As ever, City boss Peter Grant refused to shy away from his side's failings. There still ought be a 'Work in Progress' sign stuck somewhere in the midst of his new-look Canary outfit.
But given the last two trips to Deepdale had yielded a big, fat zilch for the ever-faithful travelling support, yesterday's opening point was not to be sniffed at.
They might only have ben left with little more than Darel Russell's hopeful header to cling to in terms of attacking chances, but at the back end of the team there appeared to be a few improvements afoot.
For one thing Messrs Doherty and Shackell didn't look as if there were about to present Preston with all three points by half-time as they did the year before last; likewise David Marshall looked wholly unworried as the home side dropped corner after corner on his head.
Because it is such points, dug out of such unpromising outposts of the Championship as this particular corner of Lancashire, that can make all the difference come next May.
Throw another big spanner into Southampton's works at Carrow Road next Saturday after the Saints opening day disaster against Crystal Palace and Grant could claim 'Mission accomplished!' so far as the first week of the season is concerned.
“Delighted,” was Grant's simple verdict, after a week in which his managerial patience was sorely tested again by the sickness bug that invaded Colney on the back of that summer barbecue.
“We thought that after that Vitesse Arnhem game we'd be able to prepare for the whole week with no injuries and then we get the bombshell on Monday-Tuesday and had no group to train with. So it's been very, very difficult.”
It left Grant throwing Dion Dublin in up front alongside Chris Brown as a weakened Jamie Cureton was left on the bench; Jon Otsemobor was, likewise, not playing at full throttle.
“You could see it with the selection that I had to put together,” added Grant, happy to give credit were credit was due.
“Preston dominated from start to finish, but on the day they battled hard and they dug in. And, as I say, that had to do that during the week when we had hardly anyone on the training field – and you don't like doing that going into the new season.”
The point wasn't lost on anyone – this time last year, or the year before, they would have walked away empty-handed.
“Credit to them, it was probably a game that they would have lost last year. And that's one thing that we take from it – a clean sheet. They dug in; showed their resiliance – but still lacked that quality on the ball and that disappoints me.”
The width of a crossbar helped as Kevin Nicholls saw his late effort ping back off the junction of bar and post, while it needed two, big blocks from new skipper Jason Shackell towards the end to keep Norwich on the defensive straight and narrow.
Grant, however, was less impressed with Shackell, more impressed with the way that Julien Brellier took to his first outing in the Championship – the Frenchman proving cool, calm and very collected in that central, holding role.
“I thought Brellier was outstanding given that he's not done 90 minutes yet. He worked really hard and he'll be an asset to us; Brown led the line well without much service. But, as I say, it was more of a dig in – and very pleased with the result.”
As for Shackell's first major competitive outing with the skipper's armband on his sleeve, the manager was looking for further improvement.
“Some good decisions, some not so good,” said Grant. “I thought he made it difficult for himself at times positionally. He knows he's got to get much better, but can I criticise a back four after getting a clean sheet? Yes, I can…”
Deepdale is not the easiest place in the world to prise a point from, as Grant was ready to acknowledge.
“It's not an easy place to come to and we played much, much better last year and lost the game – so you've got to look at that side of it as well. So very pleased with the point, but Preston will be disappointed and I can understand why.”
Grant confirmed that both Cureton and Strihavka were both hit by the mystery bug – with the finger of suspicion now pointing towards more of a virulent virus than anything of a food-borne nature.
“Jamie had been looking very bright in training throughout the summer period. And then you get hit with the hammer blow that he's not going to be fit. David Strihavka was the same – he had a bit of illness round about him and he had an injury in midweek around his knee.
“So I just felt we had to go with Dion – and Dion had only come back to training on the Thursday. David trained on Thursday, Jamie only trained again yesterday (Friday). But credit to them for that, but we will be looking for better performances than that obviously.”
One word or warning – don't expect D Huckerby to provide the creative spark in the immediate future. His groin strain continues to linger.
“Has Darren got a chance for Tuesday? No,” said Grant, as the Canaries entertain Barnet in the Carling Cup.
“He's not got a chance yet – and it's not one I'm going to take a chance with. Not unless he tells me he's pain free completely and at this moment in time he still feels it a little bit.
“But that little bit is too much for me to take a chance on.”
Overall and yesterday's game was a classic of its Championship type – never, ever one for the footballing purist, rather a dirty job done. Expect more. This is, invariably, what it takes.
“You're going to have a lot of games like that and if we can dig in and draw 0-0s in games like that and not lose the game then that shows you that we're making a step forward because there's no doubt that we would have lost that game last year.”
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