Two goals from Norwich new-boy Lewis Grabban ensured that Norwich City teed themselves up perfectly for the weekend derby clash against Ipswich courtesy of a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.
Bradley Johnson’s 86th minute strike looked all set to secure another three points for manager Neil Adams only for Grabban to add that extra layer of icing with his third goal in as many days deep into added-on time.
Six goals, six points and a place in the top six would be as much as any Canary fan could rightly expect out of the club’s opening two home fixtures back in the Championship – this evening’s result made all the more satisfying by the fact that the home side had to roll themselves off the ropes after Tom Cairney’s superb first minute strike put Rovers in the driving seat.
Grabban’s first followed an initial penalty save from one-time England keeper Paul Robinson. That hauled the Canaries level before two goals in the game’s final ten minutes sealed the success.
Throw in two meetings with the woodwork from Alexander Tettey before the break and substitute Ryan Bennett after it and all in all, Adams could take great heart from the evening’s events. It also proved that there would be plenty of life left at Carrow Road after Leroy Fer, who looked all set to finally complete his £7 million switch to QPR.
“After the first 15 minutes, I couldn’t fault the performance of the players,” said Adams afterwards. “They were outstanding.”
Johnson, in particular, has taken to life back in the Championship with a vengeance. Drive, purpose and his usual menace will serve the Canaries well in the back-street battles ahead.
And in Grabban they would appear to have someone who knows where the goal is – a pleasant change compared to the Premiership Class of 13-14.
“It was a great night’s entertainment,” added Adams. “We ended up fully deserved winners.”
If the City chief initially thought that managerial life was about to get easier following Saturday’s 3-0 win over ten-man Watford, it took little more than a minute for this evening’s visitors to bring everyone back down to earth with a bump as Cairney smashed Rovers in front almost from the off.
In amidst the ensuing wobble on the ropes, Steven Whittaker would survive a large handball appeal as one-time Town youngster Jordan Rhodes went close; one decision, one deflection and being 2-0 down within the opening five minutes could have undone every positive from the weekend.
Instead, City slowly regained their composure and dug their way back into the contest. Tettey would find the woodwork with a 14th minute effort before Kyle Lafferty forced a save out of Robinson two minutes later.
The breakthrough came in the 22nd minute as Jason Lowe was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box. Up stepped Grabban for the spot-kick. His first effort might have been saved; his second from the rebound did just the job and the 26-year-old had two in two for his new Norfolk employers.
Early days, but he doesn’t look the worst £3 million investment in the club’s history. The words ‘Cameron’ and ‘Jerome’ might also serve to keep the former Bournemouth star on his toes.
The leveller will also have helped the Adams cause as he went again with the same starting XI from the weekend win over Watford.
The big name missing was, of course, Fer who was reported to be under-going a medical in West London.
As ever with a transfer window that refuses to slam shut until three weeks after the first ball has been kicked in anger, Adams finds himself wheeling and dealing in the transfer market at the same time as trying to get a consistent team and shape delivering points and performances on a similarly consistent basis back in the hurly-burly of the Championship.
Thus far – stuttering false start against Wolves aside – the former City Youth coach was doing his bit and delivering. In some style too, to be fair.
Javier Garrido’s exit at the interval gave former England Under-21 defender Bennett a run out and twice he came close to nicking Norwich ahead – his second headed effort against the bar in the 66th minute added a second woodwork moment.
If nothing else, the Carrow Road punters were being served a little more by way of entertainment than had been their lot in the higher flight.
A winning goal and Adams could afford himself a little smile of satisfaction ahead of derby day this weekend.
Cometh the moment, cometh the man. And for the second time in a week, there was B Johnson Esq to do the business from outside the box. Moments later and Grabban was the new darling of Carrow Road as the Canary Faithful headed home with a spring in their step.
Another big job done. The Good Ship Adams had wind in her sails.