It may not have been especially pretty but that mattered not one jot.
What mattered was experiencing that winning feeling again.
From top to bottom it was needed. From Delia to match-day steward. From super-fan to part-timer. From NR1 to New Zealand Canaries. That feeling of relief was palpable.
No less than 192 days have elapsed since Tim Krul sent 9000 travelling Canaries into raptures in north London on that crazy March evening after saving Gedson Fernandes’ penalty.
Okay, so it was technically a draw (before the pedants remind me) but it triggered that buzz that only comes from your team winning a game of football. And 192 days is a bloody long time, especially when you consider what’s happened in the world in the intervening period.
So forgive me if perspective goes out of the window a little when poring over what was essentially a scrappy, bog-standard 1-0 away win in the Championship.
It felt like far more.
And, of course, there was the clean sheet. A clean bloody sheet! And we have to go back another five days, to 28th February, for one of those – when Jamal scored the only goal on that Friday night under the lights against Leicester.
A draw wouldn’t have been the end of the world – even if post-match Twitter may have made it feel that way – but there’s something special about nicking a win late on when you’re already preparing for the well-a-point-is-a-point conversations. And City deserved it.
Huddersfield were gallant though and offered a threat greater than that predicted by their fans, but there was always a feeling of the Terriers’ best chance arising from a City cock-up; so used are we to the joys of self-implosion.
But, for once, it didn’t happen. That thin, fragile yellow line in front of Timm Krul that so creaked under Premier League scrutiny was able to stand firm. Josh Koroma, Huddersfield’s lone striker, may have been lively and combative but never once engineered a clear sight of Krul’s goal.
Credit is obviously due to Ben Godfrey and Christoph Zimmerman for re-creating the double act that steered City through many a tricky afternoon in 2018/19, but in front of them was a teenager from Tottenham who may just be the key to the season ahead.
With the ball, Oliver Skipp is neat, tidy and efficient but without it, he appears everything Daniel Farke demands of a defensive midfielder. He out-terrier-ed the Terriers and it was in that engine room where we saw the clearest sign yet of a Farkeball 2.0 emerging.
But… early days.
The other newbie to catch the eye was Xavi Quintillà, who displayed the same attacking instincts of the now-departed Lewis with the added bonus of having a left foot that can open a tin of peas.
Again, early days, but some of the set-piece deliveries were of an ilk that could see him squabbling with the returning Emi Buendia over who gets the set-piece stripes. In open play too, he linked up nicely with Onel Hernandez and looked every inch the able technician you tend to get when recruiting from La Liga.
Kieran Dowell, the third of the day’s starting debutants, had his moments but found the going tough as Huddersfield, after their early flurry, retreated into two banks of four and five. With space at a premium he, along with Teemu Pukki, often found himself crowded out among a sea of blue and white stripes.
Dowell is, however, clearly one who will add a different dynamic to our attacking playing, albeit at the moment he’s one who looks more suited to the traditional 10 role rather than having to drift in from the right.
The goal, when it arrived, was of a Norwich City 2019-20 vintage with Richard Stearman playing the role of a hapless yellow-shirted centre-back, Adam Idah, the ruthless Premier League striker and Teemu Pukki, the wily, selfless veteran who puts team before personal salvation.
And it was joyous.
Idah’s finish was emphatic, but equally impressive was the turn of pace he showed to get into that position in the first place, even if it did almost pale into insignificance against a similar run made by Usain Placheta.
In that short cameo, in which he touched the ball only a handful of times, the young Pole showed enough to suggest there could be thrills and spills aplenty to be had further down the track. And for Idah, it was the denouement of a ten-day spell that has seen him turn from young hopeful into full international and Championship goalscorer.
It was revealed afterwards that Idah had felt the wrath of Farke in the lead-up to the game over his application, or lack of, in training but what better way to respond than with an opening day winner.
So, solid rather than unspectacular, but it was an afternoon that has changed the mood music around the place immeasurably. The margins remain tiny – without the stray Stearman pass we’d probably be mulling over a goalless draw – but to come out on the right side for once made for a rare, angst-free Saturday evening.
The two penalties that never were are now academic and we have to temper our criticism of Championship referees if the trade-off means we no longer have to endure the painful injustice of VAR. That referee Eltringham saw fit to apologise afterwards to Farke for missing both was as unusual as it was refreshing.
I wonder whether or not he apologised to Carlos Corberán for not sending off Todd Cantwell for that stray elbow?
Anyway, it’s done and we won… on opening day… and nothing went wrong.
I could get used to this.
On the Ball City!