Following Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Newport County, Coventry City made the long trip to Carrow Road on Tuesday night to face Championship outfit Norwich City. With City academy graduate James Maddison now representing The Canaries, along with former loanee Jacob Murphy, supporters would be relishing the chance to cast an eye over their progress.
I can’t imagine any of the away contingent were confident going into the fixture, and like every pre-season schedule game, the result isn’t important and it’s just an opportunity to assess the squad. On the night though, The Canaries were clearly the better side and they ran out 3-0 victors in front of around 7,000 onlookers. Goals from Wes Hoolahan, Josh Murphy and Jacob Murphy sealed the deal for Alex Neil’s team.
No sooner than the first whistle was blown by the referee, the home side looked to get forward and a misplaced Andy Rose handed them a chance. Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty picked up the loose ball in a dangerous position before letting fly. His effort took a deflection off of Cian Harries and that took the sting off the strike to allow Reice Charles-Cook to gather comfortably.
With just over 5 minutes on the clock, The Sky Blues registered their first attempt on goal as Marvin Sordell played a neat ball into the Norwich area. The frightening pace of Kyle Spence then saw him sprint onto the pass before forcing Michael McGovern into a low save. Just a few minutes later, Dion Kelly-Evans broke down the right wing before taking aim. Unfortunately, the youngster couldn’t hit the target and the ball trickled harmlessly wide for a goal kick.
Despite the visitors early sightings on goal, The Canaries took the lead with 9 minutes played. Ryan Haynes played a wayward pass into Wes Hoolahan and the Republic of Ireland man profited to bend a precise finish into the top right corner from 20 yards. After falling behind, Coventry seemed to settle into the match a little and Sordell had a chance blocked on 16 minutes after a smart Spence pass found him on the edge of the box.
The next 10 minutes was relatively even and The Sky Blues restricted the hosts to a few long range efforts. A loose Cian Harries touch did allow Marcus Olsson to steal the ball with 27 minutes gone but Charles-Cook saved his powerful strike before reacting to deny Lafferty’s follow-up. Norwich did then send a barrage of shots towards the Coventry goal over the following moments but they couldn’t double their lead. It was instead Mowbray’s men that almost equalised but Vladimir Gadzhev’s free kick cannoned off the crossbar on 38 minutes.
With the visitors trailing, they were determined to level things and they had a chance to do just that on 47 minutes but Jordan Willis failed to connect cleanly with a header. Norwich then saw an optimistic penalty appeal waved away just minutes later as James Maddison fell to the ground under pressure from a defender. The youngster’s new club continued to attack, however, but the Coventry back line soaked up the pressure well.
Charles-Cook was on hand to make a couple of routine stops in quick succession as Maddison and Olsson both took aim on 58 minutes. Up the other end, The Sky Blues had some chances of their own but they were unable to find the net. Gadzhev initially saw a half-volley deflected behind for a corner, but Fabien Robert (Trialist) was a McGovern fingertip away from finding the roof of the net after connecting sweetly with a strike.
That save proved to be crucial for The Canaries as they stretched their lead on 66 minutes through Josh Murphy. His twin brother Jacob worked the ball well into the area before teeing off his fellow winger. He then stroked a perfectly placed finish into the corner with real aplomb as Charles-Cook was left helpless. After widening the gap on the scoreline, the Carrow Road faithful were treated to some very exciting football.
As a plethora of substitutions were made, the intensity of proceedings lowered somewhat but the home side were in full control. With fitness levels beginning to tell, The Canaries tested the goalkeeper quite frequently but they struggled to beat him. However, with around 5 minutes left to be played, Jacob Murphy conjured up a goal to rubber stamp the result. The former Coventry men combined as Maddison chipped in with an assist. His lofted delivery released the winger and he poked the ball beyond a sprawling Charles-Cook to conclude matters.
We all knew that a trip to recently relegated Norwich City would be a tough test for our current squad. With an inexperienced group of players at Tony Mowbray’s disposal, he was wary of the threat that Alex Neil’s men possess and I was concerned that our defensive susceptibilities would cost us. With a back three of Jordan Willis, Darragh Leahy and Cian Harries, the average age across our defence was incredibly low.
Despite envisioning bright futures for the latter pairing, they found the challenge of thwarting the likes of Lafferty a very difficult task. For the first and third goals, some inexperience at the back allowed the opposition player to cut inside and get a shot away. Of course, over time the young lads will become more knowledgable and they will cut that out, but on this occasion they were left beaten. Other aspects of their game look really impressive, however, and Jordan Willis looks he could be key this season.
As far as possession is concerned, I thought we kept the ball well on a slick surface but we lacked a bit of penetration going forward. Marvin Sordell did look a frustrated figure at times with very little service coming his way, but his brute force makes him an imposing figure. Kyle Spence and George Thomas did show glimpses of quality, but they were just a bit lightweight compared to their opposing numbers.
In the middle of the park, Andy Rose and Vladimir Gadzhev are still building their relationship and despite some errors, they look to have potential as a pairing. I have real high hopes for them both, and the latter showed that he possesses a sweet strike on a number of occasions. One player who didn’t quite look capable enough at the left of the midfield four was Ryan Haynes. He was at fault for the first goal and Norwich targeted him all game, tormenting him at times. Going forward he can cause issues, but I question his defensive qualities.
Overall, I thought we put in a decent performance despite the 3-0 deficit against us. We created a couple of decent chances ourselves and if we had been more clinical, we could’ve been quelling on a 3-2 defeat instead. I’m still unsure in regards to the 3-4-3 formation, but if we can recruit one or two commanding defenders and a proven goal scorer, it could work wonders. I’m not going to take much from the result, but I can assure you that there were once again positives to pick out.
Norwich City: McGovern, Whittaker, Bennett, Bassong, Olsonn, Howson, Dorrans, Canos, Hoolahan, Odjidja, Lafferty.
Substitutes: Rudd, Pinto, Toffolo, Godfrey, Thompson, Mulumbu, Maddison, Jo. Murphy, Ja. Murphy, Morris.
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Willis (Stevenson 65), Harries, Leahy, Gadzhev, Rose, Haynes, Di. Kelly-Evans, Sordell (Maycock 78), Spence (Robert 51), G.Thomas (Dev. Kelly-Evans 65).
Unused Substitutes: Skuza, Whitmore, Hickman, Thompson, Shipley.