City boss Glenn Roeder elevated yesterday's 1-0 win over FA Cup heroes Barnsley as the most satisfying yet of his four-month managerial reign at Carrow Road.
It was never one where swash-buckling football reigned supreme. And, yes, going forward he would be looking long and hard about Norwich's need to give themselves a greater margin for error – to put teams to be early on the back of a 2-0 or a 3-0 success.
But for a big Championship triumph in the face of suspension adversity – not to mention keeping the Norfolk side on their two-point-per-game-course after last weekend's hic-cup at Leicester City – yesterday's success was right up there with the very best.
“That was one of the most satisfying victories I've had since I've been here – for lots of different reasons,” said the City chief, ahead of jetting out with his squad on a three-day break to Spain.
“It was a very young team – six players under the age of 22; not obviously played together before, but we'd worked with that team all week; it had lots of qualities in the performance,” he added, as City survived the odd first-half scare before winning the game with the sweetest of left-foot strikes by stand-in skipper Jamie Cureton.
The biggest alarm bell rang when David Marshhall came too late for a deep punt forward from Rob Kozluk and it needed the covering Jon Otsemobor to whip Daniel Nardiello's poked shot off the line. That apart, however, and the new-look centre-half partnership of Gary Doherty and Alex Pearce proved more than a match for anything the Tykes could throw at them, while elsewhere it was a case of young man rolling up their sleeves and digging deep for the Canary cause.
Not for the first time this season, Lee Croft ran himself into the gound down the right; Ryan Bertrand proved strong and willing at left-back, while Arsenal starlet Kieran Gibbs grew in confidence and stature in the heart of a City midfield minus the suspended duo of Darel Russell and Mark Fotheringham.
“We knew that we were playing a team that had just beaten Liverpool; they were on a high; they had a couple of chances early on; Jon Otsemobor cleared one off the line; Marshy (Marshall) made a good save, but after that what else did Marshy have to do? Nothing.” said Roeder.
“So I haven't got a doubt that the three points were well deserved and there were some terrific performances from young boys – teenagers.”
It was a result that catapulted the Canaries into the top half of the table for the first time this season – or at least since the table had a meaningful look to it.
“I think it is a miracle,” said Roeder simply. “I do.
“Eight points in November? I think you ask anyone of our supporters that before the end of February you would have 45 points and they'd say: 'Go and put a strait-jacket on…'
“They would, wouldn't they?” said Roeder, well-aware of where this current run would have left his side had it started in the first week of August as opposed to the first week in November.
“If the season had started on the first of November, we would be lying second in the table. It didn't, of course, but that is what they've achieved,” he said. “I'm obviously pleased, but I'm also pleased for Lee Clark, for Paul Stephenson who are new members of my back-room team – I'm pleased for all the members of my back-room team.
“But I'm most pleased for the players – and, equally, for the supporters. This club's support is phenomenal. And it's the least they deserve to find us where we are now – in the top half of the table for the first time. And one of our goals now will be to make sure that we don't slip into the bottom half.”
Yesterday's game also saw Darren Huckerby restored to Roeder's starting plans and the City boss was more than happy with his contribution. One slaloming run at the very death was certainly Huckerby of old and could – indeed, should – have led to Croft making the game safe only for Barnsley keeper Luke Steele to make a fine save high to his right as the 22-year-old Canary winger let rip from some 15-yards distant.
Roeder was, however, at pains to nip one or two suggestions in the bud – that he and Huckerby had fallen out; that there was any rift between the pair.
First off, however, was he pleased with the 32-year-old's contribution? “Yes, I was,” said the City chief, whose one out-and-out winger policy has reaped such rewards of late.
Yesterday and with those three big suspensions making needs must, the Huckerby-Croft double act was back on show and come five o'clock had duly delivered all that the manager had requested.
“Considering he hasn't played for a while, I was very pleased with Hucks,” said Roeder.
“What I like about Hucks is that he's got a super attitude – what I don't like is the way that people in and around the club have tried to say that there's a problem between the two of us,” he added, with Huckerby himself setting that particular record straight at Colney on Friday. And, indeed, even opening the door to the possibility of another one-year deal being agreed in the summer.
The reaction of the crowd in the pre-match build-up to their hero's return also demonstrated the warmth of feeling that exists for the City talisman – a feeling that extends right through into the manager's office. Whatever anyone else in or out of the media may claim.
“He's gone out of his way to say there isn't a problem and I'm going out of my way – though I don't feel I have to go out of my way – (to say it). These nasty, irritating people that try and cause a confrontation between myself and a player, between myself and supporters are just bad people.
“Me and Huckerby get on very well. As I've told you, I don't have favourites. I don't do favourites. I pick the best team that I think. It's my call.”
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