Premier League Norwich avoided an upset as Gary Hooper scored late in normal and extra-time on his first start to see off Watford in the Capital One Cup. Javier Acuna’s first Watford goal and Marco Faraoni’s 25-yard effort left Norwich teetering. But substitute Josh Murphy rifled home the game’s third superb goal, and Hooper flicked home Nathan Redmond’s cross in the 95th minute. Johan Elmander went close before Hooper poked in to complete Norwich’s escape.
The opening was all anticipation, and the drumrolls were provided by the immediate pressure that Norwich put on us a long way up the pitch. We’ve played City a million times before, this tie had none of the lustre of a Manchester United or a Liverpool… nonetheless, this is a competent top-flight City side, and to see them adopting such an archetypal Championship approach – pressure, pressure, pressure, but with better-than-Championship players – was ominous.
A Troy Deeney shot gave the visitors the lead before Jason Scotland won possession and fired in to equalise. Davide Faraoni’s volley put Watford back in front before a Fernando Forestieri strike and a long-range Sean Murray extended the Hornets’ advantage.
A late penalty from Lewis McGugan brought Watford a first win in five league matches and sent them surging back into the top six, but the difficulty they had in finding a way past Doncaster offered further proof that last season’s wildly entertaining if ultimately frustrated attempt at promotion will not necessarily segue into a more irresistible upwards surge at their second attempt under Italian ownership.
Where we continue to fail, rather too obviously, is in making our possession count for anything much. We’re caught between simple ball retention, knocking it around without much purpose, and trying to penetrate opponents who’ve been afforded the time to get themselves in order. Occasionally, we stumble on what might be a way out of the cul-de-sac: here, Gabriele Angella launched a sublime, far-reaching pass to find an advancing Anya, cutting through the banks of four in an instant. But, inevitably, that simply led to repeated attempts at the same thing with diminishing results, and it wasn’t long before Angella’s missiles harked back to Jay Demerit trying to fulfil childhood dreams of being a quarterback in the Boothroyd years.