Technically, in the same way it was right not to get too down after last Saturdays’s defeat, we should really refrain from getting too excited about yesterday’s win on Wearside.
But sod that.
Away wins in the Premier League of that ilk don’t come along too often, regardless of the appetite of your opponents, especially when you’re a Norwich City supporter.
Yet for me, one of the best moments of yesterday came post-match. It was a given he would mention it, but Alex Neil’s reference to the ‘sloppy goal’ in almost his first breath when speaking with Chris Goreham told a little story all of its own.
Yes, it was disappointing to concede such a soft one but City’s dominance had been such that for most of us it was little more than a footnote on an otherwise perfect afternoon. But not for Alex. It niggled and will likely be pored over in tomorrow’s debrief.
And I love that.
He could have been forgiven, for once, for basking in the glow of a fine performance but no, the feeling of contentment was tinged with disappointment at missing out on a first clean sheet.
The days of Costa del Colney are well and truly over.
And there is still plenty of good stuff for Team Alex to get their teeth into tomorrow, not least the way – for the second week running – the midfield functioned so beautifully as a unit.
To have dominated possession at home on opening day, still buoyed my the bounce of Wembley, was one thing. To then do the same in the Stadium of Light when faced with opponents who were smarting from an opening day walloping is another.
The decision to omit Bradley Johnson was a brave one, especially given the influence the Barry Butler winner had on the route to Wembley, but was made minus the blink of an eye and sent out a signal that what’s gone before counts for diddly-squat.
And there was barely a dissenting voice – another factor that spoke volumes.
Johnno, for all his battling qualities, found life tough in the Premier League last time round and against Palace didn’t have his best game. Alex, in conversation with Chris Goreham, also noted that his form of pre-season hadn’t yet reached the level of April/May and so acted.
Yesterday’s midfield therefore operated without a natural ‘left foot’ but such was the performance of Jonny Howson – particularly in the first-half – it made no difference to its balance.
And with Alex Tettey at its base and Graham Dorrans fitting beautifully into the role of pass-master, the three of them afforded Wes and, wider on the right, Nathan Redmond the opportunity to ask questions of the Black Cats’ defence. Questions they were unable to answer.
The back-four too, over whom doubts were cast last weekend, responded well to the calls for change and, that ‘sloppy’ goal aside (which had more to do with an unsighted John Ruddy), coped comfortably with an attack that on paper at least looked dangerous. The two goals were a bonus.
If I had to be picky, I’d say that if Steven Whittaker intends to chip in with the odd goal – always useful for a full-back – he really needs to work on his knee-slide celebration. It was almost as embarrassing at Russ’ face when he turned to celebrate the first goal.
In truth, both turned in performances yesterday that belied some of the brickbats hurled in their respective directions last week and, for seven days at least, can be spared an intense scrutiny of their defensive qualities.
In the attacking third we looked a constant threat.
Wessi’s two ‘wall passes’ were things of beauty and the statisticians are already pointing out that he is well on his way to bettering the number of assists he achieved in his last Premier League season.
I was invited to chat (mumble and stutter) on a Sunderland podcast in the week and when asked of our threat, spoke of the importance of City getting Wes on the ball in dangerous areas. The wee man didn’t let me down.
The threat of Nathan Redmond has long been recognised, equally his occasional indifferent decision-making in the final third, yet since the arrival of Neil he appears to have progressed to the cusp of the next level.
Again in conversation with Master Goreham, the gaffer confirmed he’s been working hard with Redmond in training to see more of an end product. Four goals in his last four competitive Norwich games suggests to me that whatever is being said is sinking in.
Finally, it would be wrong to ignore the performance of Cameron Jerome. Faced with the not inconsiderable duo of Sebastián Coates and Younes Kaboul, he ran them ragged; his power and pace simply too much for either to cope with. Simply magnificent.
To compare his performance with the late cameo of Lewis Grabban, as some did, was a tad unfair though. At 3-0 up the points were won and Grabban’s role was a different one, namely to keep hold of the ball and take the sting out of the game. I thought he fulfilled his brief well.
So, still unbeaten on the road since the arrival of Alex Neil and our first three points of the season.
I could really get used to this.