Our pundits James Messenger, Joe Hinchliffe, Jack Reeve and Connor Southwell pick the meat off the bones from a juicy encounter between Norwich City and Sheffield United.

 

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Instinctive Teemu could prove the difference in weeks to come (@J_M_Messenger)

Teemu Pukki asserted himself on Saturday once again as the Finn who can finish!

His strike against Sheffield United showed immense composure following yet more excellent link-up play with Max Aarons, who seems to be improving with every game.

The 28-year now has 17 Championship goals this year, bettered only by Billy Sharp – who took his tally to 18 with a brace for the Blades – and Aston Villa’s Tammy Abraham, who has 19.

In Pukki, the Canaries certainly have the striker that they’ve been calling out for. A man who can score 20 goals per season in one of the toughest leagues in the world. A man whose movements bamboozles even the most experienced defenders at time. A man who doesn’t need a second invitation when the chance presents itself.

The presence of Jordan Rhodes and Dennis Srbeny will certainly keep Norwich’s flying Finn on his toes, but that will only bring the best out of him.

With Leeds United and Ipswich Town next up for Daniel Farke’s side, Pukki will be relied on heavily as a source of goals. Having netted in his last two games, his form couldn’t have come at a better time.

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A wholesome Championship clash against two teams that proved Norwich City deserve to be at the top end of the table (@JoeHinchliffe93)

Christoph Zimmermann eloquently made the point that “If two teams after 29 games in the season, are still competing on a good level in these positions in the table I think they are there for a good reason.”

Upon reflection, Norwich City will be satisfied with a draw against Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United, the game itself was a great spectacle and a superb advert for Championship football.

City opened the scoring with a free-flowing passing move, with Pukki playing the final pass for Onel Hernandez to run-on to and slot home, under the on-rushing Henderson. The move itself was hypnotic, no wonder the Blades were helpless.

Norwich City are building a reputation for synonymity with well-worked team goals. Alas, not enough of a reputation for the Soccer Saturday pundits to correctly pronounce a Norwich players name. Emi Valbuena gave away the penalty according to Paul Merson.

A penalty Billy Sharp smashed home. Sharp on the day was United’s greatest threat and at times was a cut above the rest, highlighting his wily nature.

After assisting Hernandez for the first goal, the irrepressible Teemu Pukki added to his tally for the season with a sublime effort, taking the chance first-time to whip to ball across the keeper and avoid the on-rushing defender. That’s 17 goals for the season for Pukki now, keeping him within reach of the top of the scoring charts.

I previously mentioned Sharp’s wily nature, United’s second goal was a prime example of this, knowing to pull away from Zimmermann at the far post, to head home low under City ‘keeper Tim Krul.

Zimmermann commenting post-match that “Sharp is of outstanding quality, he is in double figures in the league…sometimes you don’t see them for a whole game but then they are in the right place to score and that’s what can make a difference.”

All in all a fantastic game of football, it had it all; both teams displaying their respective philosophies and moments of individual brilliance.

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Substitutions – Farke right to play the waiting game after Derby experience (@JackReeveTNC)

I should start off by saying that I completely understand some people’s frustration after the weekend’s game, to have two well worked goals cancelled out by a soft penalty and an easy header is never easy to take, but it would be wrong to blame Farke for the reason we dropped two points.

I’ve seen a lot of people, including Chris Reeve who sits next to me at games, criticising Farke’s late substitutions. While I partially agree, I don’t think it’s the main reason for only getting a draw at all.

Where were the critics for Farke’s late substitutions in the games where we’ve scored goals in the last 10 minutes? It’s been evident that Farke’s way of management is sticking to his game plan from minute one and not deviating from it – it’s the reason we’ve been so successful all year, when things have got panicky, we’ve remained calm and stayed true to our philosophy.

You only have to look back to the Derby game to see that late substitutions sometimes unsettle the ship. We were leading 3-2 when out first substitution was made in the 85th minute, after that we conceded 2 and lost the game.

