Common sense almost prevailed amongst their lordships at the Football Association today after Grant Holt’s red card was duly over-turned on appeal ensuring that the Canary skipper will not now miss this weekend’s home clash with Leeds United, the derby game against Ipswich Town and the away trip to Derby County.
Almost prevailed. For whilst Canary chief Paul Lambert will be delighted to have his captain in place for three big games at a crucial point in the season, his mood will not have been helped by the news that he himself now faces an FA disrepute charge after he was dismissed from the touchline by 25-year-old referee Michael Oliver.
He has till this Friday to respond to the charge – a touchline ban and a possible fan could yet await the Scotsman as tempers started to fray against the Royals.
Lambert – with some reason – might argue that Oliver’s performance in the middle would have tested the patience of a saint, let alone a fiercely determined Championship manager who had just seen his side’s 3-1 lead squandered on the back of one, fateful – and wrong – decision.
As welcome as Holt’s availability will be for this weekend’s re-match with last season’s big rivals Leeds, given how tight the pack is around those play-off places it is a slightly moot point as to whether Lambert would have taken the two extra points from a win ahead of a Holt ban.
As he and everyone else knows, in a division that is shaping up to be as tight as this one this season, those two points could make all the difference come next May such is the tiny margin for error.
That all said, the Canaries did at least remain unbeaten courtesy of that third draw in a week.
It is the kind of consistency that Leeds boss Simon Grayson has been clamouring for from his own players after the newly-promoted Yorkshire side stumbled through October – the lowest point of which was a 4-0 defeat by high-flying Cardiff City.
Of late, however, they have hit their stride with greater confidence and last weekend’s win over Bristol City saw Leeds drive on into fifth spot – three places above Lambert’s Canaries, albeit with just one point more to their name.
“We’ve got to be pleased with where we are at the moment,” Grayson told the Yorkshire Evening Post today.
“I challenged the players a few weeks ago to go on a little consistent run – to complete six, eight or 10 games unbeaten if possible.
“We’ve done four games so far and we’ll go to Norwich City in good spirits but I do want us to extend that run.”
As everyone knows, if you can avoid too many defeats, win the majority of your home games and pick up points on your travels then you will be there or thereabouts.
The Canaries would dearly love to pick up a big win this weekend – if nothing else it would set the stage for a thumping great derby weekend as crisis-hit Town make the short journey up the A140.
With or without the wobbling Roy Keane in charge.
“Like any team in the Championship, we feel that we can get promoted and those who do will be the teams who are most consistent throughout the season,” added Grayson.
Star of the show last weekend was 26-year-old Argentinian striker Luciano Becchio, who completed a 17-minute hat-trick in that 3-1 home win over Bristol City. Off the bench to boot.
He is fully expected to be handed a start this weekend.
He also has a big fan in Alex Bruce – the Norwich-born son of Canary legend, Steve.
“There’s a funny saying in football that goes ‘do your talking on the pitch and the rest looks after itself’,” Bruce told the Post, with Becchio in the midst of new contract talks at Elland Road.
“He’s a very good finisher and everyone needs a finisher like that – that’s why they get paid the most! He might have been disappointed not to start the game but he came off the bench and had a massive impact.”
The former Town defender – enjoying a new lease of life in Yorkshire – is now well-versed in the way of the Championship; he knows the difference one, decent substitution can make – as the Canaries themselves have proved by their employment of winger Anthony McNamee.
He can turn a game on its head; as clearly did the Argentinian on Saturday.
“A lot of Championship games are going to be in the balance – a lot of them will be scrappy affairs. But Luciano coming off the bench gives you a different option,” said Bruce.