This is much more like it

STEVE GEDGE Two entertaining games in the space of five days? It's just like watching... well, Norwich three seasons ago frankly. The reception that greeted Robert Earnshaw's winner on Saturday was on a par with the celebrations following the dramatic displays against Manchester United, Middlesbrough and West Brom in the Premiership.

STEVE GEDGE

Two entertaining games in the space of five days? It's just like watching... well, Norwich three seasons ago frankly.

The reception that greeted Robert Earnshaw's winner on Saturday was on a par with the celebrations following the dramatic displays against Manchester United, Middlesbrough and West Brom in the Premiership. It's hardly rocket science - players' effort plus excitement equals fans' support and atmosphere, a formula absent from Carrow Road for much of last season.

It wasn't a perfect display by any means: there were still lax moments, the nature of the goals City conceded gave slight cause for concern and some of the substitutions showed that anything less than the current starting eleven and they might well start to stuggle.


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But when you display as much spirit as the Canaries did on Saturday - such as when Darren Huckerby, yes Darren Huckerby, got back to make a crucial right-back's tackle as the second half wore on - and win, all other failings can be forgiven.

Given that Norwich won six of their final seven home games last season anyone else might be forgiven for thinking that kicking off the new campaign with two successive Carrow Road victories was merely a case of 'business as usual' and nothing to get too worked up about. But it is.

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Think back to the latter stages of the 2005-6 programme now, and apart from seeing off the threat of Neil Warnock, just how much of any of those wins can you remember now? I'd bet that for many their only other recollection of those times was the growing discontent in the stands, most vocally expressed against Brighton and QPR. True, City took 18 points, but they had nothing to play for but pride, given that defeat to Ipswich in February effectively ended their top-six ambitions, and they were playing some dreadful sides with even less to offer, such as Derby and Leicester.

But this week's visitors were of a different calibre. Preston came to Carrow Road wanting to impress a new manager and in David Nugent had a Premiership-bound striker, while Luton, for an hour at least, looked perfectly capable of extending their 100pc start to the season.

And City themselves? Well, they showed far more purpose and confidence than at any point last season and Messrs Colin, Etuhu and Robinson have finally shown that they might have been worth a combined outlay of around £750,000 - depending on how much Carrow Road transfers actually work out at these days.

Okay we'll gloss over exactly why it's taken the City management so long to get last season's new arrivals to finally begin to look like possible useful acquisitions, but making seemingly bad buys was certainly one of the reasons why Nigel Worthington's future was called into question by many in recent months.

Add a surfeit of less-than-entertaining long-ball tactics, fragile confidence that collapsed at the first setback and strange formations and, well, I suppose two out of three other changes so far ain't bad.

Despite having appeared to have picked up a reputation in the last week for being the Victor Meldrew of Carrow Road, I stand by my criticism of the unadventurous opening-day defeat at Leeds. (Not that I was alone. Anyone who caught Five Live's 606 that evening would have heard that the third caller, after two celebrating Hereford supporters, was a Norwich fan complaining about the faltering performance at Elland Road.)

All too often last season it almost seemed that one of the most important elements of City's planning for their travels was making sure they brought along a white flag to wave, and anyone who was present at the abject surrender at QPR was perfectly entitled to express their annoyance at seeing another away match against average opposition - just look at Leeds'

subsequent results - slip from their grasp.

Nine days ago City were never the same side once they fell behind. On Saturday, even at two down they never allowed to let their heads to drop.

Whether it was the 'We are unbeatable' chant from the Luton fans - not even Middlesbrough fans were quite that cocky last year when they went 4-1 up - that spurred the players on I don't know, but it was plain that they had unwavering belief in their abilities to turn the match round, typified by Huckerby's chest-beating reaction to scoring that crucial first goal.

Excitement, spirit and points... it's all hugely encouraging. If the Canaries can reproduce this week's efforts on Saturday at Derby - the scene of another of last season's abysmal away showings - then people will actually start looking forward to coming along to Carrow Road again. And when that happens, you'll get the buzz of this past week, rather than the sullen atmopshere of the run-in last season, when you sensed 20,000 fans turned up as much through the financial obligation of having already paid for their season tickets as to support their side.

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