If Canary chief Glenn Roeder had wished to the write the script for today's trip to Plymouth, it would probably have included one or two of the following.
A debut goal for Antoine Sibierski; a big assist for Antoine Sibierski.
In fact, get the assist in early, get it in first; somewhere around the 15-minute mark. Give the 600-or so travelling punters a chance to see how much my team was always set-up to benefit from having a bright and inventive big 'un up top.
Hammer home the fact that that was all that we've been missing; just that final piece in my jigsaw…
Let Arturo bag another goal; keep his hot streak running; keep his confidence flying before this week's two, back-to-back home games – that's when we can really put our foot on the gas and motor up the table.
Be nice – for once – to have an easy win; to actually bank our first win of the season – our first away from home in six months – at something of a canter; with a certain style and panache, ideally. If not let's just win ugly. Just win…
Oh, and don't let Darel Russell break down following his secret double hernia operation in Germany ten days ago.
And so Roeder's mental check list would have continued on this weekend's long flight down to the South-West.
Look back now over the match facts and Roeder could tick many a box in that wish list; he could also lay reasonable claim to the fact that Norwich City Football Club are light years ahead of where they were as a footballing proposition on their last visit to Home Park. Where they are as a financial proposition some 12 months on is a matter for another day.
For now, however, on the pitch they are a completely different side. Literally. Albeit with one or two old failings still attached. Paul Gallacher's injury-time strike to leave the game awkwardly balanced at 2-1 for the last 30 seconds or so suggests that City still lack that ruthless edge of their peers.
“I'm delighted with the win, but we should have put them to the sword and scored five or six goals,” the City chief told the official club website afterwards.
“Then we have this ridiculous situation when they score again in the last 90 seconds and it doesn't even bear thinking about if they had scored again.”
Given that the away dressing room was in need of a fresh lick of paint last season after Roeder went to verbal work on his players after that 3-0 no-show, a late, late leveller today would have had the groundsman reaching for his brushes again.
Instead, the Canary boss can head home tonight with three big points tucked safely away in his top pocket – even if by every account, the game should have been ripped from Plymouth's grasp before the break. Particularly once Krisztian Timar saw yellow for the second time in the 34th minute as he hauled Sibierski to the floor.
Matty Pattison needs to re-adjust his target-settings to two inches lower if he is ever to score his first goal in a Canary shirt; for once, a far linesman might give Norwich the benefit of the doubt – be it for offside or a penalty; that particular break continues to elude the Norfolk side. Otherwise 17th spot – one place off the play-offs – doesn't look too bad for the middle of September. Not compared to last season when City had just that lone point on their travels.
And all, of course, with two home games to come. And all with the missing piece of the jigsaw apparently bolted into place.
For whichever way anyone chose to describe City's opener on 15 minutes, it merely summed up Roeder's point all summer – that without someone of Sibierski's size and skill on the edge of the opposition box, you were never going to get the best out of either Lupoli, Jamie Cureton or Omar Koroma.
“He made a big difference,” Roeder told the offficial site. “He's not just good in the air, he's technically very gifted.
“And he's a really good professional as well and players like Arturo are hopefully going to learn from him. I mention Arturo there because I felt he took his goal really well.
Wins a header, flicks it on, Lupoli scores. Bang – simple as.
As for Russell, his season continues to grab many a headline. First it was a case of bagging vital goal after vital goal in that stand-in striker role after watching new-boy Sammy Clingan steal his favoured midfield slot; today it was a case of playing through the pain barrier after secretly jetting off to Europe last week for a double hernia repair operation.
All of which then explains why Roeder was busily making plans for a life without Russell as he tried person unknown in that vacant midfield role. As it was, their services weren't required as Russell proved once again something of a real Canary trouper.
“I have to pay tribute to Darel,” said Roeder afterwards. “We were told that it was safe for him to play feeling a bit of pain, but he's done a job out there and he is playing the best football I have seen from him since joining the club.”
Leave a Reply