That’s more like it, City

STEVE GEDGE The largely forgettable 90 minutes at Deepdale can be summed up in two words - 'hugely' and 'encouraging'. I'm already struggling to remember anything about the game, whereas at least the 0-0 draw at Preston in 2003 could be recalled for being on the same day as the Rugby World Cup final.

STEVE GEDGE

The largely forgettable 90 minutes at Deepdale can be summed up in two words - 'hugely' and 'encouraging'.

I'm already struggling to remember anything about the game, whereas at least the 0-0 draw at Preston in 2003 could be recalled for being on the same day as the Rugby World Cup final.

Both largely incident-free, but both, in their own way, key matches.


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Four seasons ago a gritty point showed that City were well capable of grinding out results as they pushed towards the top of the table.

And Saturday? Well, for starters it's showed just how much the Canaries have progressed in the past 12 months.

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A year ago they made a good start to the season, true - had they won on the opening day at Leeds rather than lost it's quite possible that Nigel Worthington would have picked up the August manager-of-the-month award - but they only really had 11 players to choose from.

As soon as August turned to September and injuries started to kick in - most notably the loss of Darren Huckerby - their fortunes fell right away - poor defeats at Coventry and Plymouth and throwing away victory at Southend followed, and we all know what that led to.

One year on from a summer in which only Lee Croft was recruited, it's been a very different story. The thing about Peter Grant with which I have been most impressed is that he has identified holes in his squad, and got on with the job of filling them.

None of the managerial excuses or quips about pending massive phone calls heard time and again elsewhere - "Well, there's not much happens at this time of the year", "My phone's never off even when I'm away on holiday", "I've put a lot of calls in and am waiting for people to get back to me", or simply "We've made inquiries but there's just no-one out there" - he's slowly started building his own squad.

Several signings and quite a few departures - 'Is it a coincidence that just about everyone Nigel Worthington paid a fee for has now been let go? Discuss.' - later and this really has become Peter Grant's Norwich City.

Killing time before kick-off on Saturday by idly glancing at the back page of the programme, I counted a squad of 31, which can be broken down into 12 Grant signings (including one loan), 13 who have come through the ranks and six Worthington signings: Croft, Doherty, Drury, Dublin (although I suppose you could really reclassify him as a Grant re-signing), Gallacher and Huckerby.

But it's more than just a numbers game - gaping hole in the squad at No 5 apart, there's now options across the park.

And never more was this demonstrated than on Saturday, with a Huckerby-less side that had as much cutting edge as a hospital radio music playlist came away with a very useful point against opposition themselves solid and well-organised.

And, for the most part, comfortably too. Other than in the first 10 minutes, when Preston won a string of corners as the new-look City bedded in, and when the fourth official put up his boardd to show four minutes of added-on time at the end of the second half, at no point did you ever sense the Canaries being under serious pressure.

There was no-one truly outstanding, but Shackell looked composed in his new role, while Russell, Brellier and Brown certainly covered a lot of ground.

They came for a point, and went home with it.

(Had it have been Darel Russell and Chris Brown kicking off at Elland Road a year ago, it's very hard to imagine a similar outcome.)

And probably eased Grant's fears a whole lot. With that many new faces it could have gone badly wrong. Given that City's previous two visits to Deepdale had seen some quite appalling play, a third straight defeat followed by a struggle against Barnet and his (still sizeable) band of critics would have been unleashing their pens, keyboards or tongues.

As it is, give a couple of fringe players a start against Barnet tomorrow, then get someone of a similar standard at home in the next round - after last season's seemingly-endless travels I think we deserve to avoid another away draw at the likes of Cheltenham or Hereford - than, all in all, it will have been a highly satisfactory first week of the season.

Serve the City staff up with boiled fish, mashed potato and rice pudding - none of that contaminated fancy food - and get more options up front and, you never know, this September could yet prove much more interesting - for all the right reasons.

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