One of the most eye-catching Championship games of the opening weekend took place at Craven Cottage, where last season’s play-off semi-finalists and joint-top scorers Fulham hosted Norwich City.
This game was a good test for the promotion credentials of both, with Fulham likely to challenge for automatic promotion and the Canaries in expected to contend for a play-off place despite naming seven debutants against the Cottagers.
As you would expect, there was plenty of attacking football on show as both teams created chances in a hard-fought, 1-1 draw. Here are three things that we learned from an enthralling contest.
Oliver Norwood will be a great addition for Fulham
As entertaining as Fulham were last season, at times they lacked a controlling influence in the middle of the park. This is why Cottagers’ fans rejoiced when the club’s official website announced the season long loan signing of experienced Northern Ireland international Oliver Norwood from Brighton & Hove Albion, as he just the man to balance the attacking talents of Stefan Johansen and Tom Cairney.
The signs were certainly promising against Norwich, as Norwood’s meld of accurate passing and willingness to show for the ball laid a more solid foundation for Fulham’s slick possession game. His high work-rate also shone through, and he will arguably get even better as the season progresses.
This will be a space that Fulham fans will watch with interest in the months ahead, but there is no doubt that Norwood brings attributes and experience that the club’s midfield lacked at times last season.
Norwich boast a genuine threat down the flanks
Norwich have undoubtedly experienced a turbulent summer, with Declan Rudd, Graham Dorrans. Jonny Howson and the talented young winger Jacob Murphy all sold for a combined sum of £19.5 million.
Incoming manager Daniel Farke has also signed six new players during the pre-season, and while Norwich City’s new-look side will need time to gel there were certainly signs of cohesiveness and promise at the Cottage.
The Canaries looked particularly dangerous down the flanks, with former Wigan Athletic winger Yanic Wildschut tormenting Fulham’s young full-back Ryan Sessegnon and Marley Watkins forcing two fine saves from stopper David Button.
Both players have pace and trickery in abundance, and could provide Norwich with key attacking outlets as the season progresses.
Angus Gunn is a chip off the old block
For those of you who can remember back to the heady days of 1994, Norwich City were competing in the then-UEFA Cup after finishing third in the inaugural Premier League season. Their European run included a stunning, 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the Olympiastadion, which represented the Bavarians’ one and only home defeat against English opposition in their famous stadium.
Legendary Scottish stopper Bryan Gunn played an integral role in that win, and if the draw at Fulham is anything to go by then his son Angus is a chip off the old block. As Norwich were subjected to intense pressure from the home side following Russell Martin’s unfortunate own goal, Gunn made fine saves from Ryan Fredericks and Tom Cairney to keep the Canaries in the game prior to half time.
Gunn, who is currently enjoying a season long loan from Manchester City, looks set to play a key role for Norwich in the Championship and he certainly has the pedigree to make his mark. As for the fans, the sight of another Gunn in goal must also bring back a raft of memories from the most glorious period in the club’s history.