Paddy Davitt delivers his Stoke verdict after Norwich City’s hard-fought 1-0 win.

1. Cheerleader

The clock had just ticked past 72 minutes at Carrow Road on a game that in truth will fade swiftly from the memory of all those present. Quality play in the final third was in short supply on both sides. There was a lot of circling of the ring, but few punches thrown.

Yet with Norwich in front thanks to Jack Stacey’s excellent first half finish, Alex Neil’s Stoke were trying to force the issue and get back on level terms.

Cue recently-arrived substitute Onel Hernandez harrying Stoke’s right back, who cut the ball back towards his keeper. Cue Ashley Barnes with another phase of the energetic press, as the ball was shovelled quickly out to the Stoke left, where Christian Fassnacht surged towards his marker, who promptly sliced the ball out of ball in front of the travelling Potters’ fans.

The ovation that greeted that one series of high tempo triggers was on a par with the home noise that washed around Carrow Road after Stacey’s match-winner.

Leading the cheering was David Wagner. Stood at the front of his technical area with both arms pointing towards the sky. An incidental moment in a game that never really slipped out of neutral, but symptomatic of the cultural shift the German has over-seen.

Would we have seen such urgency, such cohesive team work at any point down the stretch as last season meandered to a tame conclusion?

Clearly a sixth win in eight this season underscores there is a new-found confidence and belief. Norwich were functional rather than fantastic. There was little of the free-flowing dash and verse beyond the odd glimpse from Jon Rowe or Gabby Sara.

Stoke were limited in their attacking urges and imprecise in their passing motions but this was a game in the final quarter of last season Norwich were either have drawn or lost. After defeat at Rotherham, they needed a sharp response just to ensure City fans can continue to look forwards in optimism, not fear any regression.

2. Swiss roll

Fassnacht continues to look an astute piece of transfer business. Perhaps without the excitement that followed Borja Sainz’s arrival, albeit that has been tempered since by his ankle ligament injury.

Perhaps also lacking the feeling around the Barnes and Shane Duffy deals, that Norwich had brought in operators who know the English leagues inside out, and can drive up the standards in the dressing room as much as on the park.

But Fassnacht brought with him a pedigree as a serial winner in Switzerland, an international calibre option, who knew Wagner and who Wagner clearly knew had the tool kit to assimilate quickly, and look at ease in the Championship.

Best not to try and package a player who has the physical attributes and presence of a Marco Stiepermann but the deft flicks and awareness in tight spaces of a Wes Hoolahan or dare one even say in the pursuit of a more modern reference point an Emi Buendia.

Fassnacht's athleticism bailed out Sara in the first half when he hared back to halt a Stoke counter. His vision released Stacey on numerous occasions prior to the interval. It was also his crossing accuracy that brought the decisive breakthrough, Jon Rowe’s initial attempt to connect with his cross saw the ball spiral to Stacey to finish confidently.

In a more circumspect second half from the Canaries, Fassnacht went as close as any in the 64th minute when he got the wrong side of Lyndon Gooch but slapped a bouncing half-volley into the side netting.

His first misplaced pass came a minute or so later, and there was an even later booking for scissors tackle on Sead Haksabanovic; another signal he is a midfielder who can mix it when required.

Wagner labelled this display his finest so far in green and yellow. On more than one occasion the German, in the early days of Fassnacht’s arrival, was keen to emphasise the Swiss league deserves respect.

The German, afterall, with Fassnacht in his ranks, guided Young Boys to a Champions League win over Manchester United in a former coaching life. But continue in this vein and it is Fassnacht’s Championship body of work that will earn him such respect.

3. Props to Pepe

The sight of Przemyslaw Placheta operating in an unaccustomed left back spot in the pre-season friendly surroundings of Austria, against Toulouse, had more than an air of gentle experimentation to it. But the heat of a Championship scrap against the Potters merited a different tariff.

Dimi Giannoulis’ quad issue, which Wagner suggested afterwards was no cause for alarm, prompted a 30 minute shift in a backline coming under increasing pressure as they looked to close out a clean sheet win.

Placheta looked composed and combative in the tackle. Going the other way he whipped in a couple of gorgeous crosses to the near post that the injured Josh Sargent may have devoured.

Wagner talked up his defensive potential again post-match. Placheta has certainly took strides forward in his Norwich career this campaign, with his winner at Bristol City in the League Cup and another signal here he has the trust of his manager. Sam McCallum’s absence was duly noted from the matchday squad.

Placheta would appear to tick more of the boxes Wagner is looking for down the left-hand side.

The reality is the Polish international’s Norwich career to date had been a fallow tale of the odd cameo, and at the start of last season a proposed loan to Birmingham that suggested he was firmly out of the picture.

Now he is emerging as frontline option. Should he go on to emerge as a reliable defensive cog in this Norwich machine that would also go down as a fine piece of coaching ingenuity from the German and his backroom team.  

4. Problem solving

More evidence, in the first half especially, of that sub-text running through the club's impressive first team coach Narcis Pelach’s wide-ranging recent interview with the Pinkun.

Wagner and his coaching brains are as much about empowerment as they are forcing their players to follow the playbook to the letter.

City have already faced a range of different opponents and different styles in this start to the Championship season.

At times they have been asked to break down massed defences, on other occasions – notably at Southampton in a high-scoring affair – it was their prowess in transition and devastating counter-punching that almost carried the day on the south-coast.

Against Stoke after a front-foot start Neil’s side threatened to just gain the tactical upper hand in a 10 minute spell, or so, midway through that opening period when Norwich looked a touch frayed; McLean and Sara were nullified, Barnes and Adam Idah a touch isolated and Ben Gibson and Duffy increasingly looking vulnerable as Stoke probed further forward from their defensive block.

But Norwich decoded the problem and carved out an opening goal just before the break, when Stacey showed all the instincts of a striker to pounce from Fassnacht’s initial cross.

Then it was all about game-management. Or rather it was not. Wagner admitted in his post-match media the final five minutes of the game had irked him in the manner Norwich were unable to get the balance right between going for a killer second and protecting what they had.

Which is a reminder this remains very much a work in progress. But they navigated a rather nervy final period - when City’s players appeared to sink deeper in protection mode - to get the job done.

Perhaps no surprise given the added experience and streetwise edge Wagner and Stuart Webber sought to add in the summer transfer window.

But his quest for the right mentality was not simply a response to dealing with adversity, it was about having the nous in the heat of battle to find solutions and remain patient. Attributes any side on a promotion quest need to demonstrate.