Leeds United man's reluctant Norwich City role had main character energy - Graham Smyth's Verdict

LATE THRILLER - Daniel Farke's Leeds United players celebrate victory with the fans  after a thrilling Championship match against Norwich City at Carrow Road. Pic: PA
LATE THRILLER - Daniel Farke's Leeds United players celebrate victory with the fans after a thrilling Championship match against Norwich City at Carrow Road. Pic: PA

Managers, the good and the likeable among them at least, often try to remove themselves from the narrative by rubbishing talk of chess matches or individual battles of wits. Farke did that and more in his pre-game press conference, straight batting questions about his personal duel with David Wagner and the emotion surrounding a return to Norwich.

But what is a game without its characters and their stories? Farke is certainly one of those and his story, at both of these clubs, is a compelling one.

And though his intention was to let his players take centre stage to decide this game, which they did in the most dramatic of ways, Farke's main character energy was irrepressible.

From the big call to start Archie Gray at right-back again and go unchanged from the win over Bristol City, to walking out at the ground where he twice lifted the Championship trophy, all eyes were on the German.

He was far from the only story worth keeping tabs on, though. Gray, back from an intense three-match international break in an already demanding and hectic season, was up against some experienced, difficult and pacy customers. He played a lot of football for England Under 19s - too much if you ask his manager - but it was at least a continuation of his right-back education.

Willy Gnonto, back on the bench after ankle surgery and up against a battle to unseat the in-form and flying Daniel James and Crysencio Summerville. Liam Cooper and Luke Ayling, players upon whom Leeds have relied heavily in recent years, were not in the starting line-up but entirely invested in the game throughout and playing a part even before they got onto the pitch in the late stages.

Ex-Leeds players often add a bit of colour to the plot but Adam Forshaw, although featured on the cover of the matchday programme, was on the bench for the hosts. The big story early on was how quickly and easily Norwich took control of the scoreline. Ethan Ampadu's giveaway started a Norwich attack that ended in Sam Byram heading behind for a corner. When it was swung in to the near post Leeds' defending was not up to scratch and Shane Duffy had a simple header to open the scoring.

Conceding on four minutes might have had the effect of rattling Farke's men or reminding them of their still-recent first half horror show at Southampton, but they settled straight back into possession and began to build their own attacks, several of which could or should have led to parity.

Summerville and Georginio Rutter were at the heart of some breathtaking counter attacking football and the pair linked up twice for one forward surge before the latter's shot from a difficult angle was saved.

Norwich, for their part, were playing some brave and eye-catching one-touch stuff of their own and threatening to cut Leeds open down the middle. Both Pascal Struijk and Illan Meslier were required to make vital interventions as Adam Idah powered forward.

Then came a series of Leeds chances as they won the ball and countered with speed. The first was a turnover deep in Norwich territory, Glen Kamara getting on the ball and driving towards the area where he played a lovely one-two with Rutter only to smack the ball right across the face of goal.

The second fell to exactly who you want it to fall to, Leeds again playing some pretty and quick football to release Joel Piroe right down the middle and though he reached the edge of the area he sent his shot uncharacteristically wide. Then it was Rutter's turn, Piroe dummying a Summerville pass only for the Frenchman to drag the shot horribly. James was next up, Leeds racing away on yet another counter that produced the same result - a shot off target.

Leeds' attacking monologue was interrupted by a good chance for Gabriel Sara, a player the visitors simply did not get to grips with, and before the break that proved costly. Norwich had already troubled the Whites with balls in behind the full-backs and going left brought real joy when Onel Hernández got away from Gray and found Sara who sent Kamara the wrong way and then tiptoed around four others to slam the ball past Meslier.

The sides went down the tunnel separated by two goals and Farke was very much in focus. Yet when Leeds re-emerged for the second half there were no changes and the struggling Gray, who had started to look tired, remained at right-back.

The game approached the hour mark with the score unchanged and Farke was under threat of becoming the story for the wrong reasons but even as he began to make his move on the bench his players chucked in a plot twist. Rutter found James, he took on his man and cut the ball back from the byline to force Duffy into an own goal from a yard out. The goal allowed Farke to press pause on his changes to let the effects of the goal show themselves in the rhythm of the game but with Meslier twice called into action, the stage was set for a managerial intervention.

On came Gnonto and Patrick Bamford, attackers making their entrance as a defender and a midfielder - Byram and Kamara - made their exits. Leeds formed up into a 3-5-2 and started to steal scene after scene after scene. There were half chances, chances and then a goal. A corner was taken short, played to Summerville on the edge of the area and he curled a beauty into the net off the right-hand post. If the goal itself wasn't troubling enough for Norwich, the sight of Leeds sprinting back to halfway with every intention of grabbing a winner had to be.

Bamford and Rutter linked up twice in one move with a pair of one-twos and the Englishman just ran out of room when it came time to pull the trigger, then Gnonto's quick-release effort after more good work from Rutter and Summerville was pushed around the post. Farke's changes were taking effect and taking the game away from his former club as the natives grew restless.

Quite early on in his Elland Road tenure Farke picked up on the club's unique tendency to do things the hard way and having had to come back from two goals down to level, it was perfectly in character for them to go the length of the field to win it. The moment came on 85 minutes, Bamford heading a Norwich free-kick to Rutter who looked up, spotted Summerville up against Forshaw and played the ball forward in the knowledge that there was only one winner. Somehow still possessing the energy to sprint clear, the Dutchman raced to the area and produced the big finish to cap a Man of the Match performance, of the kind he has been threatening to produce all season. Cue pandemonium in the technical area and the away end.

It would not be Leeds without some mild peril before the end and Norwich did win a free-kick in the final moments of eight stoppage time minutes. The ball dropped to Forshaw and he shaped to break hearts, only to send his shot wide and his former supporters into raptures.

At full-time Farke finally accepted his major role in the script and said the goodbye that was denied him by the nature of his 2021 Norwich exit. And having applauded all sides of Carrow Road, he approached the Leeds fans and kept it classy by declining his usual three-wave salute. Then he and his new club rode off into the torrential rain with the three points and a hell of a story to tell.