New City chief Alex Neil got his Championship managerial career off to a dream start this afternoon as ten-man Norwich came back from a goal down to beat league leaders Bournemouth 2-1.
Jonny Howson’s hugely dubious straight red looked to ensure that Neil would have to settle for just a point on his arrival south of the border following this week’s resignation of Neil Adams.
But with ten minutes of normal time remaining Cameron Jerome made it a day to savour for all concerned with a glorious, floated top-corner strike that left the Canaries nipping at the heels of the play-off pack. And the 1,300 travelling support pinching themselves after one of the club’s more tumultuous weeks.
Derby’s defeat of Ipswich earlier this lunchtime coupled to Bournemouth’s reverse ensures that the whole promotion race is tightening up nicely.
Equally, given the obvious risks inherent to appointing such a relative managerial novice as Neil to the post – particularly with regards to his knowledge of the English game – one man breathing a huge sigh of relief this evening will be City chief executive David McNally.
His new charge will be afforded a hero’s welcome when he comes to make his managerial bow at Carrow Road.
Speaking afterwards, the 33-year-old Scot confirmed that it was Gary Holt and Mike Phelan that had set the side up. He could not, however, sit idly by once Howson was dismissed.
At that point, he rolled his sleeves up, arrived at the dug-out and commenced his Canary managerial career in some style.
“It was great to get the three points,” Neil said simply. ‘Alex who?’ might not last too long on this evidence.
“The game has had a few twists and turns and obviously the sending off is a huge turning point. I was actually enjoying up in the stands up until that point, but obviously then everything changed.”
Time to act, to show his potential worth.
“I just felt that I would be better suited to be in the dug-out. Thankfully for us we defended well and Cameron Jerome has come up with a fantastic winner,” he told BBC Radio Norfolk.
It is just the sort of impetus Norwich needed at this point of the season; whether or not they had a new manager in charge, the arm nicely primed on the shoulders of the lead pack.
“I’ve got quality players,” was his immediate take-away. “I don’t think there’s any questions about that. You’ve seen that in the goal.
“And they’re resilient. They’ve got a hard work ethic and I think that showed. And that was the main reason why we got the three points.”
How much of an influence – if any – the former Accies boss had on today’s team selection and overall attitude must be a moot point given the fact that his feet have barely touched the ground at Colney this week.
He did speak to the players before the match, at half-time and, of course, from the moment Howson departed early. So, there were a few finger prints on one of City’s finer victories of recent times.
The team that the Holt-Phelan combination picked was certainly to the advantage of Nathan Redmond and, indeed, Alexander Tettey.
And all at the expense of Gary O’Neil who found himself initially back on the bench on his return to the South Coast. His moment, and worth, would come.
The decision to pair Hooper with Jerome would bear rich fruit before and, of course, after the break as the former bagged the level off a Michael Turner knock-down in the 36th minute to wipe out winger Matt Richie’s 18th minute opener.
It was all that the Canaries deserved after matching the league leaders shot for shot in an even opening period.
A lively contest – that included ex-Canary Andrew Surman amongst the opposition ranks – got that much livelier when Howson saw red.
It left the Canaries with a character question to answer in front of their new boss.
That they did – and then some.
All of which begs a question as to where such a fairy tale start might take both club and young manager if the footballing gods smiled so kindly on his City debut…