For 45 minutes it seemed that something had clicked for us this season. With Dan Agyei providing everything we’d lacked up front this season – pace, physicality and a goal – to add to the platform of defensive stability that we’d put together thus far. A red card, a penalty and a wonder-strike from Mark Marshall turned the game on its head and we had no way of turning the game back in our favour.
The positives are that we look to finally have added a goal threat to this team, we have the likes of Jodi Jones, Marvin Sordell and a few others to add to that, and it’s tempting to wonder whether we might have held onto something had Jordan Turnbull kept his head when bundling Billy Clarke to the floor. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned though, we were comprehensively outplayed for the final hour against Bradford and there wasn’t much Tony Mowbray could do to change it from the bench. Bradford are a good side, especially at home, but the question for us right now is just how much better will we actually be after the transfer window closes and with a less hectic run of fixtures.
The last thing this team really needs right now is a Tuesday night away trip to one of the Championship promotion favourites. You get the sense that Tony Mowbray would happily allow Norwich a bye to the next round of the League Cup if it meant he had more time to work with the squad on the training pitch and allow the players to recuperate from the run of games we’ve already played.
A weakened team is likely but it’s hard to identify just which players we can actually rest right now. Unless the likes of Jack Finch, Callum Maycock and Darragh Leahy are thrown in at the deep end here, it’s likely to be a very similar team to the one that faced Bradford with only those deemed to be struggling most for fitness given a night off.
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting with Norwich came back on the final day of the 2010/11 season with the Canaries celebrating promotion to the Premier League while we were celebrating safety after Andy Thorn had lifted us from the doldrums of Aidy Boothroyd. Richard Keogh gave us the lead before Grant Holt levelled soon after. Dani Pacheco gave Norwich a deserved lead after they had dominated much of the game but Lukas Jutkiewicz tapped in a Chris Hussey cross to share the points.
The fortunes of the two clubs over the ensuing five seasons strikes some contrast, with Norwich establishing themselves as a yo-yo club between the Premier League and Championship and us sinking to mid-table League One status via a season in Northampton.
How Are They Doing?
Norwich were relegated from the Premier League last season pretty much because they just didn’t have the resources to truly compete in the top-flight despite having a squad that has proven itself to be too good from the Championship. Alex Neil’s astute management of the club saw them put up more of a fight than was really expected of them, although a heavy defeat to Newcastle in October was the turning point of their season after a promising start.
Neil’s position as manager was never really in doubt despite relegation and a decent start to the season for Norwich suggests they’ll challenge for an immediate return for the top-flight under his tutelage. Success in the League Cup will be a bonus at Carrow Road, especially with this fixture arriving just two days after the East Anglian derby.
It’s possible that just like Portsmouth, Norwich could name an entirely changed starting XI for this fixture, the difference being that Norwich’s back-up brigade would easily compete for the Championship play-offs on their own. Norwich have been wise over the past few years to invest in promising young talents from around the country to complement their productive academy, which leaves them with plenty of players desperate to prove themselves ready for a chance in the starting XI.
We all know about James Maddison, and given the space we leave between the lines of midfield and defence, he could be set for a productive evening. Another former Sky Blue in Jacob Murphy has already shown what he can do in the Norwich first-team this season with a stunning goal on the opening day against Blackburn. His twin brother, Josh, has long been seen as the bigger talent, having been a shining light at MK ‘Dons’ in the second-tier last season, he’ll be desperate to prove that he’s still the most talented Murphy twin.
Kyle Lafferty is likely to be given a start having not featured against Ipswich on Sunday, the big Northern Irish striker has never really done it at club level and having dropped out of the starting XI for his national side over the summer, he’ll be determined to prove a point too. Others to look out for are attacking left-back Harry Toffolo who excelled for Swindon two seasons ago, alongside the box-to-box presence in midfield of Louis Thompson, another formerly of Swindon.
There is almost nothing about this tie that suggests that we can win it. Playing away with a paper-thin and half-fit squad against a team flush with Premier League parachute payment money and a squad packed full of exciting young talents determined to prove a point. As we demonstrated against Bradford on Saturday, we can’t even sit back and grind out a win even if we do manage to nick a goal at the other end.
It’s a case of just how many we’ll lose by, I reckon it will be a 3-0 loss.