Pukki and Dowell braces guide Norwich to big win at Preston
David Wagner’s Norwich reign exploded into life with an authoritative 4-0 victory over shell-shocked Preston at Deepdale.
The former Huddersfield manager was appointed Norwich boss only eight days ago but the German’s fingerprints were unmistakably plastered across an away performance bursting with energy and enterprise.
Kieran Dowell, restored to the starting XI for the first time since October, scored twice, the forward adding to Teemu Pukki’s 13th-minute strike, as Norwich ran riot with three early goals.
Pukki added his 10th goal of the campaign after 69 minutes.
Norwich climb four places to seventh, only two points behind West Brom in sixth, after a first win in five Championship matches.
Preston, beaten for a fourth straight home league game, drop three positions to 13th.
Preston’s top scoring pair of Ched Evans and Emil Riis were missing injured – Riis’s season is over due to a serious knee problem – while the 11 starters boasted only five Championship goals between them this term.
And that absence of attacking potency was evident from the outset, Preston’s bright passing repeatedly falling down in the final third.
Norwich were brimming with menace from the off. Max Aarons’ drive infield from right-back to begin the move for the opening goal embodied his team’s intent.
Onel Hernandez claimed possession, resisting pressure to feed Gabriel Sara, who teed-up Pukki for a rising first-time strike beyond Freddie Woodman.
Preston goalkeeper Woodman was beaten again thee minutes later. Aarons was the architect, backheeling into the path of Dowell, whose rifled shot slammed off Woodman’s right post and over the line.
It felt like Norwich were pushing at an open door. Pukki missed his kick in front of goal, Dowell slipped when poised to shoot and Kenny McLean saw a 22-yard effort deflected narrowly wide.
The home supporters were growing increasingly incensed and the mood darkened further still on 28 minutes.
Pukki fastened on to Josh Sargent’s through ball and unselfishly squared for Dowell to convert into an empty net for his third goal this season.
Preston manager Ryan Lowe promptly made a double change, including the introduction of Manchester City loanee Liam Delap for a debut, and reverted to a back five.
The hosts briefly flickered and Norwich keeper Tim Krul was worked by the robust Delap and fellow debutant Tom Cannon – the striker on loan from Everton starting a senior match for the first time – after the restart.
Those opportunities sandwiched shots over the top from Sargent and Aarons and preceded Woodman thwarting both Pukki and Sargent at close quarters.
But Pukki eventually defeated the Preston keeper for a second time, prodding home after skilfully spinning Alvaro Fernandez in the box.
The gleeful travelling supporters serenaded their new boss and the 51-year-old will be more than content with the start to his Norwich journey.