The intersection between the end of the cricket season and the beginning of a new footballing campaign has always been one of the most frustrating periods of the sporting calendar.
My interests become divided, making following the scores of both Norwich and more general fixtures across the country considerably difficult on a Saturday whilst playing cricket in the sun.
Indeed, whilst Norwich were held to a reality-checking and somewhat disappointing stalemate by an organised and disciplined Sheffield Wednesday side at Carrow Road at the weekend, I was busy being dismissed LBW for a duck in what was nonetheless an important victory for my club.
Disillusioned with my performance, my attention turned to the football, and an assessment of what a 0-0 at home to a good Wednesday team meant for City.
Saturday was not a bad result for Norwich.
Carlos Carvahal’s side are a slick outfit, even without the impetuous and seemingly immature Fernando Forestieri. Having a father who is a Hull City fan, I was at Wembley for their narrow defeat in the play-off final in May. Wednesday boast a range of terrific Championship footballers, most notably Ross Wallace, Barry Bannan and their superb goalkeeper Kieran Westwood.
A point was by no means a calamity.
Tuesday night made my inaugural visit to Carrow Road of the season possible, not colliding with any cricket fixtures and allowing me to cast an eye over our developing squad and analyse our promotion hopes.
I left the city satisfied, content and reasonably impressed.
Michael McGovern was excellent in goal, denying the energetic Jonathan Kodija with a sharp save and appearing commanding in his box.
McGovern’s kicking is far superior to that of the often erratic and unreliable John Ruddy, making him – amongst other factors – my pick as City’s number one this season.
Our defence looked as impenetrable as Team GB’s cycling team has looked unbeatable in Rio, with Klose and Ryan Bennett’s partnership continuing to blossom considerably.
Out of position Robbie Brady was again dependable at left-back whilst marauding forward with menace, whilst Ivo Pinto appears to be a brilliant player to possess at Championship level.
Norwich were impressive.
Indeed, it wasn’t quite the most aesthetically pleasing performance that included a continual flow of attacking and crisp link-up play, but we were convincing.
Our defence’s relentless thwarting of the dangerous Kodija was promising, whilst the once sung about Gary O’Neil was unable to dictate play and distribute possession with as much effectiveness as he often did for us over two seasons.
Jonny Howson and Alex Tettey were superb, beginning to form a terrific midfield shield in front of our blossoming defence. Who needs Kante when you’ve got the woodwork-hitting Tettey?
Steven Naismith had an excellent game in his role as part of the offensive trio behind Cameron Jerome, seeming to be more effective with his darting runs at Championship level than he was during his five-month spell with us in the Premier League.
Whilst Hoolahan was not as his innovative and creative best under the Carrow Road lights, the prospect of the two combining across forty-six games is an encouraging one.
One concern we surely all left the game with was the stalling development of Josh Murphy. Murphy looked nervous in possession, lacking conviction when running with the ball and being too profligate with it when taking on defenders. Following Jacob’s thunderbolt at Ewood Park, it appears the former Coventry loanee’s development has somewhat outweighed that of Josh.
Time will tell.
Norwich City fans really are spoilt this season.
Looking at our XI last night, you really feel that at least six of our players possess far too much quality for the Championship.
The maintaining of Klose, Pinto, Brady, Tettey, Howson, Naismith and Hoolahan was so important for City, all of whom ooze class and are capable of pioneering a charge for promotion.
Three games in, and Norwich fans have genuine reason to be optimistic about our chances.
Whilst the result at Blackburn may have been a slightly skewed indication of our quality given the opposition’s profound ineptitude both on and off the pitch, four points from two difficult home games is a promising start.
The performance on Tuesday was one of solidity, with the usual performers – Howson, Tettey, Brady – looking at relative ease at this level. Tougher tests will come, but we have legitimate grounds to be confident.
With derby day looming, our striking conundrum has still yet to be solved, but Cameron Jerome did have a reasonable game on Tuesday.
Despite his relentless failure to be clinical – that did most manifest itself against Bristol City – the divisive striker does work tenaciously, running the channels well, winning knock-downs and closing down opposition defenders with persistent energy. Nonetheless, the acquisition of at least one other goal scorer remains critical with fourteen days of transfer activity remaining.
Early signs dictate that this season will be a bright one for Norwich City.
Two clean sheets from the last two games will inevitably elevate the confidence and relationship between Bennett and Klose, whose presence at the back for City will be vital across the course of the season. We looked relatively untroubled on Tuesday evening, whilst McGovern excelled in his makeshift audition in goal.
More attractive and eye-catching performances will come, but there’s no doubt we were convincing in our victory.
Sunday presents a greater test for Norwich as we travel south to Suffolk.
With multiple positives to be taken from midweek both in terms of defence and attack, the good news for me as a cricketing Norwich fan continues to come: with the Ipswich game being on Sunday, I can go and support the team in an August weekend game for a change.