City full-back Jon Otsemobor was breathing a sigh of relief at Spotland last night – well aware that the Canaries had only nicked through by the narrowest of margins against lowly Rochdale.
It was a hair-raising night for the Championship side and the 400 or so Canary supporters who ticked Spotland off their list of league grounds.
One regular muttered that he had watched the first-half “through his hands”; it was probably the longest 45 minutes of Ian Murray's footballing life as the City new-boy found everything and everyone conspiring against him – not least Adam Drury's untimely injury that found City boss Peter Grant lifting him off his sick bed and sending him into battle again at left-back.
With the returning Darren Huckerby doing his usual thing somewhere up by the half-way line, it gave Murray plenty to think about as namesake Glenn and winger Ben Muirhead went to work on him.
Come the break and Grant spared him further embarrassment as his evening ended early. Away on the opposite side and Otsemobor was the first to admit that the Canaries were far from firing on all cylinders before eventually claiming that third round ticket with that 4-3 penalty shoot-out success.
In fact, they struggled to find a cylinder; let alone one that sparked into life.
“I thought in the first-half we were poor – very poor, in fact,” said the Canary full-back, fast proving one of the big success stories of the summer.
“But in the second-half we got our act together a bit and we deserved to get a goal – or maybe more. But with the first-half performance we were just glad to get through.”
In common with most observers, Otsemobor struggled to explain just what went wrong.
“Can I put a finger on what went wrong? No, not really,” said the 24-year-old former Liverpool starlet. He did sense a case of The Dale rising to their very own 'cup final' – much in the way that they did to oust Stoke City in the first round.
“No disrespects to Rochdale, but this is a big occasion for them and the players probably treated it a little different to whoever they've got this Saturday and had the previous Saturday,” he said. For the record, they play host to MK Dons.
“And that means that we've got to match them for effort which we didn't do in the first-half. And I think that's what it was down to, basically.”
As ever, the fact that the Canaries arrived with all manner of bumps, bruises, knocks, niggles and the obligatory illnesses – David Strihavka being ruled out with a throat infection – ensured that Otsemobor was one of the few men left standing come the end of the contest.
Certainly skipper Jason Shackell appeared to be struggling badly with an ankle knock come the end of the game; Darren Huckerby's hour-long run-out ended as a two-hour marathon; Dion Dublin's 38-year-old body could likewise have done with an easier night out after he bagged his second goal in as many games with a wonderful, flicked finish from a Simon Lappin cross.
All three will be asked to go again for this weekend's home clash with Cardiff City. Otsemobor – one of the more powerful 'units' in Grant's newly-built side – doesn't see that as a problem.
“We wanted to get the game done and dusted within the 90, but obviously the way things went we've had to play two hours of football, but the lads are fit enough and, to be fair, it's not really a problem for us.”
Nor, it seems, would have been taking one of the dreaded spot-kicks. In fairness, the City full-back has already proved that he has something of a blast up his sleeve – be it from a free-kick or, as he showed on Saturday with that thrilling forward surge and drive against Hull City, be it at the end of a 40-yard run.
In the event, however, an orderly queue had already formed up in front of him and – to their credit – Chris Brown, Simon Lappin, Chris Martin and Darren Huckerby didn't put a foot wrong as David Marshall did his bit to deliver that third round ticket.
“I'm not really a penalty taker, but if I had to take one – don't get me wrong – I'll stand up and do my duties.
“But I'm happy for the lads that like taking pens, to take the pens. I'm not afraid – but if there are five lads that want to take penalties, I'll let them step up before me. But when it comes down to it, I've no problem with taking a penalty.”
As for his own, individual display, Otsemobor suggested he could do better. For whatever reason, there were no surging runs of the KC Stadium variety – big, barn-storming bursts that suggested he could well play at a higher level again; that he was in the Liverpool first team as a youngster for a reason.
“I thought I could have got on the ball a bit more – especially down my side. But, overall, like I said with the first-half performance we're just happy to go through.”
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