If one term was going to be used when discussing performances at Carrow Road this season, that would be the buzzword.
Make no mistake, Norwich displayed clear progression during that first half but the lack of ideas offensively and the continuation of lateral passing underlines the key issues which have existed throughout this campaign. Norwich could have been comfortable and had an unassailable lead but ultimately the limp and lacklustre offensive display hindered the opportunity to gain three points.
Any murmur of an ascent towards the playoffs has now been replaced with acceptance of the location of their position. This game, in a nutshell, displays why Norwich won’t stray beyond the comfort of mid table. Supporters were given a cold, hard dose of reality after two last gasp equalisers in a week.
The defensive solidarity and heart of this side is undeniable. But the sluggishness and lack of intensity reinforced the struggles at the top end of the pitch.
Poor finishing aside, Norwich’s inability to move through the gears and probe with intent was the prominent reason for the lack of goals. Norwich’s laboured efforts allowed Bolton to defend deeply without any cause for concern.
When Nelson Oliveira’s reverse pass cut through the Bolton rearguard, Moritz Leitner had the goal at his mercy. The outcome was seemingly inevitable. His finish left a lot to be desired. It lacked confidence and composure. From there on in, it appeared to be one of those days for Norwich.
Leitner opted for an out swinging finish when placement or power would have more appropriate. Little did Norwich supporters know they would rue this gilt-edged chance from the German.
Maddison hit the post. Hanley headed a free kick wide. Oliveira was thwarted by an outstanding save. Norwich had the chances, but once again lacked the conviction required to propel them to victory.
This is the seventh draw in seventeen home games for Norwich. They have not drawn more at Carrow Road since the 1998-99 season. They have acquired nine points from games against the current bottom six.
There lies the issue. Bolton failed to offer any ounce of offensive threat, yet the manner in which Phil Parkinson configured his side made it difficult for Norwich to play between the thirds.
In the early exchanges, Norwich were superior to their visitors and the distance within their midfield allowed Norwich to combine at will on the edge of the box. Yet, Parkinson adjusted his sides approach during the interval and made them defend deeper. They resembled a coherent defensive unit.
They had experience flowing throughout their side, no one more so than Darren Pratley. Bolton’s overall lack of mobility was prominent throughout the game but their captain lacked any ounce of technical ability. Pratley seemed content with persistently fouling opponents with a style which appeared more akin to rugby.
Parkinson’s pragmatism was worthy of a point.
The manner in which their back three conducted their duties was phenomenal. After hanging on in the first half, the Trotters matched the hosts stride for stride in the second half and counteracted Norwich’s style with defensive resolve.
Their style wasn’t pretty, nor did it make for an attractive spectacle, but it was effective and when in the midst of a relegation dogfight, points mean security. This result moves Wanderers four points clear of the relegation zone.
When Farke kicked the ball away in frustration, it seemed to sum up the feeling inside Carrow Road as the fixture progressed. Bolton, understandably, continued to manage time and negotiate the fixture to its conclusion.
It could have been an afternoon full of goals and supremacy but it fell short of the dominance the Carrow Road crowd was waiting for.
This disequilibrium is something which desperately requires fixing. Farke is yet to achieve a coherent and sustainable balance between defensive elements and offensive elements whereby Norwich can both score and defend competently.
But optimism must be taken from the quality of football displayed in that opening period. It was arguably the best 45 minutes home supporters have witnessed and definitely the closest Norwich has looked to Farke’s proposed philosophy. This may have been a microcosm of the season to date, but there was graphic evidence Norwich can carve sides open with this style.
This result was met with contrasting emotions to those that the draws against Wolves and Ipswich had provided. If Norwich required evidence that there is still work to do to adjust to the rigours and the less technical sides who pose alternate threats, they had it here.
This is a transition and one which everyone is aware of. Saturday witnessed the multifaceted stages of it. The first half was a clear representation of how Farke envisages his side playing.
The second half illustrated the work which is still left to do, but City did at least create some chances and on another day, this would have a different outcome.
Transition, yes, but this was a frustrating afternoon in NR1.