There was a double dose of misery for new reserve team boss Paul Stephenson last night after a 5-1 derby thumping added to Luke Chadwick's early exit with a recurrence of his troublesome shoulder injury.
Stephenson had enjoyed a perfect start to life in charge of the second string with a 4-0 victory over Peterborough two weeks ago but he was brought back down to earth against Pontins Combination league leaders Ipswich at Carrow Road.
Local rivals Town ? who haven't dropped a point on their way to the summit ? were well worth their comprehensive victory and after the club sealed their ?42 million Marcus Evans takeover at an EGM on the very same evening, this result merely rubbed City's noses in it.
With 17 minutes gone, the Blues took the lead, Jaime Peters sending in a right-foot half volley from 15 yards which beat keeper Ashley Timms.
Three minutes later it was 2-0 to the visitors when Jordan Rhodes picked up a pass from Liam Trotter, who then confidently rounded the keeper before slotting home.
They made it three just before the break and this time Trotter turned provider, setting up the overlapping Rhodes, whose shot was parried before crossing the line – despite Ian Murray's attempts to hook it clear.
All hopes of a Canary fightback were dashed on 58 minutes when Michael Spillane saw red for a challenge on Michael Synnott; Trotter and then Ed Upson ? with 15 minutes left on the clock – simply compounded City's misery by giving Ipswich a 5-0 lead before Paul Watson deflected a cross past his own keeper to give the home side a consolation.
“I've never seen that one coming,” admitted Stephenson, speaking to the official website.
“I've got to say the lads' attitude and application has been spot on since I came to the Club. It was a great performance at Peterborough, everybody right at it – great attitude, hard running off the ball, on the ball. But last night, it just wasn't there.
“I thought we started the first 10 minutes not bad, but I was really disappointed with the way we seemed to crumble after they scored. We didn't show the fight and desire which is going to be required at this football club.
“We want these boys to pressurise the first team boys, but on that performance they're not going to put pressure on them all season. The previous games at Peterborough and Reading behind closed doors we had a really good response from them – they really had a go.
“The boys had some chances last night as well that we didn't take and it could have been a bit tighter. It was just overall – the closing down and the hard work ethic that we require at this Club with the situation we're in wasn't there. We're not going to move up that table unless we do that.”
The Blues are certainly a bogey team for City at this level and there was even a few boos from the 2,000 plus Carrow Road crowd ? surely a first for a reserve team occasion ? and you get the feeling Stephenson would have followed suit if he could have. He was not a happy man afterwards, that's for sure.
“Apparently that was the seventh time Ipswich have beaten us on the trot and that's got to change. I'm not having that. I'm not going to let them across the way come and take the points away from our backyard so there will be some changes after that. Whatever it will be we'll have to sit down and come to the right decision.”
But Glenn Roeder's second addition to the Canary coaching staff did feel his side were hard done by when Spillane was dismissed for a challenge that he thought was no more than a '50-50'.
“It was a block tackle but his momentum has carried him through into the lad,” Stephenson added.
“They have both hit the ball at the same time and I think Michael was a bit unlucky with it. But it was one of the few tackles we had all night and we got punished for it.”
Of more concern to Messrs Roeder and Clark though will be the withdrawal of Chadwick – who just cannot seem to shake of this shoulder problem.
The City boss has been aware of it for some time and although surgery has not been deemed necessary as of yet, the former Manchester United winger has not played a first team game since the 3-1 win at Blackpool at the end of November.
Last night was seen as a tentative comeback after some rest and relaxation but after dislocating his shoulder again after falling awkwardly in the second-half, Stephenson revealed he may now need to go under the knife to cure a long-standing issue.
“It's quite ironic because Lee (Clark) had said to us 'take Chaddy off in the next couple of minutes' and then 20 seconds later – bang, it goes.
“It's just unfortunate for the lad. He has been trying to play through it. It's just unfortunate for him it's happened at that time. He had a little run with it and beat his man but the way he landed was funny.
“What he's got to do now is work hard on his rehab – whatever he needs. Does he need an op or does he just need to strengthen it? We'll just take it from there.”