Norwich City column: Taking the goal burden off Teemu Pukki is one of Dean Smith's biggest challenges
Opportunities don’t come much bigger than the one which presented itself to Norwich City at St James’ Park on Tuesday night.
With just nine minutes on the clock, the hosts saw themselves reduced to 10 men when Ciaran Clark was dismissed for hauling down Teemu Pukki with the Finn running through on goal.
That left us with more than 80 minutes to make their numerical advantage count and pick up what would have been a hugely significant three in the battle to avoid relegation.
In the end, we had to settle for a point, thanks to a thunderous late volley from the in-form Pukki.
While you have to give Newcastle credit for their defensive resolve, it was nonetheless a disappointing performance.
Faced with a low defensive block, we moved the ball around without enough vigour – and as a result failed to create too much by way of chances.
Fortunately, one of the few openings fell to Pukki, who saved us from real embarrassment by cancelling out Callum Wilson’s opener in some style.
It seems like a strange thing to say, but I feel like Pukki doesn’t get enough credit.
His record in the Premier League – 16 goals in 50 appearances – is mightily impressive, especially when you consider the number of those games we have lost.
Having scored five of our eight Premier League goals so far this season, he is also absolutely crucial to this team and our survival chances.
But Pukki can’t do it alone – and one of the biggest challenges facing Dean Smith is how to get more goals out of our other forward players.
Josh Sargent, Adam Idah, Christos Tzolis, Kieran Dowell, Todd Cantwell and Milot Rashica are all yet to register in the league – although I have been very impressed by Rashica in recent weeks.
The Kosovan seems to have been given a new lease of life under Smith, and hopefully the injury which saw him miss the Newcastle game won’t keep him out of action for too long.
His pace will certainly be needed at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium on Sunday.