Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Coventry City verdict after Norwich City’s 2-0 FA Cup third round win.
1. Bottle that winning feeling
Cup or league. It matters little to Norwich City at present. Daniel Farke made seven changes to his starting line up from the previous weekend’s Championship win over Barnsley. But it was the same outcome.
The Canaries were too sharp and too clinical when it mattered. The Sky Blues rolled over far too compliantly after Kenny McLean and Jordan Hugill struck early.
There was some fight after the interval, no doubt fuelled by a verbal barb or two from Mark Robins, but the damage had been done.
There may not have been any league points at stake on this occasion but it was another brick in the wall, another step along the path in the right direction.
Farke and his squad have that winning mentality. There was a hunger and a desire on show. The quality is not in doubt.
Farke got minutes into fringe players, rest into some of his key operators, and a deserved place in the FA Cup fourth round. The only sadness once again was none of their supporters could be present at Carrow Road to witness first hand a demonstration in measured economy.
2. Bravo Barden
Just turned 20 and asked to step in for a Dutch international and a Northern Ireland international for only your second senior start.
A fairly daunting prospect one might imagine.
Perhaps no more so than an emergency Championship debut recently against QPR, when McGovern was unable to continue at the break.
But that tells you a lot about Daniel Barden’s temperament and character. There was no outward hint of nerves. A fine early stop to foil Callum O’Hare demonstrated his awareness and positioning.
Two second half saves from Max Biamou showcased his agility and shot stopping. The clean sheet should be worn with a badge of honour.
Whatever happens in the short term, given Norwich is actively looking for an addition in the market and with Krul in self-isolation after a positive coronavirus test, there is no doubt Barden has advanced his cause.
It looks quite a log jam of young goalkeeping talent bubbling below City’s first choice. Barden’s next step may well be to further his education on loan next season. But he has made a hugely favourable impression.
3. Hail Hugill
There is no question what a positive addition the former West Ham striker has been around the City dressing room. He is a larger-than-life character who carries himself with the air of a man grateful for everything the game has given him after coming through the hard way following a prolonged spell in non league.
But what we have yet to see is how much more he can add on the park to this Canaries’ collective. That is in part down to Teemu Pukki re-discovering his goal touch, which had limited Hugill to just five starts prior to this outing.
But there is also a sense Hugill’s strengths do not complement City’s creative approach in quite the same way as Pukki’s productivity outside the penalty area is perfectly configured – in terms of his ability to link the play and harass defenders.
But what Hugill does add in abundance is what he showed with his second goal of the season – a potent aerial threat in the box if the service is good enough.
Hugill’s positioning was perfect to rise unchallenged and cushion Przemyslaw Placheta’s early cross past Ben Wilson.
It was the intervention of a player who, in the right setting, can clearly add a different attacking dimension to Norwich’s output. He has some way to go yet to eclipse his 15-goal target set last season. But there should be more to come.
4. Money in the bank for Mumba
There was plenty of sub-plots and possible signposts for the league battles ahead. Xavi Quintilla back in on the left of defence after his lengthy injury absence. Jacob Sorensen released to try his luck in the central midfield position he was recruited for.
Even a rare start for Hugill and McLean in the advanced number 10 role. But Mumba’s presence at right back could be the lasting legacy of City’s much-changed cup line up.
Max Aarons has had precious little in the way of respite or real cover this season. It might have been a different story had Sam Byram been fit.
But Mumba looks to possess the same raw material, the same mindset and the same athleticism as Aarons did when he first burst on the scene.
Farke opted to introduce the more experienced man just past the hour mark. That felt like a pre-planned move, given by all accounts Mumba returned ahead of schedule from his knee injury.
But there is no question Farke sees him as a frontline option. That match-sealing Swansea cameo earlier in the season was a tantalising glimpse of the teenager’s potential. But longer term, irrespective of where Aarons ends up, he appears to be earmarked as a natural successor.
In the interim his return to the fold ensures not only City have adequate cover on the right side of their defence, but Aarons cannot let his levels drop either.
5. Up for the cup
Farke again backed up his pre-match words with deeds. His desire to progress, and his love of this cup competition, may still have brought a flurry of changes to his starting line up but there was no lessening in the intensity levels, or the commitment.
Coventry started brightly but were rocked by a double salvo inside a minute or so. It might have been easy then to ease off the throttle but the hosts continue to harry and chase.
The reward is a place in Monday’s fourth round draw. Promotion back to the Premier League remains the primary objective. But Farke clearly has a taste for it in the cup, after last season’s thrilling run to the quarter-finals.
The strength of Norwich’s bench in this game underlined if they get a fair wind with injuries and absentees then, for now, the Canaries can continue to push forward on two fronts. For now.