City defender Gary Doherty saluted a hard-fought win this weekend that kept that relegation wolf just that little bit further from the Carrow Road door whilst condemning Charlton to a particularly uneasy Christmas and New Year.
Leroy Lita's seventh goal in 14 loan appearances – arguably the best of that particular bunch – made all the difference on the hour mark after David Marshall had produced a world class, one-handed save to deny Addicks skipper Mark Hudson before the interval.
It leaves City with a four-point cushion over Southampton in 21st spot. For Charlton, it looks a long, long road back to Championship safety.
“They're in a bad run, but they showed great determination and were always going to come here and make it hard for us,” said Doherty, with City's next test coming away at Crystal Palace on Boxing Day.
“But, thankfully, Leroy got a fantastic finish and we managed to hold on for the 1-0.”
Doherty himself delivered another rock-like performance at the heart of that Canary defence and with Mark Fotheringham once more assigned to the bench, so the 28-year-old led his team by example having been handed the captain's armband again by boss Glenn Roeder.
“I think the last two games we've played fantastic but ended up with nothing,” added Doherty, as he looked back at those successive away defeats at Watford and Reading.
“And then today we had good spells when we passed it really well, but I don't think we were really as cutting edge as we have been – especially in the first half.
“We were slow and we weren't getting our game going. But I thought in the second-half we put some good moves together and Leroy got in a couple of times; Wes [Hoolahan] had a good chance and, in fairness, they only really had the one where Marshy's [Marshall] has pulled off a wonder save.”
Doherty paid tribute to the way that Charlton came and stifled City's game plan; crowded the home side out and ensured that Sammy Clingan never got into the game – when he he did, however, it was to devastating effect with that inch-perfect diagonal ball that Lita chested, turned and drilled home.
“Their tactics were spot on, really,” said Doherty. “They sat in there; they obviously sat their strikers quite deep to make it difficult for our midfielders and they got round Sammy who's obviously our play-maker and gets everything going. They got round him. And, fair play t them, they did that well.
“But once we scored they had to come out and you can cut teams open a bit with the players that we've got.”
One of which was Carl Cort who arrived for Hoolahan in the 65th minute.
He was duly delighted to just get another 25 minutes under his belt; a further “60 to 70 minutes”, according to Roeder, will follow today as the Canaries play Colchester United at Colney in a 'behind closed doors' clash with the Us designed to give the 31-year-old a run-out from the start.
'It was good to get a few more minutes under my belt. I'm happy and I'm getting closer to the sharpness and fitness I need,” Cort told reporters afterwards, with the City chief desperate to pair the one-time ?7 million striker with the lethal Leroy Lita before the latter returns to Reading in two games time.
In every likelihood never to return.
For while the alleged ?300,000 price tag for the last six months of the 24-year-old's current contract at the Madejski might just be within the Canaries' reach, the player's own wage demands could be in a different ball park altogether.
And with Arturo Lupoli linked to a Serie A switch to Sampdoria this weekend as his own loan move to the Championship fails to hit the heights expected of him, so the well-being of Cort's left knee becomes ever more key to City's fortunes this season.
So far, so good would appear to be the player's own verdict as he paid tribute to the people trying to salvage something out of his 13-year professional career. One final hurrah.
“This time last year I was ready to call it a day,” Cort said. “I was bouncing from club to club and doing myself no favours. My left knee was so bad I wasn't doing myself justice.
“But I decided to give it one last chance. Surgeon Andy Williams at the Lister Hospital had a look inside my knee, cleaned it up and did what he thought had to be done. He said I was OK to have one last pop at saving my career.
“I have worked extremely hard these past three or four months and the way I feel now I could go on for a few years yet.”
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