New Canary keeper David Marshall proved the star of the show at Carrow Road tonight as the 22-year-old pulled out all the stops to limit Premiership West Ham United to just a 2-1 win.
But for his instinctive reactieons to deny Lee Bowyer and Bobby Zamora, Norwich could have been staring a morale-sapping rout in the face.
Instead, a far improved second-half showing found substitutes Lee Croft and Chris Brown combining for a well-deserved strike; in the end, however, those first-half goals from Jonathan Spector and old-boy Dean Ashton – handed a very rough reception on his return – proved the difference.
Ever one to spring a surprise or two, Grant found space for Darel Russell in his starting line-up after suggesting just yesterday that he may break his eighth signing of the summer in gently given his lack of match action at The Britannia Ground.
The City boss did, however, continue to keep Messrs Brellier and Huckerby firmly wreathed in cotton wool; he may yet do the same come Friday's final dress rehearsal against Vitesse Arnhem.
In Brellier's absence – and that of the, ahem, distracted Youssef Safri and the injured Jimmy Smith – Andy Hughes found himself making up the numbers in midfield with Luke Chadwick floating about Hucks-like sometimes over on the left; sometimes just behind David Strihavka and Jamie Cureton.
One other point of interest emerged as the teams arrived on the pitch – they were led out not by Adam Drury, but by Jason Shackell. Given the stature of tonight's game, you could not help but wonder whether or not that wasn't a decision for the season made.
As for the visitors, there was of course no shortage of Canary connections with Messrs Ashton, Bellamy, Zamora, Davenport and Green all having connections big or small to this neck of the woods.
Ashton prompted the most interest – not only for the fact that tonight's game was only the second start in a year for the would-be England No9 following his horrific ankle injury last summer, but also for the curious, platinum blond crew-cut he sported on his return to Norfolk.
First chance fell to the Hammers as Luis Boa Morte's deep corner found Zamora rising highest and his downward header found David Marshall saving confidently low to his left. He went one – if not two better – seconds later as Zamora slung a fierce drive through the Canary box where it was met first time by Bowyer. It looked a peach of a goal until Marshall threw a big, Scottish glove into the air and instinctively clawed the ball out.
The Barclay rose to their feet to salute a fabulous save.
Zamora was next to test the 22-year-old's mettle; again he rose to the challenge, stretching his left leg out to divert the ball away to safety. It was all saying very little about Norwich's defensive shape and cohesion; speaking volumes for the new No1's confidence and ability.
At the other end, Jon Otsemobor thumped a 25-yard free-kick straight into a West Ham wall, while both Cureton and Strihavka struggled to get much of a glimpse of Robert Green's goal. But it was all entertaining enough for both the live Setanta TV cameras and a bumper, pre-season Carrow Road crowd.
The night's opening goal came in the 27th minute. Zamora set the move in motion as he moved in from the left and fed Boa Morte. He, in turn, slipped the ball into the path of an over-lapping Jonathan Spector who had long left Hughes trailing. Given that it was his first-ever career goal, he took it with a certain aplomb as a helpless Marshall advanced.
By rights, the visitors should have doubled their advantage as the impressive Zamora sprang clear down the right and pulled the ball back for a lurking Boa Morte. His eventual shot was borderline embarrassing as it dribbled apologetically wide of Marshall's right upright. Chadwick stirred the home faithful into life with a stinging, 22-yarder that flew straight into the hands of the waiting Green.
Four minutes before the break and Ashton kept the home fans amused by driving wide from the penalty spot after Boa Morte had skipped away from Marshall. The Hammers' striker had the last laugh, however, seconds later as Bowyer released Boa Morte; Marshall saved the first shot gamely enough, but the ball span out to Ashton who calmly picked his spot in the bottom corner.
But for those three, big Marshall saves and some distinctly summer finishing, tonight's friendly contest could have long been over. Premiership opposition or not, there was space a-plenty opening up in, around and behind that City back four.
With Brown having replaced Strihavka at the break, Marshall blotted his copybook briefly by coming and horribly missing a regulation cross; Gary Doherty was on hand to mop up.
Chadwick's impressive summer almost continued six minutes into the second-half after he curled a decent, first-time effort into the side-netting after an untidy, half-clearance from Spector.
With the game already enjoying a far greater edge, the introduction of Croft for Cureton in the 56th minute lit the blue touch paper as, 60 seconds later, he delivered a glorious hanging cross from the right that fellow substitute Brown gleefully headed home beyond a stranded Green. It was all Norwich deserved after stepping up at least two gears after the interval.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Marshall; Otsemobor, Doherty, Shackell (Spillane, 90 mins), Drury; Hughes, Fotheringham, Russell (Martin, 65 mins); Chadwick (Dublin, 79 mins); Strihavka (Brown, 45 mins), Cureton (Croft, 56 mins). Subs (not used): Gilks, Cave-Brown, Rossi Jarvis, Ryan Jarvis.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Neill (McCartney, 45 mins), Upson, Collins (Davenport, 45 mins), Spector; Mullins, Bowyer, Noble (Etherington, 70 mins), Boa Morte; Ashton (Cole, 79 mins), Zamora (Bellamy, 66 mins). Subs (not used): Wright, Gabbidon, Pantsil, Reid.
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