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Rotherham United 2-1 Norwich City: Six things you might have missed

1 – A blemish

After so much progress and an outpouring of positivity, Saturday’s defeat serves as a timely reminder that the Championship can catch you on the chin at the first sign of complacency.

Angus Gunn described it as a ‘wake up call’, David Wagner opted for a ‘reality check’ – after the fever pitch that has surrounded them in recent weeks, it may not be the worst thing for a bump in the road to appear.

You could almost feel the shock on the pitch among the City ranks after Jordan Hugill nodded home to make it 2-0 in the 40th minute. More interestingly was the body language.

Context is also key. Norwich have taken 10 points from the opening five matches. If they sustain that rate of two points per game across a season, the history books show it ends in promotion more often than not.

One defeat will not create doubt, but it will refocus minds. Norwich now have two weeks to stew on it and reflect. That should help restore any hunger that may have waned in the wave of positivity and praise they’ve received in recent weeks.

Wagner will have a fortnight to iron out any chinks in the armour – but his message thereafter will be the same; to attack the games in front of them.

2 –  Underpar

David Wagner was puzzled by it. Norwich City fans bemused by it. Nobody was really able to offer a diagnosis of why their first-half performance was so underpar.

It was a pale imitation of the City side that has oozed with energy and swaggered out of the blocks. Wagner’s mentality monsters looked mentally fatigued and seemed to be playing with a brain fog.

They lost possession 155 times during the encounter at the New York Stadium. Kenny McLean conceded it 21 times, Ashley Barnes 20 times and Gabriel Sara 19 – players that have been pivotal to their early progress.

Dimi Giannoulis miscontrolled the ball on five occasions, Jack Stacey three and City recorded 15 in total.

Underpinning the frustration that was felt during a first-half which cost them the game in South Yorkshire was the failure to execute the very basics of the game.

Perhaps there is mitigation in the form of a hectic week of travel which took them from Huddersfield to Bristol to Rotherham. City’s head coach was keen to downplay the impact of it – but it was surely a factor in their performance levels.

There was an uplift in the second half, but their ventures forward looked desperate and lacked quality in points.

In a relentless Championship campaign, defeats are inevitable. It is how you respond that is often a truer reflection of a team’s minerals.

Norwich Evening News: Norwich City peppered Rotherham United's box with crosses. Norwich City peppered Rotherham United’s box with crosses. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

3 – Off target

Throughout the afternoon, Norwich put in 35 crosses in an attempt to claw their way back into the contest.

Norwich peppered Rotherham’s box with deliveries from either flank as they sought to find a route back into the contest. 26 of those arrived in the second half when Matt Taylor moved to a back three to try and wrestle back control centrally after Gabby Sara was pushed back to a deeper position.

That provided City with more space in wider areas – but the quality of their deliveries left plenty wanting. Only seven of their 36 crosses found its target.

No City player delivered more crosses than Sara (seven), whilst Jack Stacey (five), Kenny McLean (four) and Dimi Giannoulis (four) were also involved in trying to pepper the Rotherham defence.

But nothing dropped for Norwich. Viktor Johansson made just two saves in that second period. City were left frustrated and didn’t display the quality required to get themselves back into the contest.

The only moment of real quality from wide areas came when Jon Rowe reached the byline and found the run of Christian Fassnacht after the interval – but overall Norwich found most of their crossing moments missing its desired target.

4 – Roadblock

So far this season, Norwich City have been able to not just withstand what opponents have thrown at them but find solutions to it.

In that opening period, they had little response to the high block that Rotherham deployed that squeezed the game into City’s half and made it difficult to play out in the way they’ve done so effectively.

Rotherham’s midfield duo pressed Kenny McLean and Gabriel Sara well. They forced turnovers and errors.

The Millers’ efforts were helped by City’s inability to stretch the game and offer a threat in-behind. That is the area where Josh Sargent’s absence was felt hardest – neither Adam Idah nor Ashley Barnes posed the same threat.

That would have given Norwich an outlet to break their high block but also created space centrally.  Barnes and Idah were often found occupying the same space.

David Wagner shared the same frustrations post-match – there wasn’t enough energy or intent to stretch the game and the benefits that would have had for either chance or space creation.

Rotherham were able to impart their desired way of playing onto the fixture. They were aggressive without the ball and effective with in. Matt Taylor was left smiling at suggestions of ‘Taylor Ball’ post-match.

For all talk of the improvement of mentality, Norwich didn’t show enough after getting caught on the chin early.

Norwich Evening News: New Norwich City signing Danny Batth had a watching brief at the New York Stadium.New Norwich City signing Danny Batth had a watching brief at the New York Stadium. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

5 – Down to the wire

It was a move that went right down the wire – so much so that Norwich City were forced to apply for a 15-minute extension after the 11pm deadline. At 11.15, the paperwork was submitted and then approved by the FA.

Danny Batth had to be told by phone from his north east base that he was a City player. It was an agonising process for everyone involved.

14 hours later, he was taking his seat alongside City officials, including Stuart Webber, Neil Adams and even Canaries legend Bryan Gunn. Batth barely had time for the events of the last day to fully sink in.

Batth is a defender who featured on their list of targets comprised in preparation should Andrew Omobamidele depart. A late deal with Nottingham Forest meant Norwich were left to weigh up who would be possible in a short period – that saw the ex-Wolves man rise to the top of their list.  

He joins Norwich after being named as Sunderland’s Player of the Season. After the whirlwind of Deadline Day, the 32-year-old gets a period of adaptation during the international break.

Norwich Evening News: Norwich City named a young bench against Rotherham United. Norwich City named a young bench against Rotherham United. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

6 – Comebacks

Norwich City’s bench on Saturday contained two goalkeepers, no recognised striker and had an average age of 24.44.

George Long, at 29, was the oldest member of the nine substitutes available to David Wagner at the New York Stadium. It is perhaps reflective of where Norwich City’s squad finds themselves currently.

Andrew Omobamidele was due to be on the bench before his Deadline Day exit. Norwich opted to allow Adam Forshaw to play for the under-21s in their epic 3-2 win over Leicester in the hope of stepping up his fitness levels.

The comfort for Wagner is that reinforcements are coming after the pause for internationals.

Borja Sainz will return to training but is likely to take the long back to first-team involvement after missing pre-season. Jacob Sorensen will come back after fitness issues of his own.

Onel Hernandez has been unavailable due to a broken hand but will be available after the international window. New signings Danny Batth and Hwang Ui-jo will be involved in that fixture against Stoke.

Wagner will potentially have six players to add to his ranks – all of them experienced, frontline options for his squad.

That should provoke excitement at what is to come with a Carrow Road double header awaiting their return.

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