City boss Peter Grant left for the team hotel tonight with his fingers firmly crossed that an 81st minute injury to newly-arrived Chelsea midfielder Jimmy Smith would prove nothing serious.
Smith, for his part, left for the team hotel tonight with his left calf heavily strapped and on crutches – the victim of a challenge that was more ill-timed than ill-willed. Either way having lost one attacking midfielder to a get-out clause and Roy Keane, to lose a second to a lengthy injury less than a week after he arrived would test the patience of a saint, let alone a Championship football manager.
“We'll see how that is,” said Grant, speaking immediately after tonight's 2-1 tour defeat by FC Zwolle.
“We're hoping that it is a knock on a nerve or something like that – we don't know,” added Grant. “He's been caught late on on the calf and we're hoping its nothing too serious.
“Sometimes they can settle down as quickly as you get them. But obviously it's a concern because I thought he was excellent again and showed you what he's got – good football intelligence; had a few shots at goal; getting around the edge of the box. All the things that we said he'd had, he's proven that in the week he's been here so we're very pleased with him.”
Smith went down in a painful heap with little less than ten minutes of tonight's contest remaining. After three minutes of treatment – with fortunately no sign of a stretcher party – he was gently helped off the pitch by Canary physio Neal Reynolds, limping heavily on his left ankle.
In the event, it proved far more ankle than calf; that, in itself, is likely to be a blessing. Ankle ligament damage is a whole, nasty new ball game.
Grant, to his credit, wasn't pointing any fingers in Zwolle's direction after one, ill-timed lunge left his latest arrival distinctly worse for wear and his central midfield with – in every likelihood – one less option going into next Tuesday's Carrow Road dress rehearsal against West Ham United.
“It's a difficult one,” said Grant. “We know what pre-seasons are about – we've seen it often enough, that the legs are wanting to do it, but the mind's not and you get there as quick as you can sometimes… But I honestly don't think it was malicious. It wasn't a great tackle, but it wasn't malicious.
“Disappointed, but you're going to get that in pre-season unfortunately because people's timing is out. And you can see that in the players' touch or whatever – we've just got to accept that that's part of the game.
“It's just a pity that after such a good performance from him, it's disappointing the way that it has ended up for him.”
The manner in which the Canaries threw their recent defensive assuredness was equally disappointing – Zwolle's leveller on the break was a nigh-on tap-in – and merely proved that City still have many a tweak to make before 'Curtain up!' on August 11.
Put them in against better and better opposition and such on-going frailties are likely to be more and more ruthlessly exposed.
By the same token, however, the manner in which Norwich ripped Zwolle open for their own, eighth minute strike – all against the best defensive unit that they have thus far faced – boded well as Jamie Cureton and Luke Chadwick worked a smart move to put his first goal in Canary colours on a plate for Czech striker David Strihavka.
“I thought there was a lot of good things – but we lost a bad goal right on half-time,” said Grant, who went into battle in 4-3-1-2 formation with the flourishing Chadwick invariably at the heart of Norwich's best moments from his new-found role in that little hole behind Messrs Cureton and Strihavka.
By all accounts it worked to a 'T' in training this morning; it worked again this evening.
“I thought first-half our general play was excellent; a lot of good movement; David gets his first goal. So we're very, very pleased at that,” added the City chief.
“And the goal was terrific. We worked on it this morning and when it comes off in the evening, you're very pleased with that – that the boys have taken it on-board.”