In the end the only thing missing from the party was the injury-time winner. Otherwise, the Canaries kissed good-bye to the nPower Championship in suitably joyous and all-too familiar style with a 2-2 draw against visitors Coventry City this afternoon.
Skipper Grant Holt celebrated his second, successive Player of the Season award with a second-half leveller – a classic of the centre-forward’s craft as muscled his way to a hanging, far post ball and thumped No23 for the season home.
Dani Pacheco was all quick feet and drilled finish for the second; the departing Spaniard would slap a free-kick against the cross-bar as he, Simeon Jackson, Henri Lansbury and Wes Hoolahan looked in vain for the winning goal to round the afternoon off in fitting style.
That it didn’t arrive mattered little; the party had, of course, started long before a ball was kicked. Events at Portsmouth last Monday night – coupled with Cardiff’s collapse three hours earlier – had made today’s event one that owed more to salute and celebration than hard-edged, competitive Championship football.
Back-to-back promotions needed to be celebrated among ‘the family’ and Carrow Road duly delivered. Someone even found a few pyrotechnics, a stage and a small trophy to do it TV-style before the party moved on to Riverside and beyond.
There were few surprises Player of the Season wise as Holt made it two in a row followed by Russell Martin and Hoolahan in third.
Jackson made sure he had something to go home with in the shape of the nPower Championship Player of the Month award for April.
The one absentee was the nPower Championship trophy itself; that would remain in and around Loftus Road as the Football Association finally confirmed that Rangers would not – after all – be docked any points for the whole Alejandro Faurlin affair.
“The regulatory commission hearing charges brought by the FA against Queens Park Rangers FC wish to announce that although two of the charges have been found to be proved there will be no points deduction made from Queens Park Rangers FC in this season or the next,” ran the statement from the Football Association this afternoon.
The chairman-stroke-owner of Cardiff City might still have something to say; for the Canaries it was someone else’s problem. Finishing second was still worth the small matter of £89 million – according to the latest, Sun-style estimates.
As for the game itself, the usual suspects were well to the fore from that start as Lambert went into battle unchanged.
Hoolahan would spread the ball this way and that from the start as wide, open spaces presented themselves in the bright Norfolk sunshine; at the other end, Martin would offer an excellent, diving block to send a Chris Hussey drive billowing over.
Marc Tierney needed to repeat the feat to whip the ball off Marlon King’s toes as Coventry refused to play their part and did rather more than just make up the numbers on City’s big day.
Chance of the half arrived in the 41st minute as Tierney’s hanging cross had Holt’s name written all over it. He obliged with a big, downward header from eight yards that Sky Blues keeper Michael Quirke – long diving beyond the flight of the ball – somehow thighed up and away.
The game could have done with a goal. As it stood come the break, it looked all too much like for the players the party had started on the bus back from Fratton Park. It was all a bit fuzzy round the edges, if truth be told.
The goal arrived in the 53rd minute – Richard Keogh stabbing the ball over the line from some four-yards out as Norwich’s interest in defending at a corner started to wane.
Within five minutes and Norwich had woken from their slumbers – newly-crowned Player of the Season Holt thumping a trade-mark far post header back beyond Quirke off a Tierney cross. It was the big man’s last act – his job for the season done as Pacheco got a run out in the summer sun.
It took the Spaniard less than five minutes to twist this way and then that deep in the Coventry box before smashing his second of the season beyond a bemused Quirke. It was a lead that lasted all of two minutes as Lukas Jutkiewicz levelled from six-yards out.
Pacheco would slap the bar with a 66th minute free-kick; Zak Whitbread would stab the rebound horribly wide.
But, heh, who cared…