League dented his confidence.
His effort to win the ball on halfway was capped off by a classy finish to open the scoring against Birmingham.
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He should have made it 3-0 late on but it didn't come back to haunt him this time and Oliveira may well have to settle for a place on the bench.
Put the knives away
We all like a good moan but some City fans are just wallowing at the moment.
On Saturday I was providing our live updates service at pinkun.com and in no time at all a comment filtered through saying Alex Neil should be sacked if Birmingham weren't beaten convincingly.
Social media is full of it as well. Some seem disappointed that City's form has picked up. Honestly, lighten up.
Yes, Rotherham was miserable, I was there. But this was potentially a third successive home win and turned out to be just that. It was also the first back-to-back league victory since October and it was entertaining.
It is only the start of a potential revival and coaches, players and directors all still have much to improve upon – but they have acknowledged as much and started to turn words into actions.
If you can't enjoy a win, then what's the point of following a football club?
Shooting practice for Naismith
Saturday could so easily have been the day Steven Naismith well and truly arrived as a Norwich City player – if his aim was better.
Much was expected of the Scot when he arrived in an £8million deal from Everton a year ago but he never found his form in the top flight.
After rare runs of regularly starting matches for the Toffees, perhaps too much was expected, but in recent weeks the 30-year-old has improved markedly.
The work rate and tenacity that made Naismith so popular at Goodison Park were clear for all to see against Birmingham, as he again bossed his team-mates around.
He missed five chances to score though, one from close range in the first half after being teed up by Wes Hoolahan and a header in the second half that went straight at Tomasz Kusczak.
Improve that conversion rate and he will finally start living up to his price tag.
It's nice to be home
Ahead of Saturday's clash with Birmingham, right-back Ivo Pinto told the media that he wants Carrow Road to be a 'fortress'.
Canaries teams through the years have often been able to take confidence from playing in front of their own fans and that is becoming the case for the current squad.
Five of the last six league games at home have now finished in victory for City – with a draw against top-flight Southampton in the FA Cup to add to the mix – and on Saturday there were even signs of an enjoyable atmosphere returning.
The roar of approval at the half-time whistle in particular, coming five minutes after the ever-popular Timm Klose doubled the lead against Birmingham, was especially vociferous.
Eight goals scored, one conceded, two clean sheets in the three home league games in 2017 makes for good reading, with only Newcastle now having scored more goals on their own turf.
Give youth their chance
Ben Godfrey's league debut was another nice part of a satisfying afternoon for the Canaries.
The strapping midfielder only turned 19 a couple of weeks ago but he was one of the biggest players on the pitch when he replaced Alex Tettey in the 81st minute.
He played sensibly, sat deep and central to try and break up play but didn't have a great deal of work to get through in the closing stages.
Following on from his fine efforts in the FA Cup replay at Southampton, it was more vital minutes in the tank for the former York City youngster.
After the match Alex Neil revealed he was still considering signing former Reading midfielder Jem Karacan as cover in central midfield.
The 27-year-old has hardly played any football recently though and I would much rather City persisted with Godfrey, a player they have invested time and money in already.
Let's not get carried away
As much as victory over the Blues prompted plenty of positive talk, Canaries fans are well aware the corner is not yet turned.
Some shaky defensive moments and two Birmingham efforts hitting the crossbar ensured caution remains. Against the Championship's better sides, those chances may well have been taken.
City should also have scored more yet it is away form that now holds the key to a play-off push picking up momentum.
Alex Neil's side have not won on their travels since a 2-1 success at Wolves on October 1.
That's seven defeats in eight league games, starting from being 2-0 up at half-time at Fulham and contriving to draw 2-2.
An atrocious 17 goals have been conceded in those eight games and just six scored.
Trips to Cardiff and Wigan, two struggling teams, offer an ideal opportunity for City to end that dreadful record – and truly turn their proverbial corner.