New Canary hero Cameron Jerome came back to haunt his former employers this afternoon as City chief Neil Adams was once more asked to spark a second-half fight-back after visitors Birmingham City marched into an early, 2-0 lead.
In the end the come-back proved to be only of the honours even variety as two goals in the space of four minutes from the 27-year-old Jerome kept Norwich’s recent, seven-game unbeaten run intact on the back of this afternoon’s topsy-turvy 2-2 draw.
It was also enough to keep them in the top two of the Sky Bet Championship and left Adams to scratch his head as to why his Canary side can be so slow to start a game, yet so strong to finish.
His side, he insisted, had not plumbed the depths of Cardiff (a).
“We actually played quite well in that first-half – a fluke of a first goal,” said the City chief, whose stock will continue to gently rise on the back of his changes at the break. And, of course, the decision to splash their parachute cash on Jerome.
“And then it’s a little bit of slack marking from a set-play and then we’re 2-0 down. And you’re thinking: ‘This is miles different from Cardiff…’ So at half-time it was just a case of just carrying on here; we know what we’re capable of; we know we’ve got the goals in us. And within 10-15 minutes we’re back on level terms again.”
Through that man Jerome.
“He’s been fantastic – and two goals again today,” said the manager, with fresh strike resources at his disposal for another busy week on the road in the shape of Gary Hooper successfully negotiating his run out with the Under-21s. He will, however, struggle to get ahead of Jerome on his current run of form.
“The first one looks a tap in – it’s not. It’s a really difficult finish and he’s put it in the one place where he can score the goal. The second one he’s been clever enough to recognise the pace that he’s got to put on the ball. Two, excellent goals.”
The big decision was the exit of Wes Hoolahan at the break. ‘Tiredness’ was the word from the dressing room.
“He said he was tired – and he was nowhere near at his best,” Adams told BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards. “And that’s why I took him off. Everyone knows what I think of Wes Hoolahan; he’s an excellent player. But no-one is above being taken off and he just wasn’t on it today.”
For the second Saturday in succession, the Canaries found themselves two goals adrift at the interval as Birmingham took all of eight minutes to nip Norwich’s recent rosiness in the bud.
Both Lewis Grabban and midweek hero Jerome had gained an early sight of goal, before Callum Reilly gave Blues the lead – a lead that they were to double just before the interval when Demarai Gray added to Adams’ woes.
Norwich had dominated the corner count, shaded the shot count and yet were back facing another Cardiff City like mountain.
At Griffin Park in midweek, the first-half had again not gone wholly to plan either. Fortunately on that occasion the Bees lacked any sting in front of goal and Jerome would make them pay.
This afternoon Norwich found themselves back on the canvas with 45 minutes gone and in need of the kind of smelling salts that boss Adams delivered in South Wales. Could he repeat such tricks again? And, why, oh why did Norwich need 45 minutes to get their act together?
The manager’s first response was to whip off the labouring Hoolahan for youngster Josh Murphy; the second came within seven minutes of the restart as Jerome grabbed his fourth goal of the week to drag the home side back into the contest.
Hope renewed, even the most ardent of Adams fan could not have expected what followed as just three minutes later Jerome latched onto a Nathan Redmond cross and headed home a leveller. His fifth in seven days.
For the former Stoke striker was merely continuing where he left off in midweek and proving once more that – at this level – he can be an utter menace. The trick, for club as much as player, is repeating said feats in the top flight of the English game.
That, of course, is for the future. For now Carrow Road was revelling in the fact that they appeared to have a manager with ready access to magic dust – as well as the ability to see and react to situations. Hoolahan’s easy-oasy first-half efforts being the latest example of the breed.
All square at 2-2, Norwich piled on the pressure for the game’s final half hour with Kyle Lafferty arriving in the stead of the luckless Grabban.
Shots would rain down on the Blues goal as the likes of Redmond, Bradley Johnson and Alexander Tettey all took aim in the hope of securing all three points in front of an expectant home crowd.
In amidst it all, John Ruddy would also need to pull out a stop or two – notably his denial of Clayton Donaldson in the 64th minute.
Deep into added on time, Michael Turner would head wide from Norwich’s tenth corner of the afternoon as Blues clung gamely on and, indeed, set the odd heart fluttering with chances of their own at the death.
In the end, however, there were no more heroics from either side; merely a yellow card for an over-eager Jerome.
All square, honours even.