Date: 5th August 2018 at 9:02am
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The opening day drama eh!?

I know we have a very tough, arguably the toughest, start to the 2018/19 Championship campaign but I don’t think that a 2-2 draw away at St. Andrews is the worst result in the world, especially in the context of the last ten minutes of this match.

For me, there were plenty of pluses, as well as a few minuses too, naturally.

Daniel Farke’s team selection (personnel) was a little puzzling and the appearance of Alex Tettey was a decision from left field, considering that he’s had very little football in the last three weeks. Having said that, he put in a real shift. Along with Alex T, the decision to play James Husband was understandable (round peg in a round hole) but he wouldn’t have been my left back.

Norwich did enough in this match to have been ahead, maybe by a couple of goals before the 56th minute, when we first went behind.

Jordan Rhodes and Onel Hernandez had the best chances and it was a display of confidence and strength from Hernandez as he comfortably took the man of the match honours.

Both teams were playing attacking football and on another day, Rhodes could easily have had a brace or even a hat-trick. The same goes for Hernandez, who should’ve been taking home the match ball. It’s worth pointing out that Birmingham were solid and well drilled and that both sides gave opportunities to the other by way of slack ball control.

Tim Krul was called into action several times and had a decent first 90 minutes for his new club, making some excellent saves throughout. It was a promising debut for the new man, I’d say.

As you’d expect from a Norwich side coached by Daniel Farke, we had all the possession at St. Andrews but didn’t seem to make the most of that. The fact that we played a 4-2-3-1 away from home was sensible and it saw, at times, a quicker moving of the ball through the lines with a few long balls to mix it up too.

I’m glad we didn’t go 4-1-4-1. Farke has learned something there.

Ben Marshall was excellent and his crossing looks as though it will be a major asset going forward, which is, of course, why he was signed. The biggest plus for me was Farke’s decision to make substitutes around the hour mark and that they made a real impact.

The duo of Kenny McLean and Mo Leitner from the bench helped turn the game back Norwich’s way and will give Farke decisions to make ahead of next week’s home bow against West Brom.

McLean’s surging runs and ability to carry the ball with him were pleasing to see and it bodes well. Leitner’s passing and in particular the cross that he put right on Rhodes’ head, only for the striker to head straight at Trueman from four yards out was delicious.

I was really pleased for Dennis Srbeny too, who broke out of midfield after coming on in the 75th minute and caused absolute havoc among the Birmingham defenders, with the clock running down. His pass to his big pal, Onel Hernandez created the opportunity for Onel to score his second equaliser. Dennis has had some stick in the past but this was a big match saving intervention from the German striker.

At the back, Grant Hanley looked like he had some ring rust but that will hopefully be shaken off with game time and Klose was the better of the two, I’d say. There were signs that the passing game so beloved of Farke was being used a bit quicker than last season but there were also times when it wasn’t. Time will tell which way becomes more the norm but at least there were signs.

Looking ahead from here, Onel Hernandez looks like he’s going to be a big player for Norwich this season. The options at Farke’s disposal, especially in midfield, may well give him some sleepless nights and McLean and Leitner might just have the makings of a decent pairing in the centre. Getting the ball to Jordan Rhodes is going to be key and the fact that he got two good chances, albeit that they were saved, encourages me to think that the goals will come for him.

With Louis Thompson on the bench, Ben Godfrey and Emi Buendia not even in the match squad and Mario Vrancic still to return from injury, Farke will need to work out his best midfield options sooner rather than later.


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