City full-back Ryan Bertand shared the frustration of nigh-on everyone in Carrow Road last night.
In fact, the 19-year-old probably had a bigger dollop of those home-defeat blues than most after seeing his inch-perfect, injury time cross hold up perfectly at the far post for Antoine Sibierski, Dejan Stefanovic, someone, anyone… nod in for a late, late leveller against an obstinate Queen's Park Rangers side.
Indeed, in common with both the whole of Snake Pit and half the City Stand, the Chelsea teenager was convinced that the 34-year-old Frenchman had managed to head te ball home inside Radek Cerny's left-hand post.
Alas for Sibierski's hopes of matching his debut-day feats at Home Park on Saturday, the ball just looped inches wide of the upright. Less than a minute later and it was all over – ten-man Rangers had held on for all three points. They were motoring nicely in fourth; Norwich were still stuck in 18th – the wind that they found in those Plymouth sails suddenly disappearing.
Maybe Glenn Roeder's outfit wasn't quite the finished article after all.
“I thought it was in – I thought it was bloody in,” said Bertrand, his level of frustration clearly evident.
He had, after all, proved to be one of Norwich's few attacking options to deliver something akin to a chance. Some 20 minutes before Sibierski's late, late opportunity and Bertrand had squeezed his way behind the Rangers back four to whip a dangerous low cross through the visitors six-yard box and force Cerny into a hurried, diving take.
It was one of the few occasions that City did turn the Londoners; second-half subsititute Lee Croft added a bit more menace and width away on the opposing touchline, but otherwise Norwich were alarmingly short of guile and invention in that final third – or at least until Bertrand put his foot to the floor and managed to work himself into position to cross.
One look up and there were two, big targets to hit. He'd done his bit – time to celebrate, wasn't it?
“It was Antoine and Dejan [Stefanovic] at the back post and they both sort of had a go at it but it ended up being a corner,” he said. “But I thought it was in from my angle…”
The morning after a painful night before and City boss Glenn Roeder will be assessing the cost of last night's first home reverse. Not just in terms of that little bit of momentum te Canaries picked up from that first win away at Home Park, but more importantly just how John Kennedy's ankle is feeling some 18 hours on.
It was “very sore” last night as the imperious 25-year-old centre-half was helped from the pitch by two of City's physio staff; sore this morning Norwich would probably settle for ahead of anything like ruptured, torn or even damaged.
It merely summed up a miserable night – particularly once Rangers defender Matthew Connolly did everyone in Norfolk a favour by seeing yellow twice in the space of the first 25 minutes.
For the second, successive game the Canaries could enjoy an hour of a match with a one-man numerical advantage. On this occasion, however, Rangers' well-drilled banks of four smothered nigh-on everything that was thrown at them – as well as bagging a winning goal of their own as returning skipper Martin Rowlands drilled home his thrice-taken free-kick in the 34th minute.
“Very disappointing if you look and see how far we could have gone up the table,” said Bertrand, with the Canaries missing out on the chance to go as high as eighth had they managed to take full and proper advantage of Connolly's stupidity.
Booked once for cleaning out Arturo Lupoli, the one-time Arsenal youngster waded through Matty Pattison little more than ten minutes later. Done right in frontof te dug-outs, it was always going to invite a furious response from the Canary management team. It did and even referee Rob Shoebridge couldn't help himself there – he had to reach for first yellow and then red.
When it came to Rowlands' strike nine minutes later, the favours were over. Twice Rangers got to give it another go – once for a Mark Fotheringham hand-ball; once for the skipper encroaching. Both appeared harsh on the replays as Rowlands smashed a decent, low drive inside David Marshall's right-hand post.
He – like Cerny – had another quiet day at the office. A goal up and a man down, Rangers were never going to press forward in any great numbers again.
“To lose 1-0 to a set-piece and then have a team defend through-out the game is just so frustrating, really,” added Bertrand. The sight of Kennedy exiting hardly buoyed the spirits.
“We know when Kendo [Kennedy] goes off the pitch that's going to be a massive, massive loss. But to be fair Jonathan Grounds came on and did well; but it's a difficult game to come into.
“And it's just frustrating that we couldn't break them down.
“At the end of the day, they were orgainsied and disciplined – and that's all you had to do really. Try and defend like that and try and catch teams on the counter-attack. And the main thing then is that you're organised – and I guess they were.”
They were also bigger and stronger in virtually every department; once again City look physically small by comparison.
Now all eyes turn to Saturday and the home clash with Sheffield United. That won't be easy; the Blades are traditionally never the smallest. And with Kennedy already an obvious doubt, it will require a big, big effort to bag that first home win of the season.
“We need to get back together, get down and focus on the weekend and make sure it's a complete, 100 per cent, three points at the weekend,” said Bertrand.
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