City boss Glenn Roeder was a happy man last night.
For after playing a big hand in the run up to yesterday's crucial home clash with Colchester United, so every card he played managed to come up trumps.
And while the Canaries might still be only five points off the drop zone, this weekend's 5-1 thumping of a doomed Colchester United side left City powering back in the right direction again with both the momentum and the belief back with them.
Southampton's inability to beat Coventry City at home and Leicester City's home defeat by an in-form Hull City side ensured that that third relegation spot was now more the talk of St Mary's and the Walkers' Stadium than at Carrow Road.
A Jamie Cureton hat-trick, a sublime little lob from Dion Dublin, a first Canary strike from Jon Otsemobor and a piece of raw emotion from Matty Pattison after his week in the tabloid glare – all were up for discussion in the pubs and clubs afterwards rather than an urgent debate as to where, exactly, Norwich's next point was coming from.
“A good afternoon's work,” said Roeder afterwards, who had risked much on his initial team selection.
No keeper on the bench; Pattison to start; Darren Huckerby on the right; Cureton ahead of Ched Evans; Lee Croft left on the sidelines – big decisions on the eve of such a big game.
“It was one of those days – everything that we did came off,” said the City chief. “Football, unfortunately, doesn't always pan out like that, but today I couldn't have written it any better.”
It was certainly some script as a game already billed as a do-or-die day in terms of Norwich's own survival hopes produced moments of high drama and raw emotion. And after last weekend's drink-drive allegations and all the lurid tabloid tales that followed, the reception afforded Pattison – both on his arrival and his departure – by the Carrow Road faithful proved again to Roeder that he was at the right club.
“Very pleased,” said the City chief, as the Norfolk club looked after one of its own. Come his substitution and not only did virtually every outfield player give the 21-year-old a pat on the back, but on the touchline there was Roeder waiting with a big hug. Why the troubled Paul Gascoigne saw such a father-figure in his one-time Newcastle skipper becomes ever less harder to fathom.
“I wasn't surprised by our players reaction to him being substituted. It's been a tough week for him, but what pleased me was the kindness and understanding of our supporters,” said Roeder.
“As I've said, he's distraught about what happened last week. He knows he was wrong; he regrets it immensely; he'll take his punishment when it comes along like a man; we as a group of players and staff, we're all family. There was no way we were going to ostracise him and put him outside our circle.”
Pattison's response was to produce one of his best dispalys yet in a Canary shirt; the slick, one-touch exchanges with Ryan Bertrand that almost allowed the returning Darel Russell to stab the ball home at the near post evidence of a young man already repaying his debt.
“It was difficult for him to come out today and play and at the end when he came off, he was quite emotional. Which I also think is a strength rather than a weakness,” said Roeder.
“And he wants to repay our kindness – by playing as well as he can between now and the end of the season and having a long career here. He is basically a good man. And a young man that, basically, made a horrendous mistake.”
Yesterday's result had, said Roeder, been coming. Previous performances had produced chances – they were just never taken.
This weekend's contest offered more of the same – Cureton could have added four and five to his tally after blazing over from an astonishing 35-yard lob from Dublin that fell back off the bar and a horror back-pass from Johnnie Jackson that left the City striker one-on-one with Us keeper Dean Gerken – but in between and either side, Cureton's predatory instincts against his former employers were still enough to bag an all-too rare Canary hat-trick.
“We've threatened that a few times – certainly in the last couple of games – to score three or four goals,” said Roeder. “And we did that against the team that is top of the table – Stoke.
“And that's what is frustrating – that you play as well as that, don't take chances and don't take points off a team like Stoke. And then go to Sheffield United and do exactly the same thing. But the boys kept their belief and kept their nerve and came out today and got a thoroughly deserved victory.
“And as you know, the five goals weren't the only five chances that we created.”
The fact that Otsemobor was charging through as early as the sixth minute was another example of the footballing gods smiling – on an afternoon that could have tested everyone's nerves had City been scratching around for a winner with five minutes to play, being a goal up so early was just what Roeder would have looked for. What he wasn't looking for was a Colchester response – handed to Kevin Lisbie on a plate by a poor back-header from Jason Shackell.
“It was nice to score early,” he said. “We've often started well here and we haven't got the breakthrough and – stating the obvious – goals do change games and getting an early one was what we were after and we got it.
“The big disappointment is that we, yet again, conceded a weak goal. In fact I can't remember a goal that we've conceded in the last few months that we can put our hands in the air and say: 'Well, we did all we could. We couldn't do nothing about that one…' We've often shot ourselves in the foot when we've conceded a goal and we've done that again today.”
As for Cureton, that was his 'Ds and Rs' done – his duties and responsibilities to his team-mates successfully discharged. “To make goals for other and score goals himself.” The chances he missed, said Roeder, were being saved up for Bristol City next week. That, too, could be interesting as the one-time Rovers favourite looks to dent City's title charge. There's still plenty a tale to come, of that there is little doubt.