City boss Glenn Roeder could barely contain his venom this evening after watching another decent performance from his struggling Canary side end in a miserable heap.
The Norfolk side were just eight minutes away from rightly prising a hugely-encouraging point from third-placed Reading before referee Trevor Kettle adjudged skipper mark Fotheringham to have handled the ball under pressure from Royals substitute Shane Long.
Unfair pressure, fumed Roeder as Stephen Hunt converted the subsequent penalty and Long added a second three minutes later. The sorry sight of John Kennedy being lifted off the field a minute from the end having 'shaken up' his troubled knee merely completed the misery for the Canaries.
“I'm sick and tired of officials this year having had such a major influence on results,” said Roeder, forced to pick his words all too carefully having already found himself in hot water following events at Pride Park earlier this season.
“Sick of it – and I speak for all managers. I've never had a season like it when they make so many mistakes. Major mistakes,” said the Canary chief, insisting that Long had slammed into the back of Fotheringham deep into that Canary box.
“It's a foul; he's pushed in the back. Clear-cut – pushed in the back. He has stuck his arm out, but as he's jumped he's pushed forward.
“And if that's not a homer's penalty then I've never seen one,” added Roeder, as Mr Kettle's name disappears off his Christmas card list.
“But we have to pick our words so carefully. Everyone else can say what they like; we have to pick our words so carefully,” said Roeder, unable to have a few words with the official afterwards.
“He didn't want to speak to me. So I rest my case now – I wonder why not?”
The fact that the Canaries had dug in so well against one of the form teams of the division and come so close to reaping their due reward with a share of the spoils merely fuelled Roeder's anger as Norwich found themselves stuck firm in 20th spot with only Southampton's 3-2 defeat at Burnley keeping them away from further trouble.
“They worked so hard and they played so well – and we had two great chances in the first-half with terrific football…”
And that they did; Norwich made light of the cloying conditions to twice rip Reading wide open down the Royals left in those opening ten minutes.
Matty Pattison sprang an over-lapping Jon Otsemobor clear with barely five minutes gone; his low cross sped across the mud and found stand-in striker Darel Russell unmarked in the middle of the goal.
The glass half-full brigade would insist that the spooned, hapless finish that followed was a product of the muddy conditions as the City star lost his footing at the wrong moment; those whose measure tends to be half-empty would claim it was a stand-in striker's finish as the ball looped gently into Adam Federici's arms.
Five minutes later and Lee Croft would deliver an even more tempting cross as he whipped a magnificent delivery out of his bag of tricks only for Pattison to head wide – albeit under pressure from the Royals No1.
It looked a meat-and-drink chance to someone of Cort's ilk. The first would have been more up Arturo Lupoli's street as the on-loan Italian found himself again as an unued substitute.
Reading's best moment of a generally underwhelming first half-hour came when Ryan Bertrand prodded Stephen Hunt's cross back into the path of skipper James Harper whose sliding shot skipped little more than a yard wide of David Marshall's left upright.
Ivar Ingimarsson almost stabbed the home side ahead after 53 minutes, before Cort made his grand entrance just before the hour-mark. His first touch boded well – a neat, cushioned header into his new strike partner Russell only for Michael Duberry to intervene.
As much as City huffed and puffed well, thereafter, with both Croft and Russell drilling 20-yard efforts down Federici's throat and Cort winning more than his fair share of headers, so you always feared one error would decide it.
That error belonged either to Mr Kettle or Mr Fotheringham – or both – as the City skipper raised his arm above Long's shoulder and watched the ball roll down it – straight in front of the referee. And deep in the Norwich box, to boot.
If the roles had been reversed, the watching Canary fans would have screamed for a penalty. As it was, the referee had seen enough and pointed to the spot.
Hunt converted off both Marshall's finger-tips and the inside of the post; three minutes later and Long was rising above Gary Doherty and directing the killer second in between the City keeper and his near post off a pin-point James Henry cross.
Once you saw Kennedy being helped off the field between two Canary physios before the end, you just knew that Norwich's afternoon was complete.
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