On the basis that next Saturday's home clash with Swansea City already has a 'must-win' air about it, City boss Glenn Roeder has his hands full over the next seven days.
For one thing, there will be no Dejan Stefanovic.
For another, there will be no Darel Russell. His 80th minute dismissal for a push in the face on Ross Wallace will be deemed violent conduct; that's the City skipper out for three matches.
And then there's Antoine Sibierski. The 34-year-old on-loan Frenchman again failed to make it beyond the interval – this time disappearing in the 44th minute with a knee injury.
Both he and Stefanovic are now booked in for scans on Monday, revealed Roeder afterwards. Given the manner of the Serbs' collapse in a heap and the swift call for a stretcher, you can only fear the worst. It looks for all the world like one that will be measured in months, not weeks.
Not a great afternoon, all told. Not when you were 2-1 up with ten minutes of the contest left. Not when there was an urgent need to pull three, big home points out of the bag following those back-to-back away defeats of last week.
Instead, you end up with a paltry one – with the added joy of one big injury, one key suspension and one, on-going niggle to your lone, big striker.
“We had enough chances to win two games after a hideous start to the match,” admitted the City boss afterwards, as the Canaries found themselves stuck fast in 19th – their cause hardly helped by Chris Brown's second minute opener.
Norwich could be 20th come Sunday night if Malky Mackay manages to inspire Watford to victory away at Swansea City tomorrow.
“It wasn't even a good goal – it was an awful goal. But from then on, they responded very well the players.”
Inspired by David Bell, certainly for the rest of the first-half Norwich were very good value. And Roeder was quite right; the game should have been wrapped up by the break. It was when John Kennedy sneaked in at the far post to convert a Bell free-kick.
And then the red mist descended on Russell. Tangling with Ross Wallace over a free-kick, the Canary skipper pushed his opponent away, palm first, in the face. Right in front of the referee. Little more than 60 seconds after Russell's latest red, Preston grabbed their leveller and another two points were going AWOL.
“I thought Paul Taylor had little option other than to send Darel off,” said the City chief, having reviewed the incident “five or six times” with his distraught skipper. Having been dismissed by Taylor at the Ricoh last season, another rush of the blood to the head has again cost both player and, potentially, club dear.
“You can't raise your hands – there was no force in it. He just put his hand in his face.
“But he's the captain at the moment while Fotheringham is out; he's an experienced player; he should know better. We've watched it together half a dozen times already and irrespective of the Preston player and his efforts to get the ball – he puts his hands on the back of Darel's neck and tries to squeeze his head off. But its always the player that retaliates that gets spotted by the referee.
“He knows that he's made a very, very big mistake that's cost us.”
Did it cost you the three points, was the next question. Was it as simple as that?
“I would have thought so, wouldn't you? We had momentum; we were on the up. We were 2-1 in front and there was every chance that we'd score a third goal. Not that we needed to score a third goal because they weren't threatening at all at that stage.
“And then for the last 15 minutes we were hanging on for a point – which was absolute nonsense given how many chances we let go begging.”
Both Preston's goals were of the soft and shocking variety. The first – after all of 110 seconds – was a classic of mis-communication between David Marshall and Jon Otsemobor as Canary old-boy Brown took full advantage of the pair's dreadful indecision and did something he rarely threatened when in Norfolk – and scored.
The second may well have been an excellent, 20-yard finish from substitute Neil Mellor. But coming less than 60 seconds after Russell's exit, it was another example of the Canaries mentally switching off at a key moment. Still a goal to the good; re-focus, re-focus, re-focus. Don't let Mellor slip so easily into space in the inside right channel; don't give Richard Chaplow the time and the space to pick out his man.
The one, big plus was the man of the match efforts of Bell, whose pin-point, set-piece delivery twice put a goal on a plate for his team-mates – the first a hanging corner for Leroy Lita to meet with a thumping header home; the second, an ideal floated free-kick to the far post where Kennedy waited to help home.
That's a rare straw to cling to. That, finally, City have a player who can deliver a set-piece with whip, with pace and with precision.
Otherwise, Norwich's ability to commit footballing hari-kari remains unrivalled; their hopes of finding any sort of consistency – be it form or fortune-wise – seemingly as far away as ever.
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