City boss Chris Hughton tonight saluted the on-going character of his charges as the Canaries fought back from a goal adrift to earn a well-deserved point against a typically well-organised and capable Everton side.
In fairness, Norwich have rarely been found wanting character-wise over the last few seasons; it is one of the principal reasons why they are still in the Land of Premier League Plenty.
But inevitably when dressing room characters the size of three-time Player of the Year Grant Holt exit the building, the question remains as to whether the Class of 2013-14 will continue to be made of ‘The Right Stuff’.
Albeit only 90 minutes into the new campaign, Hughton’s latest crop of Premier League contenders failed to buckle after the visitors grabbed two goals in the space of six, second-half minutes and got their due reward 19 minutes from the end of normal time when £8.5 million new-boy Ricky van Wolfswinkel grabbed the equalising goal with the kind of towering header that the man himself would have been proud of.
“To concede two goals in a five minute period really put us on the back foot,” Hughton admitted afterwards, as Everton teenager Ross Barkley announced his arrival in the top flight with a fabulous, instinctive strike to level Steven Whittaker’s 51st minute opener.
“[So] what we did have to show was a lot of character to come back from that,” the Canary chief added, as he spoke to the BBC afterwards.
“They showed today what a good side they are. They have got seasoned professionals; internationals; real, good quality opposition. So I think, yes, in the end we’re delighted with the result.”
How many of those same seasoned individuals will still be at Goodison come the start of September as David Moyes starts to wave the Old Trafford cheque book is, of course, not Hughton’s concern.
And whilst he might have wished to pick up all three home points on the opening day of the season, the manner of the draw – and, in particular, the manner in which his new striker rose to the challenge – will have made it a good day at the office.
“I think he [van Wolfswinkel] will be a threat,” said Hughton, as the 24-year-old Dutch international striker made the very most of Whittaker’s unintential cross-cum-shot to mark his debut in suitable style.
“What we have to do – as we did with the second goal – is provide him with a service.
“And I thought we got into some really good, crossing positions – particularly in the first-half. Perhaps our quality just let us down a little bit. But we have to provide him, Gary [Hooper], Luciano [Becchio] and whoever else plays up front with the service that can hopefully get us points.”
One of those service providers was due to Robert Snodgrass, only for the popular Canary winger to fail a late fitness test. All of which allowed Elliott Bennett to stake his claim for a run in the side; on the opposite flank Nathan Redmond demonstrated that Barkley wasn’t the only 19-year-old worth watching this term.
With Sebastien Bassong, Hooper, Snodgrass and Leroy Fer all to factor into his first team thinking, the Canary chief is not short of options – or big decisions.
The City boss doesn’t appear to be of a mind to pair two, out-and-out strikers together, for example.
That, in turn, will cause headaches selection-wise with Wes Hoolahan getting the gig ‘off’ van Wolfswinkel this weekend.
“You can go through the teams in this division and there aren’t too many that play two high up the park,” said Hughton, countering the inevitable calls for Norwich to go 4-4-2 when at home; to go into such contests all guns blazing.
“You have to look at the best combinations that you can,” he added, with van Wolfswinkel the man in possession right up top.
“He’s a willing runner up front and I’m really pleased for him. It was certainly a nice feeling to get a goal on his debut,” said the City chief, fresh from that £25 million summer spending spree.
“He is someone that is used to scoring goals. The challenge now is to do it at the top level.”
The biggest concern, of course, would be the ease with which Everton grabbed those two goals in that five-minute spell. In fairness, the young man’s strike was straight out of the top drawer. It is difficult to point too many fingers on the back of such quality and awareness.
“Having taken the lead we wanted to keep it for longer than what we did,” said Hughton. “But we showed good character; had good chances ourselves and fortunately were able to put two of them away.”
Well deserved point? Everton bossed most of that game,and both of Norwich’s goals had an element of luck. Just look at the stats,they favour Everton in nearly every department. Still,Norwich did well,and good look for the rest of the season (except when we meet at Goodison.
John day says
A good start all round, especially with the likes of Snodgrass, Fer and Hooper unavailable.
Better than this time last year down at Craven Cottage for sure
Douglas Millar says
Good result overall. But I worry with Tettey and Johnson in midfield that City pass sideways or back eventually leaving a defender surrounded by opponents and forced to play long.
Worryingly Turner seemed to me in the form he showed at the beginning of last season.
Some pluses – RvW showed mobility, pace and scoring ability. Redmond is fast and tricky But needs to generate more for the team. Whitaker showed in the second half he has genuine attacking threat. And when Snoddy, Fer a nd Hooper get a chance, it will be an even better team.