Norwich's unerring ability to rip more away-day misery from the jaws of a potential long distance triumph hit new heights at St Mary's tonight. Or plumbed new depths.
For as the club's long-suffering travelling supporters will attest back in the office tomorrow morning, tonight's 2-0 defeat by a youthful Southampton side ticked every 'typical Norwich' box you could ever imagine.
The only one of the usual suspects that was missing was a long-term injury. Otherwise the gang was all there – big, big misses at key, key moments in the contest; yet another penalty appeal given and then taken and all with the added bonus of a red-card for Dejan Stefanovic as his frustrations boiled over in the midst of that 63rd minute penalty row.
It was his trailing leg that caught the passing Saints player. Or didn't. Or at least not inside the box, was Roeder's post-match verdict.
“Hugely disappointed with the official,” was the manager's carefully worded response. He was not about to put in a repeat appearance before the FA following his Andy D'Urso onslaught last season after the decision that never was at Bristol City.
“You know I've got to be careful what I say to you. But you should be able to speak your mind – and you know I can't.”
He had clearly been at the Pro-Zone lap-top as the game turned against him.
“I've viewed the penalty incident several times,” he said. “One it's not a foul and secondly, it's not even in the box; it's just outside the box and the referee's got a great view of it. Too often these days the referee is having too big an influence on the result.”
For the record, that is the fifth penalty that the Canaries how now conceded this season. Quite an achievement given that we're not yet two months into the new campaign. Given City's woeful inability to convert their own chances at the other end, it hardly helps anyone's top half wage bonus to be handing out spot-kicks at a rate of one every two games.
It can make all the difference between going into the international break looking upwards at the early chase for a play-off slot and heading into two weeks off gazing forlornly at the navel; all but back where they started 12 months ago. Only now ?19 million in debt and with Glenn Roeder's playing budget all spent out.
It can make all the difference between being tenth and still a point ahead of Ipswich Town and being 19th in the Championship ahead of Saturday's visit of fellow strugglers Derby County.
What added to the pain of this evening's performance was the knowledge that the Norfolk side had performed with all the verve and the vibrancy that had been missing at Oakwell. And yet once again they were firing blanks – albeit helped by a wonder show from ex-Town No1 Kelvin Davis who pulled out three of the best to twice deny Omar Koroma and once, at the very death, Arturo Lupoli.
Antoine Sibierski set the tone when he stooped to head a teasing Lee Croft cross against the base of Kelvin Davis' left-hand upright. In true Canary fashion, rather than dropping in off the post the ball then all but rolled the length of the goal-line before wandering off to safety.
Moments later and it was up the other end; the on-loan Jordan Robertson marking his league debut by stepping inside Jon Otsemobor and sweeping the sweetest of shots away and over the diving David Marshall and on inside his left upright.
Worse was to follow after the break as Koroma took to centre stage. The on-loan Pompey teenager had clearly got the better of his full-back; come the hour-mark and he took the battle inside to the two centre-halves.
The first he shrugged off with a turn of the shoulder, the second he drew and beat leaving just Davis to beat. His final shot was high and to the Saints keeper's right – as was his big, paw of a glove.
Ball pushed away for a corner, seconds later and 'OJ' was smashing the ball goalward from five yards out; once again Davis reacted; once again he somehow beat the ball away to safety.
Two, glaring misses? Or two wonder saves? Opinions among the Canary faithful were mixed straight down the line as half stood and half sat as the teenager made way for Jamie Cureton.
Either way and Southampton exacted the traditional revenge as referee Richard Beeby spotted a little trip just inside the City box; David McGoldrick accepting the gift with both hands as Stefanovic – all 34-years-old of him – lost both his rag and his place in the team on Saturday by voicing off at the official.
In fairness to the Saints, it needed the width of a crossbar to deny Bradley Wright-Phillips before the break; two big saves from Marshall and an Otsemobor hack off the line to deny them goals three and four after it.
And while referee Beeby might be off Roeder's Christmas card list, City's all-too regular ability of putting themselves even in the position to risk conceding a spot-kick is becoming criminal. One in ten games is careless, two is possibly comical… five is farcical. And way beyond the simple coincidence of poor refereeing.
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