The temptation for City hero Lee Croft would be to sit back, put his feet up and reach for the nearest big, fat cigar after “winning the lottery” with that glorious 92nd minute strike against Sheffield United yesterday.
It was the 23-year-old's first goal in the better part of a year – since his scored Norwich's lone consolation in the 3-1 home defeat by Watford last November.
Thereafter, big chances have come and gone; his lack of a convincing finish being one of the charges laid at his door by Canary boss Glenn Roeder.
The manager clearly likes the pace, the width and, above all, the spark that the one-time England Youth international brings to the pack. But nine times out of ten, the moment that Croft steps inside in his full-back and drives into the opposition box with his left-foot cocked and ready… that's where it all starts to fall apart.
That's when the conviction and the belief dry up; that's when he invariably rolls the ball across the face of goal for someone else to have a pop.
It was there for all to see in the first-half as Croft burst through the middle of the pitch with at least two United defenders trailing. But as he started to see the whites of Paddy Kenny's eyes, so he let rip from some 30-yards and saw the ball bobbling off in the vague direction of the corner flag.
Less than an hour later, however, and it all clicked. The run from deep in his own half had purpose and menace; his touch to Jamie Cureton was tailor-made for a simple return; his left-foot drive in off the despairing Chris Morgan was all that anyone could have asked for as the Canaries bagged their first home win of the season and gate-crashed their way into the top half of the Championship table.
With an inviting trip to bottom-of-the-table Oakwell now looming, suddenly there is rather more hope around the place than there would have been this morning had David Marshall not stood up tall and late to deny Danny Webber moments earlier. Yesterday was one of those contests that trod so many fine lines; for once, City stayed on the right side of that line – even if they lost both Matty Pattison and Arturo Lupoli to injury in the process.
“Now we need to push on,” was Croft's simple message afterwards, the manner of his celebration in front of the Barclay suggesting just what a goal-scoring, left-foot monkey he'd shrugged from his back with that 92nd minute winner.
“We had a good win at Plymouth; we had a good performance at home but hadn't won [Queen's Park Rangers]; now we've won and hopefully that'll kick-start us now and we'll go on a good run.”
First away win, first home win; first time in the top half of the table since Bing Crosby topped the charts… Whilst the on-going takeover-stroke-ownership issues continues to cast something of a shadow over the Norfolk club, on the pitch and the Canaries are digging themselves out of that three-year mire.
They might not become genuine play-off contenders overnight – and minus any substantial new investment come te January transfer window many a pitfall awaits there – but right now there appears to be a clutch of teams with much less about them than Roeder's Norwich. Jonathan Grounds' first start for the injured John Kennedy was grounds for optimism too.
“We've won both away and a home and we've been picking up points away from home as well and if we can continue that – and make this a hard ground to come to then, who knows, what can happen…”
To win – against James Beattie and Co – minus both centre-halves as Dejan Stefanovic failed a late fitness test on a badly-bruised calf, was futher reason to think that playing-wise the glass is nearer half-full than half-empty.
Roeder admitted himself that it looks as if his squad will not be over-flowing with goals this season. But if – if – they can limit opposition of United's ilk to just one big chance and a couple of half-chances – and all with the in-form Marshall still to beat – then they have a chance. If the Crofts of this world can pop up with a goal or two every other month.
“We missed them [Kennedy and Stefanovic] greatly; they've done fantastic for us this season,” said Croft, as Roeder switched Elliot Omosuzi inside and gave a welcome return to Croft's regular partner in right-sided crime, Jon Otsemobor, a run.
“The two young lads, a lot of credit needs to go to them today. They've withheld James Beattie and he's no mug, is he? They've played a lot of ball up-front; a lot of long balls in the air and they had to withstand that. And if they were going to score it was going to come from that.
“But I thought the two young lads did tremendous today – along with Marshy [Marshall] and the young full-backs. They kept us in it.”
Great, barreling long throws from one-time City target Greg Halford was another favourite weapon for the visiting Blades. And while Marshall had to react well to save a diving Gary Speed header and Omosuzi somehow managed to bobble the ball against the base of an upright in a second-half scramble overall Norwich did well – albeit helped by an under-par effort from Beattie.
He was, apparently, “rusty”. In fairness, it was only his second 90 minutes in six months after knee surgery. With ?2 million man Darius Henderson still to come back in, United will be there or thereabouts come the end. All of which made this weekend's result a big one in City's own 2008-2009 calendar.
And a big day in Croft's own Canary career. The best goal he's ever scored?
“I wouldn't know if its the best goal, but it was an important one for me. Getting back in the side today; trying to cement my place back in the team – which the gaffer has said that he wants me to do.
“As I say, I have missed a few chances – and I've been getting chances. I just need to start taking them more regularly and, hopefully, that's the start of it.”
He is, no doubt, well aware that ?600,000 Luton winger David Bell has stll to be fitted into Roeder's thinking somewhere along the line – as and when his lingering ankle injury finaly settles down.
That, for now, can wait. Yesterday was his day; his hour; his moment in the Carrow Road sunshine. Even if the ball flicked off Morgan's head en route. An own goal, surely?
“No, no. I don't think so…
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