I understand that you have to be fluid and adapt with the how a game is going but did we honestly have suitable replacements to change the game yesterday? I am the first to agree that we did look dead on our feet from 75 minutes on, but when your two first choice holding midfielders are both injured along with your first choice centre back, you’ve got limited options in terms of changing things up.

Like all of you, I’m disappointed that we didn’t win against the Blades, but we played excellently and Farke’s way of managing will work more than it doesn’t this season.

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Defensive mishaps – a hindrance or simply something to accept with the philosophy? (@CJSouthwell1902)

Norwich City has produced moments of brilliance that would have made the hairs on the neck of Pep Guardiola stand on end.

Saturday’s opener epitomised the emphasis on aesthetic football, not simply for the beauty but because of its adeptness. Watching them deconstruct defensive shapes with ease resembles a numinous experience, with awe being the overriding emotion when Norwich dispatch a goal that consists of numerous passing sequences.

Joyous to consume. Devastating to defend against.

Sadly, there is a but. Norwich are shipping goals regularly, on Saturday, it was their own demise which led to Sheffield United getting themselves back into the game twice. Many will point to the goals conceded column and associate it with weakness.

That’s failing to see the bigger picture.

Norwich’s backline is inundated with young, inexperienced operators currently at the beginning of their footballing journeys. A natural consequence of their youth is these mistakes, ones which experienced operators could equally make but perhaps not possess the scope to educate themselves from.

Yet, watching footballers blossom into their potential, rather than slowly burning out a once shiny operating system seems like an acceptable price to pay. It merely reinforces the newfound way being installed by those in positions of power at the club. Credit must be placed at Daniel Farke’s door, for he has engineered an atmosphere of encouragement and expression rather than safety and mediocrity.

A former Chief Executive once uttered the buzzwords ‘promotion, promotion, promotion’, perhaps this is a sign of the times, but it’s all about ‘education, education, education’ in NR1 currently. Strip away the expectation and you discover the heart of what Norwich are attempting to do; discover the fun factor and rekindle players with the reasons they fell in love with this game.

Despite the gnawing frustration at Norwich’s leaky defence, it is still one defeat in 16 for Norwich, maintain that run and the only direction they will head is upwards.

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Leeds’ on the horizon, Paul Lambert’s Carrow Road reunion swiftly follows. Now is the time for Norwich to showcase their promotion credentials (@CJSouthwell1902)

Those in a packed away end at the Hawthorns felt it, those in attendance at Carrow Road experienced it. The gravitas of these Championship fixtures feels season shaping, even if they don’t prove to define where Norwich will find themselves come May.

Against a squad full of streetwise operators and attempted animosity, the youthful Canaries withstood adversity, displaying their hardened resilience and encouragement of adversity, as opposed to merely hiding within it.

Yet, the true test of their togetherness will be the upcoming two fixtures and the different tests they provide.

Leeds have formed a siege mentality, revelling in the aftermath of Spy Gate and refusing to accept any wrongdoing. Why should they? Marcelo Bielsa hasn’t broken any rules. The ethics of his actions can be discussed until the end of time.

Norwich’s involvement in the signed letter seeking clarification will merely provide Bielsa which a source of motivation, one his players can turn into aggression and place into their performance. After all, Norwich has been comfortably battered by Leeds already this season.

If they can provide the league leaders with a greater test than previously, it really will graphically illustrate the improvement witnessed since the opening embers of the campaign.

That’s before you can even contemplate the much-anticipated East Anglian Derby and the never-ending subplots that arrive with it.

Paul Lambert will mark it as his one true test left this campaign, his opportunity to adhere himself closer to Ipswich supporters beyond simply dipping his hands into his wallet to subsidise travel costs. A win at Carrow Road, for him, would be the ultimate two-fingered response to those at Carrow Road.

Big tests await, navigate these tricky waters and Norwich will be full of confidence for the final descent towards the finish line.

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