City boss Bryan Gunn was “a proud man” tonight as the Canaries racked up a magnificent 1-0 away win at Loftus Road and fired their Championship survival fight into new and compelling life.
The fact that the Canary chief would confirm this evening that club skipper Mark Fotheringham was, indeed, in talks with Preston North End added a further edge to proceedings – particularly given it was Darel Russell who drilled home the crucial winner on 68 minutes with a classic, attacking midfielder's strike.
“One of the questions that I asked them on Saturday night was 'Had they thrown the towel in?' And I think we got the answer to that tonight,” said a delighted Gunn, as the Canaries dug out three, massive points in the teeth of both an ugly West London squall and big, QPR pressure.
But with Jason Shackell delivering a huge performance in the heart of that City defence, so the Canaries rode their luck and dug out the kind of performance and result that will keep the City faithful believing what, for some, is still the unbelievable – that they can defy the odds and stay up.
As for Fotheringham, a parting of the ways looks all-but inevitable tomorrow. Manager and skipper had spoken; both had decided that he wasn't in the right frame of mind to even travel. And that may well be that.
“He wasn't in the travelling party tonight and we'll have another chat in the morning,” said Gunn. He and Lilywhites boss Alan Irvine had spoken; they, too, would speak again in the morning.
“And we'll see where the future lies from there,” added the City chief. Up the M6 remains the strong belief.
“It's quite possible,” he said. “But Norwich City have got to come first – and we've got to make sure that we've got the players who want to do the job for us. And then we'll make a decision from there.”
Given tonight's events, however, there would appear to be little or no way back for Fotheringham as Gunn saluted a famous performance from his troops.
“That's the type of performance that if we are going to succeed in our mission [to stay up] then we're going to need more of those type of performances – both at home and away,” he said.
Not that it went entirely to plan – City had a penalty awarded and then taken away in the 32nd minute as Lee Croft went a tumbling.
From a distance, it did look ball first. But referee Graham Scott – officiating for the first time at this level – thought otherwise and pointed to the spot.
Only then to consult a distant linesman – and change his mind. Life – at that stage – was proving to be that cruel on the Canaries right now.
They had already rattled Rangers as Shackell rose to meet Sammy Clingan's sixth-minute free-kick. The on-loan centre-half would add a host of similarly big headers in his own penalty area as he rose to both the conditions and the challenges that Rangers continued to pose.
It was all hairy stuff at times as the constant, swirling rain made for a treacherous evening out for all concerned.
Keeper David Marshall had every Canary heart in mouth when he opted to punch – and miss – a 44th minute corner only for the covering Gary Doherty to somehow scramble the ball off the line as the City keeper desperately looked to recover both his dignity and the ball.
But, in fairness, spirits were proving willing – even if the quality wasn't always there. And for the travelling faithful, there was enough evidence of a shift being put in to keep their support and encouragement going deep into the second period.
And on 68 minutes both players and ever-suffering supporters got their reward.
One-time City target Kaspars Gorkss got himself in all manner of trouble as Lee Croft and Wes Hoolahan charged him down deep into his own penalty area.
It was Hoolahan who emerged with the ball. His low, pull-back proved tailor-made for Russell on the edge of the box and his first-time drive had just too much on it for Radek Cerny as it squeezed into the bottom corner and duly sent the travelling Canary fans into wild party mode.
If ever there was a night when winning ugly was the order of the day, this was it.
And City delivered. Big time.
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