Canary fans 'reward' for their ten-hour round trip to the West Country this afternoon was a largely uninspired 2-1 defeat by Conference standard Exeter City in City's first pre-season outing of the summer.
In fairness, it looked exactly that. A first outing of the summer as the Championship side stumbled out of the blocks against their Blue Square Premier hosts by conceding two goals within the space of three, awful minutes that Luke Chadwick's 30th reply only partially made amends for.
A first sighting of Norwich's new-look strike force of Jamie Cureton and David Strihavka probably provided the 'highlight' for the 250-odd Canary fans who had made the long haul down to the South-West this afternoon.
As boss Peter Grant revealed in midweek, neither of the two new goalkeepers – David Marshall and Matt Gilks – travelled; nor did Frenchman Julien Brellier or right-back Jon Otsemobor.
All of which ensured that there were some usual suspects lining up at a sun-bathed St James' Park this afternoon, all led out by Jason Shackell who sported the skipper's armband for the afternoon with Adam Drury sat, for now, among the substitutes in the stands.
So there was Andy Hughes at right-back; Rob Eagle at left-back; Michael Spillane and Gary Doherty in centre-midfield with Chadwick adding the width on the left, Lee Croft on the right.
Dion Dublin partnered Shackell at centre-half. Darren Huckerby and Dickson Etuhu were back in Norfolk along with Simon Lappin and Mark Fotheringham; Joe Lewis was back in goal – and ahead, therefore, of Paul Gallacher. If, that is, anyone wished to use today's summer opener as a chance to gauge which way the manager's mind was working.
Into a complete fury, one would suspect, given what followed in the first 11 minutes.
Joe Lewis had already needed to produce a big, left-handed flick up and away to safety as Jamie Mackie found himself all alone and unmarked in the inside right channel after some classic, static summer defending by the City back four.
If the 20-year-old keeper's reactions had spared the odd blush or two, it wasn't long before it was red faces all round as the Grecians slipped into a 2-0 lead within the space of three, comical minutes.
Eagle and Shackell set the tone by colliding together on the left-hand touchline and enabling Mackie to hurry on into the City box and send a neat, little shot inside Lewis' right-hand post as Dublin dived forlornly across his path.
Come the 11th minute and Mackie's strike partner Adam Stansfield got in on the act as he wriggled free on the left-hand byline and doubled Norwich's discomfort from a tight angle.
While the Blue Square Premier League side might be clearly benefitting from greater game time following their midweek 'tour' to neighbouring Cornwall, the Canaries were evidently still sat on a beach somewhere as they struggled to get any sort of grip on the game.
Strihavka's first moment of genuine note came in the 24th minute with a short, forceful run down the right and a low, 25-yard drive straight at keeper Paul Jones.
It was left to Chadwick to haul Norwich back into the afternoon's luke-warm contest on the half-hour mark as Eagle dropped an inviting little ball behind Liam Sercombe and from a tight angle on the left byline, the Canary winger tucked the ball away inside the far upright. Better.
Cureton almost presented Strihavka with a tap-in after skipping instinctively round the keeper only for covering centre-half Andy Taylor to intervene as the Czech lurked on the edge of the six-yard box with the goal gaping. And that was that, first-half. Utterly enthralling.
Half-time brought the usual flood of substitutions. Drury spared Eagle further discomfort at left-back; Chris Brown partnered Strihavka in Cureton's stead; Chris Martin replaced goalscorer Chadwick; Rossi Jarvis and Youssef Safri took hold of midfield as Doherty stepped back into his more natural habitat alongside Shackell. Gallacher replaced Lewis.
Safri wasted little time in making an impression – floating a smart-ish ball onto Brown's chest through the inside left channel only for Taylor to untidily cover. Somewhere in the midst of a slightly better second-half, he'd produce a glorious drag-back and turn – one fleeting instant of class.
Shackell found the 'friendly' spirit a little wanting as Mackie left his foot high and late as the Canary skipper cleared. Words were about to be had before the referee intervened. At the other end, Andy Hughes dropped a hopeful right-wing cross onto the top of the Grecians' bar.
Exeter almost added a third on the hour as Stansfield screwed a tight shot across the width of the Canary goal-line that then needed a timely Drury clearance as Mackie lurked.
The 60-minute mark also marked the end of Strihavka's afternoon. The odd neat touch, the one shot at goal, a cut from a clash of heads – any proper judgement will be a little while longer coming.
Norwich City: Lewis (Gallacher, 45 mins); Hughes, Dublin (Safri, 45 mins), Shackell (Halliday, 83 mins), Eagle (Drury, 45 mins); Croft (Smart, 79 mins), Doherty, Spillane (Rossi Jarvis, 45 mins), Chadwick (Martin, 45 mins); Strihavka (Ryan Jarvis, 61 mins), Cureton (Brown, 45 mins).
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