City boss Glenn Roeder left Layer Road yesterday evening with a hard-earned point tucked firmly up his sleeve after a battling 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Colchester United.
Coming into the Us game on the back of that recent winning sequence, many might have hoped that the Canaries could have lit up the nation's TV screens with the kind of first-half performannce that City delivered against play-off chasing Sheffield United a week ago.
In the event, however, the game descended into a pretty ugly, scratchy-type affair with neither side doing too much more than the other in terms of winning the game.
A sloppy, set-piece goal for Colchester's 78th minute opener suggested that one or two old habits die hard, while Danny Granville's 89th minute own goal that levelled the points and the contest summed up the general tone of the clash – messy.
That all said, six weeks ago and the moment that Kevin McLeod latched onto a ghastly miscued header by the on-loan Mo Camara and City would have been down and out. The fact that they had the spirit and the resolve to dig something out of the game – albeit via Granville's hapless poke into the corner off a Gary Doherty knock-down – kept the Roeder pot bubbling quietly along.
The had not, as they threatened to do for the last 10 or so minutes, slipped back into the bottom three. As things now stand, three points cover eight teams – all a far cry from when the Canaries were five points adrift at the very bottom of the table.
“The way that the game's panned out with Colchester scoring as late as they did and with us scoring even later, we'll have to say it's a point gained,” said Roeder, readily admitting that it was not one of his side's better recent performances. They played poorly and nicked a point away from home via a last minute own goal – given Norwich's current predicament, you take that.
“Pleased with the point, but disappointed that we didn't do better – because we can do a lot better,” added Roeder, with genuine moments of quality in short supply. A fabulous, one-handed save from City No1 David Marshall to deny Us striker Clive Platt was one; a marvellous jinking run and tight control from second-half substitute Darren Huckerby was another.
Otherwise, it was all ugly graft as the ball found itself being heaved from one end of the pitch to the other without anyone really, ever putting their foot on it in-between.
The Colchester opener was likely to figure large in any Sunday post-mortem. Not Camara's finest hour.
“It's the time of year at Christmas when presents are given away – and that's what it was,” said Roeder. “It was a gift.
“Before I came here today I went to see the first-half of Ipswich-Scunthorpe – we play Scunthorpe next week – and there were gifts in that game as well,” he added, with Town eventually winning 3-2 against another of the Championship's struggling pack.
“So it seems to be a disease this weekend,” said Roeder, pointing a finger at Norwich's inability to string any decent passing together as the reason for their Layer Road struggles.
“Against Sheffield United last weekend, the first 45 minutes was the best we've played since I've joined the club – and we shifted the ball really slickly and well. And I thought that we would do that today.
“And we didn't. But the one thing that I will not allow anyone ever to say against this group of players that I've worked with over the last six weeks is that they don't give everything – they try and try and try. And try again.
“And there was only that drive and commitment and determination that got us an equaliser. They won't give in,” he said, sensing his stamp starting to emerge on his new charges.
“They know me now; they know my style; the way I want things. And the one thing that I've told them is: 'Yep, we can do better – and we will do better…' But the one thing is that we will never give in and we will fight all the way. And it was only that fight that got us the point. An important point.”
The big surprise team selection-wise was the sight of Darren Huckerby on the bench as Matty Pattison added his usual eager grit on the left-hand side of the City midfield for that opening hour. Up against the lively Mark Yeates, keeping it tight early was probably a decent policy – even if it was Huckerby's arrival that started to open the contest up.
“Darren's back went into a spasm on Wednesday and literally had to be carried off the training ground. And although he was declared fit on Friday, I didn't want to take a chance and start him. I just thought he could have an impact late on in the game – if we saved him for the last half hour or so. And he very nearly did.”
The fact that when the dust had finally settled, Norwich remained out of the bottom three was, said Roeder, psychologically very important. If the Canaries can just avoid getting beaten at Scunthorpe this Saturday, then those two, back-to-back Christmas home clashes against first Charlton Athletic and the Wolves offer a perfect opportunity for the Norfolk side to blast their way into the New Year.
Both games will have the same potential 'buzz' about them as the Sheffield United clash; meaty Championship fixtures which the reborn Canaries can really sink their teeth into.
“No-one wants to be in that bottom three – we certainly don't want to. We what to climb a lot, lot higher,” said Roeder.
“But I said when I came here there would be many ups and downs through a long winter – nothing is going to be remedied overnight. We came here on the back of four wins out of five.
“We're now four wins, a defeat and a draw and we're doing very, very nicely at the moment. But it's a long winter – we're not just going to get clear of the relegation situation with those six performances. We know that we have to keep going and we have to keep picking up points.”