Nine times out of ten, Norwich being Norwich whenever they take one step forward they then invariably take at least one back.
Tonight and the Canaries departed from that unenviable tradition and for 45 minutes took at least three steps back courtesy of, arguably, the most awful first-half of the season as Crystal Palace strolled into the easiest of 2-0 leads and eventually clung on to a 2-1 win.
Strong in mind, resolute in body and over-flowing in spirit at the City Ground on Saturday, for all-too much of that opening half the Canaries proved weak in one, lacking in a second and bereft of a third – right up until the interval when Glenn Roeder's best-laid plans went out of the window as both Antoine Sibierski and Ryan Bertrand disappeared for Wes Hoolahan and Mark Fotheringham respectively.
And out of the phone box came, if not Superman, then a wholly different proposition as Matty Pattison's second goal in as many games at least threatened to turn the contest on its head as the 4-3-3 formation that Roeder had pondered so long and loud about in the run-up to tonight's game began to bear fruit.
From the very outset Hoolahan proved willing and adept on the ball; indeed, he arguably did more with it in the first three minutes of the second period than the hapless Sibierski had done in the whole of the opening 45.
And once Lee Croft's whipped cross had found Pattison's diving head some ten yards out, so hope sprang eternal – even if, in the end, there was just too much of a mountain to climb. For a side not big on scoring goals, pulling two back against a Neil Warnock side – let alone the three needed for victory – was always going to be a big, big ask.
But that was the big question that the Canary faithful carried home with them tonight – why, oh why, hand the half-fit Sibierski a start ahead of a bright and eager Hoolahan?
The answer, said Roeder afterwards, came in the way that the 34-year-old trained yesterday; and the partnership he had seen him strike up with Leroy Lita.
Was he not tempted to start 4-3-3?
“Not when I'd seen Sibierski train,” said Roeder tonight. “He trained really well and I think that him and Lita have got a good partnership.
“And ideally – and football never does 'ideally' – you were hoping to be in a winning position after 60 minutes and I could have saved his legs for Saturday,” added the City chief, with the arrival of Hoolahan at the break prompting one of the biggest cheers of the night.
Starting the Frenchman again ahead of Hoolahan at Hillsborough on Saturday may yet test the patience of the faithful; everything is fine and dandy when you win games; play like City did for much of that first period and the questions inevitably follow.
“I could have sent him [Sibierski] out for the second-half but decided not to and [instead] do what I did – to put Hoolahan around Ben Watson. For although Ben Watson never ran the game in the first-half, he hit some telling balls,” explained Roeder, as he sought to nullify the Palace playmaker.
“And Ben Watson is a quality player – make no mistake about that. And though he wasn't running the first-half, he got the ball too much for my liking. In the second-half, to be honest I didn't know that Ben was playing. Because he was chasing Wes most of the time.”
Roeder did admit that Sibierski was “not fully match fit”; but was thinking about Saturday when he decided to withdraw him – and revert back to the formation that started against Forest. Albeit now with Sammy Clingan in at centre-half, Adam Drury switched to left-back and Mark Fotheringham covering in the middle after Bertrand disappeared with what can best be described as a buttock strain.
Hoolahan's role, however, remains the No1 talking point tonight. And will do come the weekend.
“In that withdrawn role behind Lita, Wes again had a real impact on the game,” admitted the City chief. “And, again, should have proved to everyone that when you play one up through the middle and basically play 4-3-3 it is just as attack-minded as 4-4-2. And we were camped in their half for virtually the whole of the second-half.”
If Palace's opener had more than a hint of offside to it as Craig Beattie found himself strolling through the very heart of the City with the nearest yellow shirt some ten yards distant as he picked his spot beyond a horribly stranded David Marshall, their second on 40 minutes was – in fairness – an absolute gem as John Oster picked his spot in top corner with a fabulous, 20-yard chip.
Good a goal as it was, it all stemmed from a nightmare moment from Pattison as he, like Sammy Clingan moments before, was caught horribly in possession by a brighter, sharper Palace side.
“The second goal was abysmal; absolutely abysmal – you can't give any team two-goal starts and expect to win 3-2. It happens once a year – twice a year if you're lucky,” said Roeder.
“We put the gun to our head and pulled the trigger on the second goal.”
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