A New Year, and an entertaining contest at Carrow Road topped by a wonderful Emi Buendia goal. Long may it continue.
Tim Krul made his long-anticipated return from injury after Michael McGovern was effectively ruled out for the rest of the season. Ben Gibson replaced Christoph Zimmermann in defence.
Barnsley started in an aggressive and energetic manner. A front three pushed high up on the Norwich defence, the Barnsley back four kept a high line, compressing the game in midfield allowing Barnsley to press and harry City in the centre of the pitch.
It took the Canaries a while to adapt and get the measure of this system, and by then it was almost too late. Woodrow had a shot blocked by Hanley which ballooned into the space behind the City back-four, falling kindly for Thomas. With only Tim Krul to beat, the ball somehow cannoned off the crossbar.
Playing such a high line at the back was inviting the sort of ball that Teemu Pukki thrives upon. He seemed to have the defender Helik well beaten for pace on several occasions, notably when Mario Vrancic put him through. His shot beat the keeper but Brittain was back to clear the goal-bound effort.
City took more and more control as the first half went on. Buendia with skipped past two or three players to set Oli Skipp away but he delayed his cross way too long. The ball was finally played in by Max Aarons for Todd Cantwell to blaze well over.
The second-half looked to begin in a similar manner to the first. Barnsley opted for the route one kick-off, putting the ball into touch high up the pitch on the City right.
City gave the ball away twice in quick succession but thanks to good work from Emi Buendia, they worked the ball out of the corner for a rapid counter up the pitch. Cantwell ran half the length of the pitch with the ball but upon reaching the penalty box, cut inside and the chance was gone.
Norwich were squeezing Barnsley out of the game. Grant Hanley and Gibson formed an impenetrable barrier at the back, despite a cut above Hanley’s eye.
From a ball forward, Gibson found Buendia. He played in Pukki who centred for Cantwell, who somehow managed an air kick. Jacob Sorensen was following up and his shot was saved.
It looked inevitable that a goal would come. When it did it was a peach.
Skipp broke forward and was hacked down from behind. The free-kick was worked to Kenny McLean on halfway who played a delicious lofted ball forward. It fell over the shoulder of Buendia who volleyed past Walton.
Buendia was irrepressible. Quick feet to retain possession in the tightest of corners, so much hard work to win back possession whenever Barnsley had the ball – one of his most complete performances in a yellow shirt.
The Argentinian was replaced by Alex Tettey with five minutes to go, denied the standing ovation his performance deserved.
City had more chances to add to the goal tally, Cantwell in particular profligate. He could have had three or four.
But this is Norwich. And in the final minute, Barnsley finally created a golden chance. A ball over Aarons’ head, driven across the box by Styles. How a Barnsley boot didn’t get a touch is a mystery.
A great team performance to overcome a side who clearly fancied their chances.
Krul was a virtual spectator. Sorensen again composed at left-back, Skipp and McLean covering so much ground to secure the midfield.
The only black mark was that City once again only managed a solitary goal. The sight of Przemysław Placheta coming on with a couple of minutes to go is a sign though, that the options are beginning to open up for Farke.