Jonathan Grounds' first-ever goal in senior football kept Bryan Gunn's unbeaten run as City boss intact tonight with a 1-1 draw at Doncaster Rovers.
The result keeps Rovers beneath the Norfolk side in the table and with five points in the three games since the City goalkeeping legend took charge of the Championship, City are starting to dig themselves out of trouble.
It might be slow progress, it might be hard work and, at times, it might not be very pretty. But right now, beggars can't afford to be choosers. And a point at Doncaster on a chilly Friday night is not to be sniffed at.
It came at a price, however, as Darel Russell was whipped off to a hospital with a suspected fractured cheek-bone after a 44th minute collision left him dazed and, at best, badly bruised. Initial reports suggested the City stand-in striker might get the all-clear.
“I thought it was a great performance from the lads,” said the City boss afterwards.
“They stuck by what we asked them to do. Doncaster are a very good footballing side; we knew that but I thought we dealt with that well,” he said, albeit bemoaning a 'lack of ownership' defensively when it came to Rovers' soft opener.
“The lads know that we're disappointed with that, but we went out in the second-half and put it right. Obviously Darel Russell coming off at half-time was a blow and I'm not 100 per cent sure what the outcome is there – he's still at the local hospital.
“We've got word that it's not a fracture, but it was certainly a heavy blow to the side of the face. So we asked the lads to go out and put in a performance for him. And they certainly did.”
It might have been a first-ever visit to the KeepMoat Stadium for the 1,800-strong, ever-suffering Yellow and Green Army, but at least there were some familiar sights to greet them. Certainly for the opening 45 minutes.
Some comedy defending for a soft, soft opening goal as two Canary shirts rose for the same header and allowed a wholly unmarked Sam Hird to slam a cross-cum-shot into the six-yard area where Paul Heffernan had all the time and space anyone would need to direct a simple header inside David Marshall's right-hand upright.
Then there was plenty of huff and puff; moments of bright invention from Messrs Hoolahan and Croft. But no end product; no real moment of genuine alarm for Rovers keeper Neil Sullivan.
One almost arrived some 30 seconds after the restart as Hoolahan whipped a decent early ball into the inside-left channel where Jamie Cureton lurked. But once the ball had spun up, off and away from him so Sullivan had time enough to smother in front of his near post.
Other than that, Sammy Clingan whipped a decent, 30-yard free-kick wide of a post; Croft dug one three-yards wide. But it was all scratchy, bitty stuff that befitted a scratchy, bobbly playing surface.
Russell's exit at least enabled Gunn to give Carl Cort a full, 45 minute run-out. And given the nature of the playing surface, going long in search of the six-foot three-inch striker's head might not have been the worst plan. Tonight was never going to be one for the purist; nor, whatever Ian Crook's best intentions might be, will the rest of this season.
That said Grounds' goal had a bit of a football to it as the ball got chipped back into Croft away unmarked on the far post. He then had both the time and the foresight to reach for the sand wedge and loft an excellent little hanging cross up into the air where Grounds, very deliberately, stooped to head home.
It sparked the night's contest into life as Jon Otsemobor drove forward only to blaze over before Marshall pulled off a fine save to deny a rising, James Coppinger drive in the 70th minute. Other moments of borderline defensive panic would follow – invariably in the City box – but, for once, the footballing gods continued to smile on The Gunner as his unbeaten managerial record stretched into a fourth game and that away trip to Wolves.
As for whether there would be further reinforcements by then, Gunn remained optimistic.
He even refused to rule out the arrival of Darren Purse after the Cardiff skipper appeared to rule out any move until the summer.
“Cardiff could not find a replacement for me in time and the move is dead in the water for the time being,” said Purse. “It has been nice to speak to Norwich and other clubs have expressed an interest as well, but now that has to be put on hold.”
The Gunner, however, was not taking 'No!' for answer. That 'lack of ownership' for Rovers' opener might have strengthened his determination to get such a character as Purse in the building.
“I've not been speaking to Darren so I don't know what's been said,” said the City chief, confirming that he now had the reported ?500,000 David Bell fee up his sleeve to play with.
“But we're still waiting to hear back from Cardiff on the situation. There's two and a half days left to the transfer deadline and we will do our utmost to bring quality players into the football club. And I'll be busy on the phone going back on the bus trying to get those faces in.”
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