Alex Neil rung the changes and prised a decent point out of City’s away trip to Birmingham City this afternoon – the game ending as it started, 0-0.
Given the mood of the Canary Nation of late, it was a welcome result for the 33-year-old as he bolted the back door and found himself a rather more solid platform in midfield.
The question mark would be up top as the Canaries dominated possession and corners only to lack that final touch in front of goal.
It kept them eighth in the table; still within touching distance of the play-off pack. Defeat would have had the doubters doubting ever more as to the Scot’s credentials. A draw, however, is not to be sniffed at.
Afterwards he was positive about the overall level of performance whilst revealing that the club’s top scorer, Cameron Jerome, had been struggling with a tight hamstring all week. Hence one of the five changes.
“I thought if anyone deserved to win it, it was us,” Neil told BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
“I thought we looked a lot more solid, it was just in that final third that we maybe let ourselves down a bit.”
It will be his decision to re-instate Lewis Grabban ahead of both Jerome and Gary Hooper that will be under the spotlight this evening.
“Jerome hadn’t trained all week because he had a tight hamstring and I just didn’t think that the system we chose would have suited Gary Hooper – and Lewis Grabban has trained very well since we came in.”
Neil proved, if nothing else, that he wasn’t one to duck the big decisions. Or, indeed, spring a major surprise or two as he ripped up the City frontline and started again with Grabban and a recalled Wes Hoolahan – for reasons he was at pains to explain above.
The 33-year-old could, in fairness, be simply of a mind to see for himself just what he has inherited talent-wise. But dropping Jerome to the bench will, inevitably, have raised an eyebrow.
It was also all change at the heart of the City defence where Michael Turner and Carlos Cuellar paid the price for last weekend’s home defeat by Brentford as skippers past and present – Russell Martin and Sebastien Bassong – took guard. Neil also kept faith with Brentford fall guy Steven Whittaker; albeit back in his more natural habitat of right-back as opposed to the centre of the Norwich midfield.
The return to fitness of Alexander Tettey helped his cause; particularly in the on-going absence of the still-suspended Jonny Howson.
“I thought we defended very well today – right from the front two,” said Neil, with a clean sheet defensively a big plus. In which the return of Bassong would have played a significant part.
“I didn’t feel that Birmingham caused us too many problems; they had just the one from the corner which big John (Ruddy) saved well. But other than that I thought we defended very well.
“As I say, it maybe just in the final third where we could have done that little bit better.”
City did, at least, offer natural width and balance out wide as Elliott Bennett found himself back in a Canary starting line-up as Nathan Redmond found himself back at St Andrews – the club that long nurtured his obvious talents.
Just before the half hour mark he reminded the Blues faithful of just what they had nurtured with Norwich’s first shot on target as the much-changed visitors started to find their feet.
Grabban, too, would see chances come and go as the Canaries held firm in their own penalty area.
It was a pattern to the game that continued after the interval as both sides struggled to find the breakthrough.
Martin would twice go close before Neil opted to spice things up with two changes; Jerome would replace Grabban, young Josh Murphy would come in for Bennett.
As the 80th minute mark came and went with score still locked at 0-0, it was that point in the contest where one mistake could win it.
For Neil, that was a tightrope he would rather not have to walk – even if a point at St Andrews would be a fair return.
In the end, nothing budged – at either end. City, as in Norwich, were unbeaten away from home under the Scot; seven points from an available 12.
It is not the worst start to a Norwich managerial career.
His next challenge, however, will be off the pitch as much as on it. Whether or not Norwich can add to their options before the transfer window slams shut again at the start of next week.
Going with what they have is, clearly, one alternative. But when Norwich remain just outside the play-off spots, most Canary supporters would be of a mind to splash some cash and freshen up.
It could be a long 48 hours for all involved.