City boss Peter Grant saved everyone a job as he walked into yesterday's post-match Press conference – fresh from a 40-minute dressing room inquest into a gut-wrenching 2-1 home defeat by Cardiff City.
For having dominated proceedings for the first hour, having deservedly stormed into the lead via Simon Lappin's second, 30-yarder of the season and having seen off the threat of a wholly ineffective Robbie Fowler, the Canaries then conspired to collapse in the kind of sorry heap that only the Canaries can as two soft strikes from substitute Peter Whittingham and young defender Roger Johnson left Carrow Road in a stunned silence.
City now have a fortnight in which to lick their wounds before entertaining Crystal Palace at home.
Little more than a month into the new season and the Canaries really do need to take something from that game as three big away games in a week then loom – to Charlton Athletic on the following Tuesday night, to Wolves on the Saturday and now to Manchester City in the third round of the Carling Cup the following midweek.
That's a tough schedule – at 1-0 up with an hour gone, Norwich were well on their way to securing the kind of solid platform you'd look for. Thirty minutes later and that Palace game assumes far more importance than anyone might wish for.
“I think I can probably write the headline for you – 'A tale of two City's,” said a thoroughly frustrated City chief, after watching his side go – yet again – from one extreme to the other.
From competent, calm and in control to nervy, hurried and vulnerable – and all with disastrous consequences as Cardiff were gifted their first win in Norfolk for 37 years.
“We've not played that great this season, but I thought the first-half was as well as we've played this season.
“We were on the front foot; we were positive in the things we've done; we played probably 95% of the first-half in their half – then we just invited them back into the game.”
The urgent need, said Grant, was for the Canaries to learn how to win the Championship way – to be effective, dogged, determined for the full 90 minutes; to close teams down and games out; to win ugly, in short. At 1-0, it should have been all over. Job done.
“We've got to try and get into that mentality of trying to play Championship football – we try to be clever and just invite trouble on playing square and back and Cardiff grew in confidence because we allowed them to grow in confidence.
“We won the game for Cardiff more than they won it themselves. “
Grant cited one big example as Dion Dublin took a leaf out of the rugby rule book and effectively kicked the ball 'into touch' down by the Snake Pit corner flag. It was, said Grant, all about gaining territory – moving the 'game line' deep into the opposition half, as far away as possible from David Marshall's goal. That's how you win ugly.
“Last minute of the first-half, Dion Dublin has clipped one right in the corner and even some of the players were thinking: 'Is that a good ball or a bad ball?'
“Right in the corner flag and I'm saying: 'What a fantastic pass…' Right in the corner; under pressure; we block them in; it's half-time.
“And we never did that again – in the whole game,” added Grant, back to questioning whether 'Playing the Norwich way…' is the way to defend a 1-0 lead. No, would appear to be his simple answer.
“All it needed, maybe, was to do that once in the second-half at 1-0; bottle the game in; take the game into their half and we would have won the game comfortably. And we didn't do that because that doesn't look nice.”
The manner of Johnson's winner – a free header deep in the City bos from a regulation corner did little to improve Grant's mood after his team's stuttering start to the new season.
“It's quite incredible – I'm standing there for maybe 15, 20 seconds looking on the pitch and I'm thinking: 'Six-foot four, standing in the box… Surely somebody is going to pick him up… No. No. And then you get punished for it.
“To lose that second goal is criminal – absolutely criminal.”
Nor was the first one much better as City fail to deal with a standard right-wing cross and allow Whittingham to poach a soft leveller at the far post.
“We've got a cross in the box; we've got three guys in the middle of the box – they've got one guy and they score. Things like that – it makes it very, very disappointing. It's that mentality of how to win games.
“If we'd have done the basics well, we'd have won the game comfortably – there's no doubt in my mind about that.
“We gave them it – we gave them the three points.”
He had, he said, shouted himself hoarse trying to get Norwich to stay on the front foot; stay camped in the opposition half.
“That's what I said to the players – myself and Jim Duffy are by the side of the pitch trying to commentate the game for them. 'Play forward..! Be positive..!'
“We're hoarse, but sometimes players have got to take that responsibility. You can go through it every day in training and that's one thing we work on all the time is being positive.
“And I think you can see that with the substitutions we put on to try and win the game,” said Grant, who would throw both Darren Huckerby and Lee Croft into the fray in a bid to claw something out of the contest.
“We tried to go and win the game; we tried to go and lift the game. And I thought: 'Right, we're going to start playing forward now…' But we didn't, we kept passing the ball back…”
The one big absentee was skipper Jason Shackell who, Grant revealed, has ankle ligament damage. Just like Mark Fotheringham and Jimmy Smith – though Grant didn't foresee a similar, six-week absence.
“It's quite incredible to have the three injuries that we have to the ankles,” said Grant. “We'll assess it over the next few days, but the good thing is that we've got no games.”