Norwich boss Paul Lambert was a happy man after his side outplayed Premier League Newcastle at Carrow Road this afternoon.
City ran out 2-1 winners and considering it is still only July, the League One champions looked sharp in all departments, with all the new arrivals impressing in front of their home fans for the first time.
Chris Martin bagged both goals for the Norfolk side, with a Shola Ameobi effort sandwiched in between, and Canary fans will have been impressed by his blossoming partnership with Simeon Jackson, with skipper Grant Holt again on the sidelines.
And after a goalless week on the road, with those friendly clashes at Stevenage and Dagenham and Redbridge not doing too much to whet the appetite, Lambert was delighted with today’s showing, even though he was keeping everyone’s feet firmly on the ground.
“It was a great test for us because they are a terrific side,” said the City chief, speaking to reporters afterwards.
“But we’re a really good side when we pass the ball and we’ve also got a lot of players missing at the moment. But we’ve got a pretty strong squad and the way we played the game today was excellent.
“We’ll try and entertain but I’ve got to win games as well. Winning is what matters at the end of the day and if we can do that by playing terrific football then we’ll take it.
“But we’ll have to grind it out at times and it’s hard to judge a friendly. Newcastle have had a later start than us but the pleasing thing was the way we played.”
The visitors started with a bang and Toon striker Leon Best could have headed them into an early lead but after that it was all City for long spells of the first-half, with the Carrow Road side knocking the ball around with panache.
On nine minutes the lively Wes Hoolahan broke clear, but his shot was just dellected over. However, he almost went one better four minutes later with a perfect chipped pass for Martin – unfortunately for the Canaries, his low shot was well saved by Tim Krul.
The Championship new boys were certainly having the best of it and Lambert’s men took a deserved lead on 38 minutes through Martin.
Most of the good work came from that man Hoolahan again, after a sloppy back pass from Ryan Taylor, and after weaving through the United defence, he laid it on a plate for Martin to tap home.
The home team ended the half the strongest and the Geordies were distinctly lacklustre at this stage, but it didn’t take long for them to draw level after the break.
On 47, one-time City target Ameobi, introduced as a half-time substitute, fired home after a neat ball through from fellow sub Xisco and after an opening period dominated by City, the Toon were level.
Canary heads didn’t drop, however, and they had two decent chances to regain the lead. A Hoolahan shot after good work from Jackson was well caught by Krul and Martin, who was looking sharp, couldn’t quite find Andrew Surman, with the former Wolves man well placed.
On 65 minutes City really should have gone 2-1 up and Newcastle had Krul to thank for two wonderful stops.
Martin jinked his way through the Newcastle defence and after his shot was well parried, Surman looked odds on to fire it into the net, before the Dutchman performed more heroics.
Against the run of play, Ameobi almost gave United the lead – which would have been harsh on Norwich. But new City ‘keeper John Ruddy saved well with his feet to keep the scores level.
They weren’t level for long though and the home side went back in front through the excellent Martin after his header crept under Krul to put the Canaries in the lead.
It was proving to be a lively second-half and Ameobi again threatened with a header with 10 minutes left on the clock, and Newcastle were pressing hard for a leveller.
Peter Lovenkrands was unlucky with a superb headed effort which hit the bar on 90 minutes but City held on for an excellent victory and Lambert’s men will take plenty of heart from defeating the Premier League new boys.
City: Ruddy; R Martin, Ward (Francomb 63), Nelson, Drury; Crofts, Fox (Gill 78), Surman (Lappin 78); Hoolahan (McNamee 72); Jackson (Johnson 63), C Martin. Subs not used: Dawkin, Tudur Jones, Steer.