Gary Doherty's 80th rescue act spared City all manner of blushes after being held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Bury this afternoon.
Seven places off the foot of the Football League, Andy Bishop's 70th minute header had put the Shakers within touching distance of a famous third round win before Dion Dublin rose to meet Jamie Cureton's cross and pushed the panic button in the heart of that Bury defence.
Mark Fotheringham drilled a low shot to Robert Provett's right – City's first shot on target, for the record – and as the ball span out off his out-stretched arm there was Doherty to clip the ball home for a leveller and the chance for everyone to meet again at Gigg Lane in ten days time.
Darren Huckerby was one-on-one with the keeper before the end; as was substitute Glynn Hurst. Three late corners piled the pressure on the Shakers. Dublin would stab into a clutch of shirts; Cureton would poke wide. In the end, however, the Shakers got what their efforts deserved. A nice little pay-day back home.
Pre-match a mixture of New Year knocks and January transfer speculation combined to leave the Canaries fielding a curious-looking line-up for the FA Cup home clash with Bury this afternoon with the early word suggesting that Darel Russell was about to start the game at right-back.
Not that Jon Otsemobor was unavailable. He was sat on the bench where one or two more surprises awaited.
More of that later. With Jason Shackell having hobbled his way through the latter stages of the 1-1 draw at Palace, so Dublin found himself drafted back into the centre-half role.
Which, on Palace reckoning, left a big hole alongside Cureton. In theory that might have gone to Ched Evans, but with no definite answer forthcoming out of Eastlands about Glenn Roeder's request for an extended loan deal, so Chris Martin was handed another chance to impress.
Which, given that Chris Brown could not even find his way onto the bench, would merely fuel the speculation that Brown could yet be on his way this window with Doncaster Rovers the one club – thus far – linked to his signature.
If Roeder was intent on putting his best foot forward, so he found space for both Lee Croft on the right and Darren Huckerby on the left; in between Matty Pattison would be afforded a big, warm welcome from the home faithful after agreeing his full-time switch to Norfolk yesterday. As woud Ryan Bertrand if the Chelsea teenager made a second-half appearance following his loan arrival yesterday.
If his presence on the bench was pretty much expected, few would have bet on Ryan Jarvis figuring large in Roeder's thinking. But minus Brown, there he was – on the verge of making his first appearance for the new boss since his return from a loan spell at Kilmarnock.
Equally, Steven Arnold's presence on the bench may tell its own story with regard to Peterborough's ?400,000 bid for Joe Lewis. The England Under-21 keeper had reportedly told Posh boss Darren Ferguson that he wished to ponder over the move to London Road over the weekend – clearly Roeder felt that a FA Cup third round tie would be one distraction too many.
As for the struggling Shakers, the biggest welcome would await 39-year-old Colin Woodthorpe, the last still-playing survivor of City's 1993 trip to the San Sio home of Inter Milan. He would line-up in the heart of the Bury defence alongside skipper Dave Challinor – once of Tranmere Rovers and a long throw fame.
The game was all of 43 seconds own when Martin contrived to produce the miss of the season. Huckerby – newly-crowned PFA Championship Player of the Month for December – twisted away from a hapless-looking Andy Parrish before coolly knocking a teasing cross to the far post where Croft waited.
His first-time, volleyed cross back across the face of an open Shakers goal might have just eluded Cureton, but Martin was perfectly placed to open the scoring. Instead, he managed to scuff a two-yard header wide of Robert Provett's right-hand post.
Cureton's bright and inventive start to the afternoon was confirmed in the 14th minute with a neatly-executed overhead kick which flashed no more than a yard away from the junction of bar and post from some 12-yards distant. David Marshall had yet to virtually touch the ball before David Buchanan dropped a free header into his arms in the 17th minute.
The sight of Roeder arriving on the touchline from his previous perch in the directors' box in the 23rd minute probably told its own story. He wanted to see a greater edge to City's play; he wanted that Championship advantage to count.
Gary Doherty would ping an excellent ball in for Huckerby to chase; ball reached, his pull-back fell to Martin who, on second touch, could only side-foot wide when a first-time blast might have sufficed. It was, in fairness, turning into that sort of game – flashes of quite good followed by periods of pretty poor. And moments of old-fashioned awful.
Camara, Huckerby and Fotheringham would combine to create the next golden opportunity, as the City full-back cut his way to the by-line before picking out Cureton in Martin-like territory three yards in front of Provett's right-hand post. Once again the finish was awful as Cureton spooned it a foot wide. That should have been No2. For those short on New Year goodwill, you could throw in ten-yard, near-post Dublin header and make it three.
A point the home faithful made clear come the half-time whistle – one, no doubt, that an equally frustrated Roeder would make in the dressing room as he hauled Martin off at the break and gave Jarvis Snr his latest chance to make a mark. It was his first, senior appearance since December. 2006.
Not that too much changed. Norwich had still to produce a shot on target before Richard Baker drilled a 25-yard effort low and straight at Marshall in the 54th minute as the Shakers began to grow in belief and confidence. Two minutes later and a low cross would just skip away from top-scorer Andy Bishop after he inched ahead of Russell.
Roeder's patience was wearing thin as he made he second change of the afternoon, replacing Pattison with Otsemobor – Russell returning to centre midfield; Otsemobor taking up station where Mother Nature intended at right-back. Come the hour mark and Norwich were, just, starting to develop a head of steam.
Which ran out ten minutes later as Bishop thumped a big, 70th minute header beyond Marshall. Brian Barry-Murphy swung a deep free-kick into the City penalty area. Marshall thought about coming; decided against it as the Canary defence allowed two white shirts to find themselves unmarked. Bishop took charge and smashed his header beyond Marshall.
Bertrand – on for less than 30 seconds – must have wondered just what he had let himself in for for the next five months as Roeder's managerial reign hit its first major pot-hole. 'Championship… You're having a laugh…' sang the gleeful Shakers fans in sight of one of the day's bigger upsets.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Marshall; Russell, Camara, Dublin, Doherty; Croft (Bertrand, 69 mins), Pattison (Otsemobor, 58 mins), Fotheringham, Huckerby; Cureton, Martin (Jarvis, 45 mins). Subs (from): Arnold, Lappin, Bertrand.
Bury (5-4-1): Provett; Parrish, Woodthorpe, Futcher, Challinor, Haslam; Baker, Barry-Murphy, Buchanan, Adams (Hurst, 88 mins); Bishop. Subs (from): Mangan, Morgan, Stephens, Dorney.
Man of the Match: Gary Doherty.
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