Not for the first time in his stint as Norwich City boss, Glenn Roeder bemoaned his side's lack of a 'killer instinct' as the shot-shy, goal-shy Canaries stumbled out of the Carling Cup at the very first hurdle – losing 1-0 to League One MK Dons.
In fact, he was left saying something pretty similar after Saturday's 2-0 opening day defeat by Coventry. Don't take your chances, you don't win your matches.
At the Ricoh a far more fluid City display delivered half-a-dozen decent opportunities to get their season off with a bang; at stadium:mk tonight, an increasingly disjointed Norwich effort saw Omar Koroma head one over and see another saved in the first period, before Lee Croft poked a five-yard effort straight back at the keeper in the game's dying minutes.
In between, Darel Russell had produced the one shot with any real venom or belief – a rising, 25-yarder that slammed against the upright. Otherwise, there was plenty of huff and puff; bags of possession; endless movement of the ball from side-to-side – just no end product. No final punch; no killer touch.
“It's hugely disappointing to go out of the cup at this early stage,” said Roeder, left to watch 19-year-old MK Dons striker Sam Baldock show his players how with the deftest of little lobs over an advancing David Marshall for the game's only goal.
“And yet again we shot ourselves in the foot by creating a couple of glorious chances – three, in fact – in the opening 15, 20 minutes and we don't take them.
“And we need to remedy that very, very quickly because we had the same problem at Coventry on Saturday where we're making chances and not scoring. And, of course, that puts a huge amount of pressure on the defence to keep a clean sheet.”
Once again – by and large – the Canaries were OK at the back. Even without the rested duo of John Kennedy and Dejan Stefanovic, a combination of Jason Shackell and Elliott Omusuzi at centre-half and the return of Adam Drury at left-back after his ten months on the sidelines limited the Dons to little more than the odd half-chance.
Baldock's winning goal was all about the coolness of the finish – and the slide-rule pass from skipper Keith Andrews. The fact that it all but mirrored a move a minute earlier in which Wes Hoolahan released Koroma only for his heavy first touch to give Dons keeper Willy Gueret the chance to smother the ball away at the 18-year-old's feet will not have been lost on the watching Roeder.
Chance missed at one end; chance taken at the other. Game over. Cup 'run' ended at the first round.
“Let's be fair – David Marshall has not had a save to make in anger in these two games. And speak to Marshy and he'll tell you. He hasn't had anything to do – other than he's had to pick the ball out of the net three times.
“Defensively – generally speaking – I think the boys have performed very well. It's just in the top half of the team – we're not finishing off the chances that we've made.”
As ever, it all goes to plan on the training ground. Out there where the metal meets the meat, however, and it is a different story.
“The boys who are missing the chances, in training they're taking them,” he said. “But the important thing is that we keep making chances. And we've done that in the last couple of games – we've made chances. We're just not taking them.”
Whether Saturday's home clash against Blackpool would see someone else handed the chance to get the ball into the back of the net appeared, tonight, to be remote.
For if, indeed, Roeder's long-time strike target is Rosenborg's Steffen Iversen, it appears that the Norwegians are in little mood to play ball; no hint of any early movement on that front.
“Am I any closer? No, not at the moment,” said the City chief, with the 31-year-old's current run of goal-scoring form – he has eight in his last 14 outings for his home-town side – making Rosenborg even less willing to part with their star turn. Whatever promises they may or may not have made.
“This particular club is proving very difficult to shift,” admitted Roeder, still naming no names. His need for someone to give the Canaries the option of a more direct route to goal – or, at least, the chance to mix their approach play – is obvious to all concerned. Against two strapping League One defenders in Jude Stirling and Danny Swailes, the Canaries barely put a dent in them.
It doesn't help when the passing becomes laboured and obvious; as it did once City's early invention started to wane.
“At times I thought we were too slow in our build-up,” said the Canary boss. “Even though we kept the ball, we didn't make ground quickly enough [going] forward. And we were pedestrian. And it was too easy for MK Dons to get everyone behind the ball.
“We need to play with a quicker tempo and shift the ball through the team quicker.”
And play with that 'killer instinct' up front. A case of being braver when the opportunity arrived?
“It's just a case of putting your foot through the ball and making sure that it ends up in the back of the net,” said Roeder. “And I just think that one or two of the lads haven't got what I call that 'killer instinct'.
“Whatever way they have to get the ball in the net, the ball ends up in the net – whether it's a delicate chip; whether it's smashed in, bent in…
“For instance, the header that OJ missed early on; free header; looked like from about eight yards out. Anywhere on target, there's so much power on the header it puts us one-up. And I've seen him do that in training. On a regular basis in the short time that he's been with us. But tonight, it's gone wide.
“And then he's had a lovely opportunity, his first touch was a bit heavy and the keeper's come out and smothered it…”
By the time that the luckless Croft was tapping the ball back into the waiting Gueret's arms having seemingly been caught by surprise at the far post and Canary No2 Lee Clark was on his knees thumping the turf in his frustration. As were 2,100 travelling Canary fans… and thousands more back home in Norfolk.
Same old, same old, same old…