Norwich City welcomed the return of ex-boss Alex Neil who brought his Preston side to Carrow Road in hope of silencing his critics.'s Connor Southwell reviews the action.

Embed from Getty Images

Had this report of been constructed on the 80th minute, the complexion of it may have been radically different.

Job done, first win on the board and the first clean sheet of the season but that doesn’t paint the whole picture on what was a largely frustrating night for those donning yellow and green.

Regardless of the three points, Norwich was operating in a paint by numbers style of football for a large portion of the game.

Tepid on the ball and static off it; this wasn’t a performance in the same mould as the promise displayed in the previous three fixtures. The difference is, crucially, three points, and with it comes the opportunity for momentum to be built.

The lateral and lethargic nature of Norwich’s possession was similar to the football fans became frustrated by last season. The lack of energy, particularly in central areas, was pertinent. Norwich’s midfield make-up still possesses disequilibrium. Kenny McLean’s absence merely emphasises the lack of drive in the engine-room.

It’s not only central areas whereby Norwich’s balance isn’t present.

Ben Marshall was deployed in a more advanced wide position, but Farke’s insistence on deploying an inside forward is restricting Norwich both offensively and defensively. To operate efficiently in that role, you need to be technically gifted and spatially aware; this isn’t a criticism of Marshall, but rather of the instructions being asked of him.

He’s a traditional winger. His game is protecting his full back and playing close to them in order to be a coherent unit. That inside forward role requires more of a roam. It came to little surprise that Emi Buendia looked more comfortable in that role.

Buendia dazzled in his second half cameo.

Embed from Getty Images

This is a player who demanded the ball at every opportunity, but also occupied pockets of space which allowed Norwich to move the ball with more energy through the thirds. He certainly has a feel of Alex Pritchard about him.  If that is a snippet of what is to come from the Argentinean, then Norwich may have unearthed some player.

The nature of Teemu Pukki’s goal was intriguing, Christoph Zimmermann’s diagonal pass and a moment of quality from Jamal Lewis. Lewis excelled in his breakthrough season, but in order to increase his development, he must improve his offensive output.

Lewis needs to become a more rounded full back. One who can offer his services effectively offensively and defensively, the assist was a step in the right direction. Consistency is integral though and Lewis has the potential to be a profitable supply line if he can be braver on the football.

Comments on social media surrounding the nature of Norwich’s style of play have been critical, and the build up of that first goal will only be used as ammunition. However, prior to that, Norwich recycled the ball and worked it to Zimmermann.

That ball isn’t an undirected long punt, but an eloquently weighted pass with direction and intent. That’s the variation of pass which is critical to displacing the opponents.

Pukki has been a revelation in yellow and green. Perhaps understated in regards to fanfare upon his arrival, but much of Pukki’s good work has been off the ball, as oppose to on it.

Embed from Getty Images

He is everything Norwich supporters were expecting of Steven Naismith, an intelligent footballer who operates with his mental qualities, but his goal was crafted excellently. Not only does Pukki occupy space beyond a full back, but as the ball arrives, his body shape alters for the ball to run across him, allowing a better angle for his strike.

It seems simplistic, but it created a yard of space for a crisp finish. It was finished with aplomb and was a beaming moment of quality produced in a game devoid of it. He’s been critically underrated. One thing he isn’t is an out and out striker, but his occupation of space coupled with his quality in the strike makes him a pivotal operator for the Canaries.

Oh Alex Tettey.

By his own admission, his overall performance wasn’t his finest in a Norwich shirt, but Tettey produced a moment of quality which ultimately made Norwich’s win more comfortable. Lambasted by supporter’s only moments earlier, it takes confidence to hit a shot from distance. That’s bottle.

Keep being you, Alex.

Embed from Getty Images

Confidence is bred through positive results. Norwich’s performance against Preston was, arguably, their worst of the campaign to date. It took 36 minutes before they were able to get the football to the feet of Jordan Rhodes, and over an hour to register a shot on target.

This wasn’t a complete and all encompassing performance, but it was a job that needed doing. With the pressure mounting, frustrations becoming more pertinent and player’s confidence diminishing rapidly, a win was required to reinstall some belief in players and supporters alike.

It wasn’t pretty, nor was it particularly entertaining, but points that win prizes. Supporters will remember the end result as oppose to the game as a whole in the long run.

This provides an opportunity for momentum and forward thrust, but topics such as a more resilient and streetwise defensive display alongside a pivotal clean sheet shouldn’t be dismissed.

Good teams win and don’t play well. This division is all about getting results and putting runs together at the right point. If Norwich can begin to do that, then there may be some good to come out of this campaign, but consistency is key.

Onwards and upwards, hopefully.

Connor Southwell

Managing the TNC website, Connor's adherence with Norwich City manifested itself from an early age and has been a rollercoaster, witnessing football from League One to the Premier League. He once played a bit too, Connor attempts to write sensibly and honestly. Which is hard being a NCFC fan!

View all posts