If the numbness felt in the aftermath of yesterday’s events was not bad enough, we were then offered the opening salvoes of the recriminations.
No-one was spared. Lewis Grabban, for obvious reasons, was first in line but was far from alone; Neil Adams, David McNally, the board, Chris Hughton and even Alex Neil (yes… Alex Neil) being mentioned in dispatches.
In truth it was probably a smallish minority but, regardless of the number, the final blast of referee Mark Brown’s whistle was the cue for the toys to start flying out of a few prams.
The real disappointment from yesterday was that the much discussed favours from others did materialise – albeit not where I had envisaged – and yet City were still not able to take advantage.
The reasons were, as ever, not one-dimensional but there is no disputing that Grabban’s needless sending off did turn events at the New York Stadium on their head.
Given the striker’s non-reaction to the red card one assumes he accepts that a flailing arm to rid himself of a headlock was worthy of the punishment – and the general consensus was that it was the right decision – but in the cold light of Sunday morning it was an innocuous act.
While a three-match ban for ‘violent conduct’ is inevitable, anyone who considers Grabban’s actions as ‘violent’ or describes it as ‘fighting’ should spend a Saturday night on the mean streets of Lowestoft. In fact I’ve seen worse in the queue at Morrisons.
But, yes I know, rules are rules and ‘if you lift your hand’ etc etc. I may be a lone voice but I’m not quite ready to send Grabban to the Norwich Castle dungeons.
The ten players left on the pitch – particularly given the circumstances and the raw meat that had been served pre-match to Rotherham’s finest – made a more than decent fist of smuggling the three points out of South Yorkshire and will consider themselves a tad hard done by.
City’s goal was an absolute beauty and a Gary Hooper in such form bodes well for what may lie ahead but it did need some second-half heroics from John Ruddy and his defenders, plus a horror miss by Matt Derbyshire, to get them to 84 minutes without conceding.
The equaliser when it arrived however still stuck in the craw because having defended so manfully it was a bit of a soft one. Despite doing well to quell the initial threat, Russell Martin will still be kicking himself today for allowing the cross to be delivered.
It was hard though to argue that the Millers were not worthy of a point and fired up by the sense of injustice over their three-point deduction it was always going to be a tricky one. In not un-typical Norwich City fashion we pitched up at the most inopportune moment – and not for the first time.
Last season, with three games remaining and points at a premium, we headed to Old Trafford on the day that the Class of ’92, led by Ryan Giggs, were put in temporary charge of United following the sacking of David Moyes. I distinctly recall Paddy Barclay – football journalism royalty – telling talkSPORT; “The ones I really feel sorry for are Norwich”. We lost 4-0 of course.
Yesterday, in its own way, was not dissimilar.
If there was one team in the Football League that you wanted to avoid it was Rotherham. If there was one manager whose dugout you didn’t want to be adjacent to it was Steve Evans’.
The aforementioned raw meat had clearly been shared between players, coaches and supporters and made for a scenario which was hardly ideal given City’s desperate need for victory.
That the Canaries fell just short was heartbreaking given events elsewhere but to have emerged with a point from such an encounter had it been a mid-season game would have been regarded as ‘decent’. In the circumstances though it was two crucial, agonising points that had slipped away, and to devastating effect.
As we know, all is not completely lost – not yet anyway – and Bournemouth still have a job to do tomorrow night but in terms of last chance saloons, we’re in the one with the two magpies, the rabbit’s foot and the four-leaf clover. And you do wonder if Lady Lucky used up her charms yesterday.
But, as much as it hurts, if the Cherries do the business it will be no more than they deserve and it is indeed a good story – even if behind the fairytale is their own Roman Abramovich.
Watford too deserve credit and, despite an aggregate 6-0 walloping by the Canaries, they have held their nerve perfectly as all around them have endured varying levels of wobble.
For our part we now have to sit and wait and if Eddie Howe’s men successfully clear the final hurdle prepare ourselves for a couple more weeks of nerve-shredding. As things stand it will be a two-legged affair with ‘that lot’ – the same lot who from somewhere have found a modicum of form. And it will be horrible.
But, regardless of who, where and when we should be thankful that we are again in very safe hands. Since the arrival of Neil, City have lost on only three occasions, none of which were away from home.
We’re in the hands of one who, by all accounts, leaves no stone unturned and knows precisely what it takes to get results – especially on the road. He won’t fear the play-offs and you can be sure the mindset of the players will be unaffected if we are forced down that particular route.
Alex, Frankie and co will take it in their stride. So should we.
“On the Ball City…”