That really couldn’t have gone much better, could it?

David Wagner’s first league game as Norwich City head coach was a triumph in more ways than one as a side that had looked toothless in recent weeks put Preston to the sword.

Movement, aggression, confidence, creativity, ruthlessness, in fact all the things that we had seen slowly leaching from the squad as the Dean Smith era headed inexorably towards the buffers, were back, and it was wonderful to watch.

Who could have guessed that removing the tactical handbrake and using players in the positions and roles in which they felt most comfortable rather than forcing square pegs into round holes would get the best from them?

Max Aarons, in particular, was a player transformed and clearly relished the freedom to surge forward at will in the manner that made his name, and the fact that he set up Kieran Dowell’s first goal with a backheel near Preston’s penalty spot perfectly encapsulated the freedom to roam that Wagner had given to his players.

Dowell, too, a player who had struggled badly under Smith, also appeared to revel in the chance to range across the central areas to either start moves or get into scoring positions himself, while Gabriel Sara and the excellent Kenny McLean provided a solid base to City’s midfield unit.

McLean was particularly effective as a short-range outlet for the back four as well as dropping in to provide the cover that allowed Aarons and Dimi Giannoulis to be so aggressive in their forward runs and was only robbed by a deflection onto the post of what would have been a stunning goal.

The Pink Un: Tim Krul was a surprise inclusion at the expense of Angus GunnTim Krul was a surprise inclusion at the expense of Angus Gunn (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Dowell’s selection for his first league start since October had raised a few eyebrows, but not as many as the return of Tim Krul, who was surprisingly restored to City’s goal despite the excellent form of Angus Gunn, and there were some signs of nerves in the first half before he produced two excellent saves after half-time to justify Wagner’s faith in him.

However, more than individual excellence the thing that really stood out about City’s performance was the sheer intensity of it. As Ryan Lowe pointed out in his post-match interview, it seemed as if City had more players on the pitch than Preston and even when possession was lost it was generally regained immediately.

What’s more, for months we have seen decent crosses go to waste due to a lack of numbers in the opposition’s box, but on Saturday there were almost too many yellow shirts there on occasions.

Gone was the sluggishness that had become such a feature under Smith, to be replaced by rejuvenated players clearly embracing the chance to express themselves in a system in which they felt comfortable.

That must have felt like manna from heaven from Teemu Pukki, who spent much of his time under Smith living off scraps or trying to manufacture his own chances, but at Deepdale he was clearly in his element as he became central to the system again rather than an individual left to plough his own furrow.

Of course, we shouldn’t get too carried away with just one game as there are much sterner tests ahead, and Wagner will need to find a sustainable balance between the desire to get players forward in numbers and not being excessively vulnerable against the quick counter, something which could have made last week’s game much closer had Preston been more clinical in their finishing.

However, given the gloom that had increasingly enveloped the club during the long decline since the Autumn, the game at Deepdale provided a welcome shaft of sunlight, and whether or not it is the start of a major upturn the fact that fans are starting to get excited about going to watch their team again, and expecting to be entertained rather than bored rigid is something that we should all welcome.