Gloss finish would be nice

Improved, stylish, value for money and probably the best in the league. Well, that's the impressive Derby County match programme dealt with, on to the £27 match ticket.

Improved, stylish, value for money and probably the best in the league. Well, that's the impressive Derby County match programme dealt with, on to the £27 match ticket.

Prices like that, incidentally, are what we became accustomed to paying in the Premiership, which is kind of appropriate since Derby still give the top-flight half-time scores out before the Championship ones. Hate to remind you, lads, but the Rams were relegated in 2002 and Plymouth v Sheffield Wednesday has more bearing on you nowadays that any events at the Emirates Stadium.

Like City's last 0-0 draw, back at West Brom in 2004, this was a game they could have won, but for a couple of moments of indecision from an off-key Robert Earnshaw.

That trip to The Hawthorns was both a high and low point of the Canaries' Premiership campaign; good since it showed City could go and compete on their travels, but bad because those two dropped points would have helped ensure their survival and mean that they wouldn't have had to carry the millstone of no away wins right up until the crucial last day of the season.


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So, unlike then, it's important that City learn their lessons from another battling away display and turn draws into wins. For now though, even allowing for missed chances in front of goal this was a point gained, not two dropped.

Events of recent years suggested the following course of events on Saturday - a) City would look a shadow of the side who had put on a couple of sparkling home performances; b) they'd be made to pay for losing a summer transfer target, Steven Howard, to their hosts; and c) in facing a team with former Canaries, Marc Edworthy and/or Paul Peschisolido would further add to their woes by returning to haunt them.

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As it turned out, however, a) City built on the defeats of Preston and Luton; b) he came no closer than hitting the bar; and c) if their names weren't familiar you wouldn't have noticed their presence on the field.

Quite simply City looked a well organised and hard-to-beat set of visitors on Saturday. In complete contrast to past away surrenders they were fully focused on the job in hand. Okay, the bookings might have mounted up a bit, but the challenges from Lee Croft and Youssef Safri on Giles Barnes and Inigo Idiakez were firmly in the 'just to let you know we're here' category and typified the steely resolve the Canaries used to show on their travels.

A year ago they were run ragged by Derby on a wretched afternoon when Idiakez was given the freedom of Pride Park. This time around was very, very different and it was pleasing to walk away from the ground afterwards and hear more than one Derby fan admit that a point against a decent side like Norwich was a good result.

I can't put my finger on what exactly has changed at Norwich, be it the arrival of a new coach, a desire by the surviving players to right last season's wrongs, or simply a manager waking up to the realisation that he's been drinking in the last-chance saloon for so long now that, never mind his stool, there's a whole bar that's been renamed after him.

But whatever it's down to, the fact is that if City continue to play like they have done in the last three games - plus the first half at Leeds - there's very little cause for complaint. I'm not going to admit that, like plenty of others in calling for a change of management last season, I was wrong - the memory of some of those abject performances isn't going to fade in a hurry. For all the well-meaning viewpoints that the results were down to the players, you still had to ask who was responsible for their formation and paying over-inflated fees on City's until-recently vanished No 17 - a man presumably who has been brought back in from the cold now to be replaced by Leon McKenzie.

But if the lessons of 2005-6 have been learned, the horror shows of Luton, QPR, Derby etc etc etc won't have been entirely in vain. If City can avoid repeating last season's home slip-ups - even without the presence of returning former Canaries in Messrs Heckingbottom and Hayes, Barnsley has the look of a fixture they would have lost a year ago, like Sheffield Wednesday - they really could be back in business.

Spend the Green money wisely - such as on a different build of striker to compensate for when Earnshaw has an off-day - before August 31 and those visits to Birmingham and West Brom which are just starting to loom on the horizon suddenly might not be quite so daunting after all.

(Incidentally, congratulations to Green on making the most well-timed of moves - he gets a desired and deserved return to the Premiership just when City aren't left in the lurch by having no experienced reserve to call upon; oh, and there's a fee involved as well - unlike the departures of some goalkeepers we could mention.)

So, while the 90 minutes in themselves might not have represented excellent value for money for £27, the promise they hint at just might. The real test will come the next time City fall behind, however. Then we'll see what they're really made of.

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