City boss Glenn Roeder said he could take just one positive from yesterday's 1-1 home draw with FA Cup minnows Bury – that first glimpse of new loan signing Ryan Bertrand slipping smoothly up through the gears in the game's dying moments.
That and the fact that the Canaries will still be in tomorrow's fourth round draw.
Otherwise this weekend's FA Cup outing had little to commend it – a penny that took all of 43 seconds to drop as Chris Martin missed the first of a clutch of gilt-edged chances for Norwich to bury the Shakers.
In the end, however, it took Gary Doherty's scrambled effort ten minutes from time to spare Carrow Road's blushes after Andy Bishop had put the League Two strugglers – without a win in their last seven games – within sight of a famous victory.
“The one real positive I take out of it was young Ryan Bertrand's performance when he came onto the field,” said Roeder. “I thought he looked a very classy left-back.”
Otherwise, the manager was left scratching about for good things to say. The effort and the heart were there. Those he takes for granted. “Or else…” he muttered.
“We didn't play very well, but made enough chances to win two games,” was his basic verdict afterwards. And he was right on both accounts.
Jamie Cureton spurned an equally good, near-post opportunity moments before the interval; Dion Dublin sent a regulation free header well wide; Jon Otsemobor hit the keeper with the width of the goal to aim at; Darren Huckerby let Bury keeper Robert Provett win a last-minute one-on-one.
Now Norwich will have to do it all again in the replay at Gigg Lane on Tuesday, January 15.
“We've got to start taking some chances – and I've let the players know that after the game,” said the City chief, unamused by the way in which his charges failed to make their Championship standing count.
“If you play as a striker and the chances arrive, then you're paid to take them – and we're not taking them. Not anywhere nearly enough – and that's not just today, that's over the Christmas period in general.”
He has clearly marked young Martin's card after handing the Beccles prospect a rare start. Lacking match sharpness may be one thing, his weight is quite another. If the teenager wants a future at Carrow Road, he's on double training sessions to bring him down to a more respectable fighting weight.
“I should have known what was coming when we missed an open goal in the first 40 seconds,” said the City boss, after Huckerby and Lee Croft combined to put the ball on Martin's head two yard's out. He then managed to scuff his header wide of Provett's right-hand post.
“We've got two young strikers in Chris Martin and Ryan Jarvis and I decided to start Chris Martin because I've seen a lot more of him,” said Roeder, with Jarvis Snr only just back from his own loan spell at Kilmarnock.
“And I think we can see quite clearly from Chris' performance that although he was trying his hardest, he's way short of match fitness and was off the pace of the game.
“He needs to play more games; there hasn't been a lot of reserve team football this past month, but we've got a few games before the end of January which he will play in,” added Roeder, gauntlet in hand.
“And we need to carry on working hard on his physical fitness. He needs to buy into that because he'll be working morning and afternoon – we need to get some weight off him as well. And if he wants a future here, that's what he's got to do.”
All in all, not a great day for the strike department. Chris Brown's absence from the 16 may yet tell its own story.
“We have strikers at the moment that are not fulfilling what they are meant to do, but not just strikers. Darren Huckerby went clean through and at the level that he's played at, he should not be missing chances like that. A golden opportunity to put us through.
“Jon Otsemobor in the last few minutes from four yards is whacking the ball against the keeper when I thought it would have been easier with the full goal to aim at to miss the keeper and let the ball hit the back of the net.
“We have to go up to Gigg Lane; we're happy to go up there and win the game.”
For the first time in his City managerial reign, Roeder also pointed a big finger at officialdom as Bishop found himself all alone at the far post before heading a Brain Barry-Murphy free-kick back beyond David Marshall.
“Their goal is clearly two yards offside,” said Roeder. “It won't only be us that will have been let down by officials this weekend. But like strikers are expected to score goals when chances come, linesmen are meant to put their flag up when someone's clearly two yards offside. So we feel completely let down by the linesman on that side.”
Injury-wise and Jason Shackell was expected to be back for the trip to Barnsley after picking up a knock away at Crystal Palace; Otsemobor's place on the bench was designed to rest a sore Achilles.
“I thought Doherty and Dublin were – from our starters – our two best performers. Not that they had a lot of defending to do, but what they did they did it well.”
Transfer-wise and there was, as of five o'clock last night, nothing new to report, said Roeder. Joe Lewis' absence from the bench probably means he was pondering that ?400,000 switch to Peterborough; Manchester City will let Norwich know on Tuesday as to their thoughts on Ched Evans' loan situation; Brighton found themselves linked to Ian Murray's signature. And that, for now, was that.
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