New Canary skipper Jason Shackell didn't quite go as far as 'Job, well done…' more 'Job done…' after the Canaries racked up their first point of the new season on the back of yesterday's 0-0 draw at Preston North End.
It was never pretty; on occasion, Norwich rode their luck in familiar fashion – in less familiar fashion, however, their luck held. And if fortune favours those that dig in a little harder, then they rightly deserved a share of the spoils.
After all, David Marshall barely had a big save to make; the closest the Lilywhites came was when Kevin Nicholls slapped an edge-of-the-box effort against the bar with ten minutes left.
“We know we didn't play up to our full standards – every single one of us – so it could have been better today,” said the 23-year-old, giving an early hint that he might just rise to the occasion captaincy-wise.
“But at the same time we've come to Preston – which is a hard place to come – and come away with a valuable point.
In fairness to both Shackell and Gary Doherty, both pulled out big blocks at big moments. And while it wasn't always the beautiful game as the ball was simply heaved clear on occasion, decent seasons tend to be based on getting decent results at places like Deepdale. Decent performances you can save for home if you're picking up points on your travels.
“There were times last season when we would have lost that game – quite comfortably,” said Shackell, echoing the manager's earlier thoughts.
“We really dug in at times today and although they had a lot of set-pieces, it actually felt quite solid to be honest.”
Preston certainly delivered a decent corner; they never really got much on to them as Marshall, Shackell and Company held firm.
“We've got to take the positives – we dug in, we battled. We know we didn't play well, but we've got a lot more to come – it's the opening day which always throws out a few funny results and we've come to a place like Preston and come away with a 0-0.”
The point is you could be Southampton or Sheffield Wednesday – neither of whom exactly flew out of the blocks yesterday. Wolves will be disappointed; ditto Charlton.
“It's just a case of getting back up to the pace of The Championship. We've come out for the first game; they want to do well; it's high tempo; the adrenaline kicks in; it wasn't the prettiest game we've ever played – but we're not always going to play pretty football we've come here and got a good result.”
A year ago and City were losing; two years ago and City were losing – as the Shackell-Doherty combo delivered an own goal apiece before the interval to kill the game stone dead. Improvement, on the score, is not hard. Shackell gave credit to two of the new boys – Julien Brellier and Darel Russell – who dug in in front of him.
“Last year maybe we would have caved in; they would have got that little breakthrough and maybe we would have gone under.Today, we've got the added physicalness of Rusty (Russell) and Julian who have come in and done extremely well today. And I just think at times today we were just making that extra yard; making that extra tackle which maybe at times last year we might have just not made.”
The skipper wasn't reaching for BBQ-gate as an excuse – even if the manager might have been sorely tempted to after his best-laid pre-season plans went out of the window.
“I don't think it's been to bad – all the boys were fit today, bar a couple Hucks (Darren Huckerby) and Jimmy Smith. It's been OK; some of the preparation hasn't been ideal with a few boys off here and there, but, no, we've got no excuses.
“We've come here with a fully fit squad and we're fairly happy to have come away 0-0, to be honest.”
And, of course, at some stage both Huckerby and Smith will be bolted back onto the front of Grant's plans. At which stage you would like to hope that the Norfolk side might have one or two more attacking ideas up their sleeve. A looping Russell header straight into the keeper's arms was pretty much the only shot on target they could muster yesterday.
But nick points on your travels, win you home games and – if the old good keeper formula of being worth an extra ten points in a season is anywhere near the mark – Norwich won't be far away.
“That's always the aim,” said Shackell – you want to pick up as many points as you can away from home and we need to make Carrow Road a fortress. But it was a good start today.”
Personally, he shared the manager's opinion – could do a lot better.
“Am I happy individually? Not overly. I did some good things; a few bad things as well. A few of my clearances were a little bit sloppy today which is something for me to work on. There were a few good blocks at the end which is always nice, but we've all got stuff that we need to work on over the week.”
The next trick is to bolt a few more tricks onto the front of the side. In fairness to Chris Brown, fresh from his nose op he toiled manfully in the cause with never really having much to work with. That's the danger of playing a relatively narrow three in midfield; you miss the width to stretch teams open.
“We didn't create enough, but we didn't help the forwards with some of our service and, like I said, it was a very scrappy game. But we had Cureton on the bench; Chris Martin who wasn't even involved; we had Dave Strihavka on the bench; Browny, Dion… We've got so much going forward now which is nice to have. We've got a big physical presence and, hopefully, we can then bring on the pace of Hucks when he's fit.
“We've got a lot to work on – but we can be positive.”