City scorer Gary Doherty suggested that yesterday's FA Cup clash with League Two minnows Bury should have ended “in the first five minutes” – as opposed to ending sometime next Tuesday night as the Canaries head back to the North-West for the long-distance replay.
Chris Martin was the principal guilty party as the Beccles teenager spurned a golden opportunity to put Norwich in the driving seat after just 43 seconds when his two-yard header fell the wrong side of the Shakers' post.
In the end, of course, it fell to Doherty's first goal in over two years to spare Norwich from a third round exit after Andy Bishop's 70th minute header left everyone fearing the worst.
“We created a lot of chances – something that we have been doing, to be fair,” said Doherty, for many observers the man of the match against a battling Bury side.
“But we're just not taking them – both in the league and in the FA Cup and that's disappointing. The only positive that you can really take is that we're still in the hat.”
The draw for the fourth round comes at Monday lunch-time. And while the in-form Championship side may head to Gigg Lane still very much the favourites, old habits are clearly dying hard under new boss Glenn Roeder. Norwich have been awful cup campaigners in recent years and 2008 could merely add another non-event to the list if they fail to make their higher league standing count against the Shakers next week.
“Hopefully, we can get up to Bury and put it right,” said the 27-year-old Republic of Ireland international, fast returning to his best following this autumn's hernia operation.
Without over-labouring the point, Martin's chance was the big one. Bag that and City could have gone on to a Barnet-style romp against their lowly visitors. In the event, however, their game becoming laboured, sporadic and generally lacking the invention and fluidity on show at Palace on New Year's Day.
“It does change the game completely,” said Doherty.
“We had Barnet here in the Carling Cup and we just blitzed them early on and it obviously makes it a lot more comfortable. But if you don't take your chances, they'll obviously grow in confidence.
“But it's not just today. We've not really been scoring many in the league either so it's something that we've got to put right – just take our chances and make our life a lot more comfortable.”
For while the Canaries might have been lucky to get away with a point against Wolves over the festive break, either side and they had more than enough opportunities to prise three massive points out of first Charlton Athletic and then Crystal Palace. On both occasions, however, City had to take a point from a 1-1 draw. This weekend's same scoreline was Norwich's fourth 1-1 in a row.
The fact that the Shakers set themselves out in a 4-5-1 formation with ten men wedged firmly behind the ball didn't encourage a bright, open encounter. But the fact remained that had Martin done as Roeder would have requested then Bury's 4-5-1 set-up would have been made redundant within the first minute. They would have had to some out and play – opening up the kind of spaces that both Darren Huckerby and Lee Croft would enjoy. But as ever, there were all too many 'Ifs…'
“If we'd have got the goal early then that's probably game over,” said Doherty. “But they set themselves up well; defensively they put in some fantastic blocks – especially in the second-half. In and around the box, they threw everything at the ball and made it hard for us.
“But we created a lot of chances – clean-cut chances, one-on-ones – so it's disappointing to have to go to a replay.”
The one silver lining came in the shape of his first goal since September, 2005, and a 2-1 home win over Hull City. Mark Fotheringham's snap-shot off a Dion Dublin knock-down was only half saved by Robert Provett and there was Doherty to tuck away a relatively simple chance.
“I thought I was a bit further out and I've just seen it now on the lap-top and it was a tap-in,” he admitted. “But I'm just happy to get off the mark.
“It's been a while now – September, 05 – so it's been a while and it's something that I want to put right because I've always had a good record scoring goals. But that was more in the Premiership, so I'm finding it a bit harder in the Championship for some reason.
“Hopefully, that'll kick-start me now.”
City had their chances in those last ten minutes as Dublin strode up field and made his presence felt. Jon Otsemobor poked one straight at the keeper; Jamie Cureton again came close; Huckerby had a one-on-one. Nothing would quite fall Norwich's way as Roeder's frustrations mounted on the touchline.
“They were throwing everything in the way; we were trying to kick everything to try and keep them in. But they stood strong and they thoroughly deserved their replay,” said Doherty.
“It was probably more down to our bad finishing, but that's football.”