City boss Glenn Roeder this afternoon revealed just how seven into five would go by naming just two of his loan rangers on the bench – Matthew Bates and 18-year-old Reading winger, James Henry.
That was always the interesting point after this week's loan flurry – that whilst Roeder can have up to eight loan players on their books at any one time, be it a mixture of three-months or window-to-windows, only five can ever feature in a 16-man squad at any one time.
Which, therefore, is always going to leave at least two sat in the stands. Or at least until the final game of the season away at Sheffield Wednesday by when Messrs Bates, Henry and Gibbs will have returned to their respective employers on April 28.
In the event, Roeder opted not to disrupt a winning team as the Canaries – complete with a fit-again Mark Fotheringham – went into battle against the Lilywhites unchanged from the starting line-up against Southampton on Tuesday night.
The other notable absentee was, of course, Darren Huckerby who suggested he was match fit again in mid-week with a typically darting run into the Saints box in the latter stages of that 1-0 win.
But with Henry in every likelihood in to replace Lee Croft as and when he tired after the hour-mark and Matty Pattison offering a more defensive-minded left-sided option, there was no room for the 32-year-old City favourite. His suggestion yesterday that, perhaps, he had no part to play in the longer-term future of the Canaries was clearly one of the talking points again – particularly given at some stage Arsenal starlet Kieran Gibbs would come 'on stream' and again look at their left-sided 'beat'.
As for the visitors, their biggest loss was ex-City forward Chris Brown whose red card in mid-week ruled him out of an interesting return to his former haunts.
For having barely troubled a score-sheet in his 12 months in Norwich, Brown's flying start for Preston – two man of the match efforts in four games, by all accounts – made him odds-on to grab a goal back at Carrow Road.
In his absence, in came Neil Mellor for a game that could do so much to shape either team's respective fortunes for the rest of the season.
Norwich win and they could suddenly find themselves a tantalising six points short of the play-off places with 48 points still up for grabs between now and May. Likewise, it would nip Preston's own recent improved run in the bud.
Lilywhites win and condemn City to only their first defeat in 11 Championship outings, and the tables completely turn – the doubts belong to Norfolk, the hope to Lancashire.
Team-wise, Roeder's vote of confidence in the Southampton side looked like clever man-management. On the one hand, he had shown loyalty to the players that had dug the club out of that almighty hole they had found themselves in; on the other, each and every man knew there was someone breathing heavily down the back of their neck – eyes firmly fixed on nicking their shirt.