New City skipper Russell Martin was only too delighted to see the walls of ‘Fortress Carrow Road’ return this weekend for the home win over Queen’s Park Rangers.
For once the small matter of an away trip to Manchester City is out of the way, so the Canaries play host to Newcastle United – life is not about to get any easier for Paul Lambert’s men after digging out such a big win on Saturday.
“It’s one of the old clichés in football, but the harder it is for people to come here the better for us – we want to make it a fortress,” said Martin, whose 14th minute strike continued his happy knack of scoring against the Londoners.
Of course events at Carrow Road were swiftly over-shadowed by the tragic circumstances unfolding in leafy Cheshire; somehow talk about games, goals and points would afterwards pale into insignificance as news of Gary Speed’s death gradually broke – and rocked the football family to its core.
Nevertheless, there was no doubting the significance of Saturday’s result in terms of City’s unfolding season.
After the back-to-back defeats against first Aston Villa and then Arsenal, Saturday’s 2-1 success over last season’s Championship winners was the perfect tonic for the troops ahead of next weekend’s trip to Manchester.
“We needed it,” admitted Russell. “It comes in between extremely tough games against Arsenal and Manchester City – it doesn’t get much tougher than that.
“But then every week is tough in this league – and next week is going to be one of the toughest of the season going up there and trying to stop them because they’re really on form.
“But the way that we play as a team – and the way that we play under this manager – we will go up there expecting to get a result because that’s the way that we do it.”
For Martin personally, Saturday’s game offered an ideal follow-up to events of the weekend before when Robin van Persie punished a rare rush of blood to the head in classically clinical Premiership fashion.
“Today was just about winning, but it was nice for me to get that goal and making up for last week’s mistake,” said Martin, more honest and open than many a professional footballer. Someone was certainly smiling on him as Andrew Surman’s first-half corner fell all too kindly for him little more than five yards out.
His reaction spoke volumes; such a contrast to the head in the hands moment that followed van Persie’s winner the previous weekend.
“I watched it a few times on the Saturday night; I was disappointed about it and felt a bit sorry for myself for about an hour – but you have to move on. That’s football.”
And move on he did – complete with the skipper’s armband as both Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan found themselves on the bench as Lambert once again rang the changes and freshened things up.
It also gave him the luxury of throwing the Holt and Hoolahan show into the fray for the game’s last 20 minutes; it took the pair just three to conjure up what proved to be the winning goal.
And all against a team that will, one suspects, be somewhere in the pack with Norwich as the usual suspects disappear over the horizon through Christmas and New Year.
“Anything you can get against the top five or six at the moment is a bonus,” said Martin. “Because they are so strong.
“But as long as we keep getting results against teams in and around us then we’ll be fine.”
There are, clearly, teams with far more on their mind than Norwich. The future of Sunderland boss Steve Bruce was reported to be up in the air tonight with his fate due to be decided within the next 48 hours.
Such managerial uncertainty elsewhere suits City down to the ground; it already looks a long, hard winter for the three other clubs in the North-West – Wigan, Bolton and Blackburn.
“It’s still early days, but the psychology of it definitely helps [being nine points clear of the bottom],” said Martin.
“You’d rather be in our position than their’s – that’s for sure. And if we keep picking up results then we’ll keep that little gap and the bigger the cushion there is come January, the nicer it will be for us.”