A goal to set the tone for rest of Norwich City’s season

Norwich City's gutsy performance at White Hart Lane was as impressive a show of team work as anything during the Paul Lambert era. Picture: Andrew Tobin / Focus Images Norwich City's gutsy performance at White Hart Lane was as impressive a show of team work as anything during the Paul Lambert era. Picture: Andrew Tobin / Focus Images

Monday, September 3, 2012
4:33 PM

There’s not exactly much of a choice as yet, but Robert Snodgrass’s goal at White Hart Lane may well turn out to be the most important scored by City in their entire season.

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Just imagine how things would now be looking if we’d lost 1-0 at Tottenham.

Promising performance, yes, but no end result, and we’d now be wondering whether the Canaries would actually be capable of picking up too many away points.

Especially when other new managers such as Steve Clarke and Michael Laudrup are already taking great strides towards the 40-point mark (although don’t forget that Wolves took seven points from their first three year ago and a lot of good that did them).

And the sniping between the supporters around me at White Hart Lane would now be really kicking off on message boards.

Now, though, our 36-game season is really under way.

Saturday was a fixture that would have been all to easy to decide to give a miss to this time around.

As away experiences go, the sides’ last meeting is on a par with 5-1 at Portman Road.

So I have to say that I was expecting a pretty comfortable Tottenham victory on Saturday.

Not because I felt City’s display would have been as bad as the one at Fulham. Rather, that our Easter Monday victory would still be fresh in the mind to all in London N17, as would the way Spurs almost casually threw away two points at home to West Brom a week earlier.

And I can’t have been alone in this, judging by the way that tickets for White Hart Lane didn’t exactly fly off the Carrow Road box-office shelves.

Those present at Craven Cottage who didn’t make it to White Hart Lane would have been amazed by the difference.

The defence was solid and assured. The midfield pressed Spurs back, denying them possession for long spells.

Perhaps the only real cause for concern three games in is a return of only two goals, but if it wasn’t for an outstanding performance on Saturday from Brad Friedel we would have more.

In short, this was an away performance which was the trademark of Chris Hughton’s predecessor. It’s almost easy to become blasé about things, but had we come from behind like this at the start of the 2004/5 season we would be in absolute raptures about such a result.

Now it’s true that Tottenham minus van der Vaart and Modric equals not quite so daunting an opposition line-up as the one which cut City to pieces at Carrow Road last Christmas, but the visitors still had to work hard and stay focused to get anything out of Saturday.

And, unlike two weeks earlier, they kept going despite falling behind. For all the talk of Tottenham playing it safe with substitutions after going ahead the fact is that the Canaries’ great spirit would have got them something out of the game whatever the formation of the opposition.

And with any other keeper in the home goal we’d now be hailing a landmark victory.

The fact that City had a point to prove after Fulham – and made it – fills me with a great deal more optimism for the season ahead. This display was on a par with anything seen over the last three years.

I’d still take a guaranteed 17th place if it was offered now, but the alarm bells that were ringing in the distance after Craven Cottage have been silenced.

If that Snodgrass chance had gone in against QPR and we’d been absolutely hammered at Tottenham we’d now be sat on three points.

We might actually have only two, but the confidence boost from Saturday puts us in a much better position.

The season starts now. It’s just a pity we’ve got to wait 12 days for our next game.

• JUST REWARD FOR COMMITMENT TO THE CUP CAUSE

That quote by film producer Samuel Goldwyn “the harder I work the luckier I get” sprang to mind when the Capital One Cup third-round draw was made on Wednesday.

All right, on a personal level I quite fancied Burton Albion away, but –probably more realistically – we could have been given an emotionally-charged pairing with Aston Villa or Leeds. I think we can do without either of those, for now at least.

It wasn’t exactly a night to remember against Scunthorpe, but a change of seat brought me into view of Chris Hughton, whose body language suggested that he was taking this competition a lot more seriously than some of his predecessors, who treated it as an irrelevance to get knocked out of as quickly as possible.

And so it came to pass that the cup-minded man praised in the Tottenham programme for playing a part in a famous Uefa Cup victory over Johan Cruyff’s Feyenoord was rewarded with another home draw against lower-league opposition.

In the past 12 years the script has always been to get drawn away – almost always against solid Premier League opposition, remember Derby, Newcastle, Birmingham and Manchester City? – and have any fanciful thoughts of a cup run, or at least playing in three rounds in the same season, kicked swiftly into touch.

Doncaster will undoubtedly prove more testing opposition than Scunthorpe, but even if Hughton makes 11 changes from the starting line-up at Newcastle two or three days earlier we should still go through.

And we might then draw Bradford or Burton at home. Who knows what might happen?

After all, when Ipswich somehow found themselves in the semi-finals two seasons ago it was on the back of being paired against Exeter, Crewe, Millwall, Northampton and West Brom reserves.

• NEXT GAME SO CRUCIAL

So, West Ham at home the week after next becomes a must-win game.

Not just because we haven’t got one on the boards yet, but this is one of those 10-12 fixtures that you would target as a victory before the season got under way.

If West Ham come to Carrow Road without Andy Carroll then they revert to being the kind of operation which relied on players of the calibre of Sam Baldock or Nicky Maynard. If not, well, it’s the sort of testing fixture we’ve won before.

It’s uncanny how things are shaping up when compared with a year ago – two draws and a comfortable defeat in London.

But in 2011 we went into the first international break tasked with the prospect of beating West Brom at home – another must-win affair – but instead were totally knocked out of our stride.

We can’t let it happen again. If we don’t beat the Hammers we might have to wait another six weeks for the 22-day schedule of Aston Villa, Stoke and Reading for a realistic chance of nailing that first win. And that would be starting to get just a little too close to the 2004/5 season for my liking.

• GARRIDO THE PICK OF NEW ARRIVALS

So we didn’t get our big-name nor big-money striker last week.

Perhaps a late deal fell through, or maybe we’re holding something back until January. Who knows?

Besides, it hasn’t exactly been a disastrous transfer window – Javier Garrido turned in another assured display on Saturday.

We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed over injuries and hope that things pan out like they did two transfer deadlines earlier. In March 2012 we were held at Hull and you sensed that we needed fresh impetus up front. We didn’t get it, and instead Simeon Jackson in particular stepped up to the plate and saw us to promotion.

This is no criticism of Harry Kane, who could turn out to be a very able acquisition.

But you never know what you’re going to get with loan signings. You might get a, say, Peter Crouch, someone who really buys in to what you are trying to achieve and plays their full part. Or you might get a David Bentley.

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