City boss Glenn Roeder could be sorely tempted to hand on-loan Manchester City youngster Ched Evans a first start tomorrow night after singing the teenager's praises at the Britannia Ground on Saturday.
For while the second 45 minutes might have seen Norwich squander that hard-earned 1-0 advantage courtesy of Darren Huckerby's fifth minute strike as Stoke's aerial bombardment of the Canary goal finally took its toll, it also saw a 35-minute outing from the Welsh Under-21 striker.
Roeder continued to be impressed. Evans had, after all, only arrived in Norfolk on someone else's recommendation – that of England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce.
The more Roeder sees, the more he likes.
“Another positive I would take from the game is young Evans who came on – for 18-years-old, I thought he did very well.”
The highlight was the Gazza-style flick over Ryan Shawcross' head and the first-time blast that instantly followed. Alas it rose just over Steve Simonsen's goal, but it gave a fair indication of the young man's confidence and power.
“It was a fantastic piece of skill when he then volleyed over the crossbar,” said Roeder. “It would have been a marvellous goal.
“And what I've seen so far from him I'm very pleased that Sven Goran Eriksson has let me have him until January 1 – and he'll play plenty of football while he's here.”
The impression was that Roeder's switch to 4-4-2 was a horse for an away-day course. And that as he did after the interval, the Canary manager will chase games in a traditional 4-4-2 line-up – particularly at home.
All of which will give him one or two interesting decisions to make over the course of this week. Jamie Cureton or Evans alongside Dion Dublin? Darren Huckerby to start ahead of Matty Pattison? Pattison to parner Mark Fotheringham next Saturday as Russell serves his one-match ban for picking up his fifth booking of the season at the Britannia?
And whether, finally, to risk Luke Chadwick's damaged shoulder in the heat of Championship battle? At some point, Roeder revealed, the one-time Stoke and Manchester United winger will need an operation to sew the weakened joint back in – something that, you presume, would entail a reasonable lay-off.
It would also ensure that 27-year-old Chadwick remains one of the more unfortunate City players injury-wise. Since switching from the Britannia this timelast year, the Cambridge-based attacking midfielder has been cursed with a stop-start Canary career.
It would be rough justice indeed if Chadwick – fresh from grabbing that excellent opener in the 2-0 home win over Coventry – should find that Portman Road collision still coming back to haunt him.
“His shoulder is a concern,” said Roeder, who had “rested” Chadwick for the trip to Stoke this weekend.
The player himself revealed last week that the shoulder that popped out and back in again in that horrific collision with an advertising hoarding at Portman Road on his Canary debut some 12 months ago continues to plague him.
“He's prepared to battle on knowing full well that it will probably pop out again over the next weeks and months,” said the City chief.
“And there will have to come a time when we say: 'Enough is enough…,” said Roeder, one to always put safety first.
“I'll look after him – I would never put someone's career at risk. But our medical team and our consultants tell us that he's OK to carry on playing until such times as he just has to go and have, basically, his shoulder stitched back in.”
As for Russell's fifth booking – and the suggestion was that that was also Gary Doherty's fifth yellow of the season – Roeder merely saw that as an opportunity that knocked for someone else.
“We'll have to cope with it,” he said. “What I would say is that it creates an opportunity for somebody else.”
Roeder also has an opportunity to set the record straight against Plymouth on Tuesday night after seeing such an improvement in his charges since that last meeting.
The Pilgrims have, of course, changed managers in-between times with Ian Holloway disappearing to Leicester City and Paul Sturrock returning to his former haunts.
But with Dublin back, Huckerby eligible, Taylor fit and Camara, Evans and Pattison both all at the club now, so it is a much-changed Norwich side that awaits the Pilgrims as they make their own, long journey from one side of the country to the other.
“This was a much improved performance to what we had against Plymouth four weeks ago,” said the Canary chief. “And I'm looking forward to playing Plymouth on Tuesday night at home so quickly after losing to them 3-0.
“The three performances since we were very poor against Plymouth have been hugely improved.”
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