A late, second-half header from substitute Chris Brown and Jamie Cureton's third of the week proved enough to get Norwich's pre-season tour to Holland off to a winning start with a 2-0 win over AGOVV Apeldoorn this afternoon – in a game that came to be over-shadowed by reports of Msartin Hunter's exit to Watford.
It wasn't much of a contest; David Marshall barely touched the ball. David Strihavka spurned the best chance of the opening period; Jon Otsemobor continues – thus far – to look the pick of the new boys.
Thereafter, it was all summer afternoons in Holland – all very pleasant, but little of much substance. Of more substance was Hunter's defection to Vicarage Road – he was notable by his absence among the coaching staff. Afterwards, City boss Peter Grant would reveal more…
But as the Canaries kicked off their six-day tour, so there was one name that had caught the eye beforehand – in the sense of Darren Huckerby's name again being absent with the niggling groin that has, thus far, ruled him out of Grant's pre-season preparations. He was, at least, sat on the side of the pitch; his personal pre-season memorable more for what he said one Monday lunchtime than anything, thus far, that he'd done.
Likewise Frenchman Julien Brellier was also among the sick and injured after picking up a kick to the thigh in the mid-week trip to The Walks.
At first sight – unless the great 'Gary Doherty can play in midfield' debate was to continue again in the depths of a Dutch pine forest – so City would appear to be giving 3-5-2 a whirl with Doherty, Dion Dublin and Jason Shackell playing across the back with Otsemobor and Adam Drury acting as wing-backs to the left and right; new Chelsea loan starlet Jimmy Smith made his first semi-competitive start alongside the Scottish duo of Messrs Fotheringham and Lappin in a three-strong central midfield.
Up front and Chris Martin's reward for his four-goal show against Lowestoft was a start alongside Strihavka.
After what was a relatively quiet start, a deep Lappin cross that found Doherty stooping for a brave header against a blue shirt with a big boot attached saw the ball loop high, up and away for a corner; moments later and Dublin was drilling a superb 40-yard ball forward into the inside right channel for Strihavka to chase.
A glance up to see where the keeper was proved the Czech's undoing as he lost his footing and to the bemusement of the gathered Dutch crowd, he tumbled to the turf with the ball spinning away rather apologetically. And for the first 20 minutes that was, basically, it. In goal, David Marshall had barely seen the ball.
The best chance of the first period arrived in the 24th minute as Otsemobor chipped an inviting ball in behind the Apeldoorn defence for both Fotheringham and Strihavka to chase. The Czech was quicker off the mark, but having rounded the advancing keeper found the ball running away from him as the angle narrowed. His final, desperate lob back across a still open goalmouth found the ball dropping just beyond a far upright. That first goal of the summer continued to elude him.
As for singing No7, 20-year-old Smith, he was busy enough, but apart from swapping a late tackle or two with the Apeldoorn No8, he'd yet to really make an impact.
Martin just failed to get enough momentum on a looping header that was designed to catch the keeper stranded off his line. Alas, it fell harmlessly to the keeper – stranded off his line.
Three minutes before the break and Smith came close to making an early impression when he timed his midfield run to perfection as Martin escaped down the left. The 19-year-old's pull back was ideal; the Chelsea man's finish sharp enough; it was just the keeper's out-stretched right leg that proved decisive as the ball span away for a corner.
If the whole purpose of going 3-5-2 for an afternoon was to see how Norwich might-look in a tight, defensive 'shell' – on that score it had proved a real winner. Marshall hadn't touched the ball. As entertainment for the hardy Norfolk faithful, it wasn't much to send a postcard home about.
At least the interval brought the odd change or two to talk about and what appeared to be 3-4-3 formation-wise as Martin found himself with Brown and Cureton for company; Lappin partnered Fotheringham; Andy Hughes replaced arguably the best player of the first 45, Otsemobor. Eight largely uneventful minutes later – Fotheringham pushed an 18-yard shot to the keeper's right – and Drury's afternoon was over. Lappin went off to the left; Chadwick stayed inside.
The latter almost worked a neat one-two with Brown in the 61st minute; in the 63rd Cureton forced a corner by chasing a decent 50-yard ball from Hughes. It was all still pretty scratchy; time for another tray of Amstels the only sensible answer…
The keeper did, at least, do his best – flapping horribly at a Chadwick cross only for a covering Apeldoorn defender to push Cureton's stabbed effort wide. Two minutes later and Brown finally broke the deadlock with a strong leap at the far post to head a deep Lappin cross in off the underside of the bar.
Doherty would hit the bar in the 80th minute; Cureton would be presented with the simplest of chances from the rebound to nod the second home as their Dutch hosts wilted.
Norwich City (3-5-2): Marshall; Doherty, Dublin (Spillane, 77 mins), Shackell; Otsemobor (Hughes, 45 mins), Fotheringham, Smith (Cureton, 45 mins), Lappin (Eagle, 83 mins), Drury (Chadwick, 53 mins); Strihavka (Brown, 45 mins), Martin. Subs (not used) Gilks, Safri.
myfootballwriter's pre-season tour is sponsored by aggbag.co.uk