To attempt to draw too many conclusions from City’s end-of-season friendly tour is a futile exercise, not least because Irvine’s men continue to blow hot and cold, depending on the appetite of the opponent.
Preston’s desire was of a similar ilk to Reading’s, for different reasons, and so lacked the bite and venom to hurt City in the way Fulham did so brutally on last Friday.
But still that’s not to detract from yesterday’s first half performance from the Canaries, which sounded right up there with anything they’ve produced away from home all season.
The changes promised post-match by Irvine on Friday were duly delivered with Wes, Jacob Murphy and Nelson Oliveira, three of Friday’s strugglers, finding themselves rested in favour of Messrs Naismith, Jerome and Josh Murphy.
And all three contributed to the oddity that was a non Carrow Road half of fluidity, even if the second was full of traits of which we have become more familiar. But on this occasion the defensive lapses went unpunished by a Preston side who, despite being a different proposition in the second-half, were not a million miles from the beach.
The cherry on top was that James Maddison, one who has been much vaunted but rarely spotted, offered a tantalising cameo to the travelling faithful and rounded it off with a very well taken third goal.
In his post-match round of interviews Irvine appeared keen to put into context the swell of opinion that has demanded the ex-Coventry youngster be handed his Canary spurs – reason being the same lack of defensive awareness that has blighted the progress of the Murphys to varying degrees – but those calls are now going to be harder to resist.
The argument will return to how Maddison can be accommodated in a team that has three other potential number 10s at its disposal but with three meaningless games left and with there being no doubt as to what Wes, Steven Naismith and Alex Pritchard can (or cannot) bring to the party there can be no better time to hand him a full debut.
At the other end of the experiential spectrum Graham Dorrans – another of the rarely spotted variety, albeit for different reasons to Maddison – offered food for thought for those who had waved the get rid card in his direction.
Whether Stuart Webber and the new head coach will perceive his ability to pass the ball to a yellow shirt and to keep things ticking over as sufficient to thrust him again centre stage is open to debate – if its energy and dynamism they require from the centre of the pitch then Dorrans is not your man – but his ability on the ball when he’s fueled and fit is unquestionable.
Josh Murphy was another to use Deepdale as a platform to offer food for thought.
But, as mentioned in my opening gambit, aside from a positive here and a fillip there, the lessons to be learned when the jeopardy levels are virtually zero are few and far between.
Webber will learn more from sitting behind a screen at his Colney desk and digitally observing how this group react when the stakes are high and the opposition have top six aspirations; Brighton away, for example, offering more insights than Forest at home.
And talking of Brighton, it’s not going to be a whole lot of fun watching the Seagulls celebrate promotion and probably the Championship title on Friday night, but there’s no debate to be had over the fine job done by Chris Hughton.
It didn’t work out for him here, and Brighton may see a different side to his managerial skill set next season, but I hope his achievement this season will at least be acknowledged on his Carrow Road return.