Canary keeper David Marshall was under few illusions as to the level of Norwich's performance at Rochdale last night.
But after playing a major part in putting City's name in the hat for Saturday's third round draw with those two, spot-kick saves at Spotland, so the Norwich No1 could at least claim a job done.
“Obviously this is a difficult place to come and we didn't play well first-half especially,” said Marshall, who would be left keeping The Dale at bay long before last night's second round contest reached penalties. “So disappointed with the performance, but in the cup the main thing is to win. We said that before the game and we're in the next round.”
A fine diving save away to his right first denied Dale substitute Rory Prendergast before Marshall simply stood his ground and waited for home skipper Gary Jones to blast the fifth and final penalty straight at him. Jones duly did as requested and with Messrs Brown, Lappin, Martin and Huckerby all converting without a hitch, Norwich were through 4-3 on penalties, 1-1 on the night.
“I thought he was going to blast it – that's why I stayed in the middle,” said Marshall, who had already had his fingers singed by one, extra-time rocket from Tom Kennedy that he managed to push over.
“I took the chance – but maybe I wouldn't have took the chance if we were level on penalties. But by then we were one penalty up so I thought it was worth it and it worked out well.”
It was, he said, something that he doesn't practice. It is more a case of going with your instincts.
“Some of the boys take penalties in training – the first two penalties are alright, but then they start chipping them in and I think it becomes pretty pointless. You just get a feeling on the night and just go.”
In fairness, few Canary supporters would have held out much hope for a Norfolk success once the two-hours were up. There have been too many penalty heart-breaks over the years – the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, principal among them – for anyone to hold out much hope. Nor, certainly given the non-events of the first 45 minutes, was a spot-kick success exactly what Norwich deserved as the 91st club in the league had their Championship visitors wobbling on the ropes.
“I couldn't believe how poor we were in the first-half, to be honest,” said Marshall, with simple honesty.
“It is a difficult place to play – Stoke came here and ended up losing. It's a cup game; it is a hard place to go – but we have to look at our first-half performance and make sure that we don't start like that again. Because against Championship sides we would not get anything out of the game playing like that.”
City boss Peter Grant revealed afterwards that new-boy Ian Murray had been down with illness since the weekend and with Adam Drury not travelling due to his groin trouble, the Canary chief felt he had no option but to sling the ex-Rangers' utility man in again at full-back.
Dale winger Ben Muirhead took full advantage; goal-scorer Glenn Murray likewise left Murray in a sorry heap as he pinged in the opener off the base of Marshall's left upright.
Whipped off at the interval, Simon Lappin's return to left-back thereafter gave Norwich a better shape and poise – even if City's defending continued to have that hurried and desperate air to it.
Asked to put his finger on exactly why City stumbled about so badly from the start and Marshall was more at a loss for words. “I don't know – it's a one-off game; a one-off half, the first-half.
“But we were pretty poor first-half. But we know that; the boys know that. So I think it's just a case of concentrating and getting back to what we know what we're good at.”
Norwich's cause wasn't helped by the lengthy casualty list. Jason Shackell played through with an ankle knock while Darren Huckerby's gentle return from his summer-long groin woes proved anything but as the two-time City Player of the Year ended up playing the full two hours before then picking himself up and dinking a coolly-taken penalty home.
“I couldn't believe Hucks,” said Marshall. “That he managed to get through it, to be honest. And there are a few injuries. But everybody's the same; everybody gets injuries so we just have to get on with it and deal with it.
“We got through it tonight and now we've just got to look forward to Cardiff.”
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