The full cost of yesterday's 1-0 defeat at the Ricoh began to emerge this morning – two-match bans for both Darel Russell and Gary Doherty and a ?5,000 fine for the Canaries.
That and the prospect of a late charge into the play-offs all but going up in smoke with Hull City and Charlton Athletic now ten-points distant in fifth and sixth spots with just nine Championship games remaining.
Given the minor miracles City boss Glenn Roeder and his managerial team have already performed in hauling the Canaries off the bottom off the table, 'failure' to reach the play-offs this season pales by comparison to what-might-have-been at the other end of the table.
But the Canary manager is clearly in no mood to let the season peter out now – hence the pointed gauntlet that he threw at his players feet ahead of Tuesday's home clash with Stoke City.
“We've got to pick our levels of performance up again,” said Roeder, memories of that magnificent unbeaten run beginning to fade. “I think some of them are showing to me over the last couple of weeks that they are switching off – and the season is far from finished.
“There's a lot of points to play for. And they have to realise that if they want a future at this football club they have got to do a lot better.”
They were, Roeder readily admitted, in mid-dip after winning just one of their last six games.
“Overall, these lads have been magnificent to lift the club from eight points at the beginning of November. But that's in the history books now. It's all about the rest of the season – starting with the game against Stoke.” Cue the gauntlet.
“It's a game where I will see how much some of my players want a future at this club. I feel that strong about it. They know I'm not messing around.”
Magnificent would not be a word that Roeder would apply to the referee's performance as the Canaries finished the game with nine-men, two more key suspensions and a club fine.
“I think a lot of referees – not all referees, but this one in particular – show a lack of common sense,” said Roeder, as Mr Taylor strayed into the firing line.
Doherty's first to haul back the livewire Jay Tabb having just found himself switched out to right-back was a nailed-on yellow; the other three could have gone either way.
“They're much too hasty to get the cards out. I think we had six booked and Paul Taylor had a performance that, in my opinion, he shouldn't be happy with. But knowing Paul Taylor, he will be.”
Six bookings for one side in any one game prompts the Norfolk club to receive an automatic FA fine – ?5,000 for a first offence. As for the two players, read the FA rulebook carefully and the pair now look certain to miss two games – the Potters clash on Tuesday night and the away trip to Sheffield United next weekend.
Russell, just back from a three-match ban for the red card he picked up in that 4-0 defeat at the Walkers Stadium has 'previous'; as has Doherty with the 28-year-old having already served a one-match suspension following five bookings in the autumn. Yesterday's two yellows took him to ten. Either way, both would appear to fall foul of the following:
“Players dismissed from the field of play for a second time (Russell) or who have previously been suspended under the Standard Directions set out in Schedule A of these regulations in the same season (Doherty) in addition to the automatic suspension applicable to the offence, will be suspended for one extra match.”
It certainly didn't help City's hopes of prising anything out of yesterday's encounter even if Messrs Marshall and Shackell, in particular, did their very best to stage one of the more outrageous smash-and-grab raids of the season as Jamie Cureton delved into his bag of tricks one last time.
“That made it nearly impossible to get back into the game – and we nearly did,” said Roeder, as Cureton's volley came agonisingly close to beating his one-time City Youth team colleague Andy Marshall in the Coventry goal.
It was the performance of the other Marshall that caught the eye. But for David Marshall pulling out a clutch of top class saves, Norwich could well have limped home to Norfolk with another Leicester-like scoreline to show for their efforts.
“Obviously we needed our goalkeeper David Marshall to make some outstanding saves to keep us in the game at 1-0 – but I don't know why people get so surprised at that. That's what goalkeepers are meant to do,” said Roeder.
The game had hardly started in the best of fashions as Tabb made the very most of Juan Velasco's obvious discomfort to put the Sky Blues ahead after just six minutes. The Spaniard lasted little more than 20 minutes before being hauled off; by the time Mo Camara followed ten minutes later and Roeder's initial 4-5-1 battle plan was history; Cureton was back alongside Dion Dublin in a straight-forward 4-4-2 formation.
“I'm never slow to make changes if it's not going the way that I want it,” said the City boss, proving that point in no uncertain terms.
“Neither player was injured; I wanted to get a second striker on – and that's what I did.” The theory was to match Coventry's own 4-5-1 formation and not be out-numbered in the middle of the pitch. But players – and performances – make systems work. And without the appropriate performances, the system clearly didn't work.
“We matched them up – that's what we did. I didn't want to play against Coventry out-numbered in midfield,” said Roeder, having watched the video of a very one-sided encounter against QPR in mid-week. That persuaded him to change his system with Lee Croft and Ryan Bertrand detailed to bring width and service to Dublin.
“We hoped that with the width that we'd have, we'd have got more crosses in – we didn't get enough crosses in and consequently Dion suffered because of that and it didn't allow Darel Russell or Matty Pattison to break forward into the box.”
Not that that they were the only culprits. Neither Velasco nor Camara were injured, Roeder stressed.
“It's all about the team – it's not about individuals,” said the City boss, not overly-concerned to spare anyone's blushes at their early exits. “The team comes first; comes second; comes third. It's always about the team. And the decision I made was for the good of the team.”