New City boss Glenn Roeder was a less than satisfied man after this afternoon's thrilling East Anglian derby ended honours even at 2-2 – he was convinced the Canaries should have ripped all three points out of Ipswich's hands.
Done that – and given that Norwich were two goals adrift at the break courtesy of all-too easy strikes from Messrs Lee and Counago – and today's live Sky game would have gone down amongst the all-time greats.
Even at 2-2, given the abyss that the Norfolk club were firmly staring at come half-time, today's contest is still right up there with the very best of them. As a derby clash the only thing it lacked was a winner.
Otherwise it ticked every box – great goals and marvellous saves all served up with a side salad of controversy, passion and commitment. It even had a late red card as darren Huckerby was adjudged to have aimed an ugly stamp at Jon Walters' ankle deep into stoppage time. The moment that Jamie Cureton grabbed the leveller with a wonderful, flicked finish over Neil Alexander will go down in derby folklore for the reception it received.
“It was very satisfying that the boys put in so much effort – what wasn't so satisfying was the effort they put in and the skill that they showed didn't take all three points,” said the new Canary manager, who got a full rendition of 'Glenn Roeder's Yellow and Green Army…' in the midst of a pulsating second-half in which big chances came and went at either end.
Given that before the break Alexander had pulled off a fabulous save to deny a near post Dublin header and Jason Shackell had hit the base of a post with a fine, downward header – sandwiched either side of Cureton missing two, gilt-edged chances – and City did comfortably nick it on chances created. That said Town substitute Danny Haynes almost produced one of his usual party pieces at the very death only for David Marshall to bravely block at the Town youngster's feet with the ball then looping up and onto the top of the bar.
It was just one of those games.
“In my opinion, we were the better team throughout the game,” said Roeder, whose decision to bring Martin Taylor in on loan on Thursday brought an immediate return – 'Tiny' meeting Simon Lappin's in-swinging corner with firm, downward header that squirmed beyond Alexander off a covering Owen Garvan. It was Cureton's leveller that lifted the roof and, for once in recent times, gave a real sense of togetherness to the place.
“I said to the supporters that we are in this situation – and we have to accept it,” said Roeder, with today's point still leaving his new charges five points away from Championship safety. “The time for moaning and groaning isn't now. And if we all love the club, then we've got to get behind the players because they have got to go out and play with that kind of pride and passion every game now.”
They had, he said, set themselves a standard today – and only that kind of standard will spare Norwich from the drop. Only that kind of standard will spare Norwich from returning to their old habits at home to league leaders Watford on Tuesday night.
“If they do it once, I can't see why they can't do it every game. What we have to make them realise is that's the standard that they've set; that's the benchmark. That's how it has to be for the rest of the season.”
Interestingly for those looking for a difference between the new regime and the old of Peter Grant, Roeder revealed that he had not gone into the dressing room at the break all guns blazing.
“I didn't go in there screaming – I'm not a screamer, anyway,” he said. “I didn't go in there shouting because that's the last thing the players needed because they knew they'd played well. And they knew that they didn't deserve to be a goal behind, never mind two.
“But we'd spoken about this in the week. That if we did find ourselves a goal behind, we needed to find the ability and the mental strength to play as if you're a goal up, not a goal behind.”
Clearly some sort of penny had dropped; some sort of lesson had been learnt. “You'd have never have known that we were two-nil down in the first five or ten minutes of the second-half by the way that the boys attacked the game,” said Roeder, with another lesson awaiting.
“The fun that they will find out is that if we come in 1-0 up and we're playing poorly, then I'll be more vocal than I needed to be when we were 2-0 down and playing so well.”
Whatever initial magic dust Roeder has thrown about the place, his midfield pairing of Darel Russell and Julien Brellier certainly looked reborn as they snapped around the ankles of Owen Garvan and Sylvain Legwinski while Luke Chadwick fully justified winning the nod ahead of Lee Croft away on the right.
Even his decision to throw John Hartson into the fray as Dion Dublin departed with tight hamstrings bore fruit. Hartson was a total nuisance to the Town defence – it was his superb, flick-on that released Cureton for his leveller. As ever, however, the ball had to go to Hartson; he wasn't about to go a-looking.
“John's a presence – you can see that,” said Roeder, giving a little insight into the way he fired the big man into life.
“I said to him at half-time: 'John, you love these situations…' And his eyes were sparkling; he couldn't wait to get back out; he was in a win-win situation; we're 2-0 down; we got back to 2-2 and got a result.
“We know he's not as fit as he can be. But we know what he can do; we know what he can't do – not in his present physical condition. But looking at the positives, looking at him now, we know that if we get the ball into him, he'll hold the ball up and he's very difficult to get the ball off of.
“If we can just get regular crosses into the box if and when John's in the team and they find his head, then they'll end up in the back of the net.”
He also had a special word of praise for Cureton's fifth and most important goal of the season. “I don't think people realise how hard that was. It was a glaring chance again, but to have the feel in his boots to lift the ball delicately over the top of the goalkeeper so there was enough softness in it to drop under the crossbar was a goal worthy of the Premiership, the other two chances were a 'goal' worthy of… Well, you decide.”