City boss Glenn Roeder was hopeful that new-boy Carl Cort was edging ever closer to a match start as the Canaries prepared to stage a behind-closed-doors game against Colchester United for his benefit tomorrow.
The 31-year-old enjoyed another 25-minute run-out in the crucial 1-0 win over Charlton Athletic yesterday and, as he had on his debut against Reading, certainly won more than his fair share of high balls against a tiring Addicks side.
Likewise, the one-time ?7 million Newcastle United striker could be found running into the right, dangerous areas – only for either the final ball or the final defender to deny him a clear, goal-scoring opportunity.
In short, for now there looks as if there is something there to work on. Given that Antoine Sibierski remains out with a foot injury and the in-form Lery Lita is bound back to Reading in ten days, Norwich's need must; and that having signed Cort on a free and then only on a pay-as-you-play basis, anything they can get out of him will be a bonus in the current financial climate.
“Yesterday [Friday] was the best he's trained,” said the City chief, after the Canaries put four clear points between them and 21st spot after this weekend's welcome success.
If the performance was patchy, the result was everything. And the fact that Cort through his latest run-out with no ill-effects on that long-troubled knee merely added to the manager's delight.
“It looked as if he was coming back to his old self again, but we've got to be patient – he's been to hell and back.
“And if you knew him, he's got real mental toughness; real mental strength and that's obviously what has pulled him through. And I was delighted to get him onto the pitch again today,” said Roeder, with Cort arriving as a 65th minute replacement for Wes Hoolahan.
Immediately, the City boss could sense a greater presence to Norwich's play as the Canaries went from that fluid 4-4-1-1 type of formation to an ultra-orthodox 4-4-2 set-up – one complete with two, out-and-out wingers in the shape of Lee Croft to the right and David Bell to the left.
“When you are 1-0 up you do tend to knock a few, longer balls up in the air – and that's not really how we want to play – but when you do, he can get his head onto the ball…”
And seek out the darting movement of Lita has he worked off the shoulder of the last defender and gave the far linesman plenty to think about as he strove to get his timing right.
A fully fit Cort and a full-time Lita would cause better teams than Charlton more than a problem or two.
“There's only a couple of games before Leroy goes back, but I think Carl Cort-Leroy Lita looks very good indeed in the Championship, so whether they get to start or not in the next two games we'll have to wait and see,” added Roeder.
“We've got a game on Monday – we're playing Colchester United behind closed doors – and I'd want to get 60 or 70 minutes out of Carl which would help us over the Christmas period.”
Roeder also revealed that he has another injury concern going into the Boxing Day trip to Crystal Palace – Ryan Bertrand has a bruised and bloody toe courtesy of ex-Canary striker Robery Earnshaw.
Down on the team-sheet to start yesterday's game, the on-loan England Under-21 full-back hadn't actually trained all week – only for the discomfort to prove too great and for Adam Drury to be hastily added into Roeder's starting plans.
It was only with Phil Parkinson's blessing that Arturo Lupoli was allowed to join the substitutes bench at such a late stage.
“Ryan has had a problem since Nottingham Forest when Robert Earnshaw stamped on his big toe,” said the City chief. “It bled badly and where the blood then congealed, the toe has become very big and very sore.
“And him [Bertrand], Elliot Omosuzi and Matty Pattison hadn't trained all week; they'd just got fit in time for the game. And we tried to freeze it forthe warm-up to see if he could handle playing in the game, but it was much too sore.
“He came in; he wanted to play. But I said to him: 'Ryan, I would think more of you as a man if you put your hand in the air and said: 'I can't start…' I'd think a lot of your maturity if you could do that because this is a massive game for us – we can't carry anyone. We can't have a passenger.
“And he said: 'I can't, it's too sore…' So, thankfully, we had Adam on the bench who stepped in; and thanks to Parkinson but he wasn't anti us then putting Arturo [Lupoli] onto the bench. Which was a decent gesture.”
Omosuzi's future come January 1 is also, of course, in doubt with Roy Hodgson enjoying that seven-day window in which he can bring him back to Craven Cottage.
The fact that Fulham enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win over Middlesbrough yesterday – and all without a defensive injury – will have helped Norwich's cause as the on-loan England Under-19 defender racks up another clean sheet to his name.
As Norwich invariably do – whenever he plays in that stand-in centre-half role as opposed to his usual gig at right-back.
“I really hope that Roy [Hodgson] can let him stay here,” said Roeder, his squad remaining of the paper-thin variety with both John Kennedy and Dejan Stefanovic out of the running.
“He's basically positive to it, but there's just a couple of little things that have got to happen before he can sign it off again for a full season.”