City boss Glenn Roeder was clearly fearing the worst with regards to on-loan Celtic defender John Kennedy this weekend as his last minute exit – borne off the field by two Canary physios – merely set the seal on a disastrous last ten minutes for the struggling Norfolk side.
Sitting pretty for an excellent away point at the free-scoring Berkshire side, Mark Fotheringham's handball and Stephen Hunt's 84th minute penalty had already stabbed one, large stake through City's heart; a second would follow three minutes later as one-time Canary loan flop James Henry delivered an inch-perfect, near-post cross for substitute Shane Long to head home a flattering second.
The cruellest blow, however, had still to come as Kennedy pulled up short in the very final minute of normal time.
Given the fact that the Celtic hero has already spent three years on the sidelines recovering from the devastating knee injury sustained on his Scottish international debut, Roeder's immediate, post-match diagnosis did not make for great listening.
“He's just shaken the knee up – the knee that he's had problems with in the past,” said the City chief, who has already lost one of his first-choice centre-halves – Dejan Stefanovic – to a long term knee injury.
And while Kennedy may well have been on his way back to Parkhead next month anyway – his half-season long loan complete – to lose a second in such individually heart-breaking circumstances merely deepens the sense that the Canaries are sailing under a very vengeful moon this season. Luck contines to do them few, if any, favours.
The City chief refused to speculate much further; that will be left to the medical people and Monday morning scans.
“We're talking, what? Barely half an hour or so since the final whistle, so until it calms down tomorrow we won't really be able to assess the damage,” said Roeder, certain thoughts clearly already crossing his mind.
“Only somebody like John Kennedy with his mental strength has returned to play football; the injury that he sustained playing for Celtic is horrible – players don't come back from that.
“He's playing because he's made of stern stuff. And he's come off as quickly as he did because he's obviously done some sort of damage – we just hope that it's not too much because he's a magnificent human being.”
With a little less than three weeks to go before Kennedy was due to return north anyway – in theory, fit and able to help the Bhoys with their Scottish Premier League title push – there is every chance that that is the last the City faithful will see of the 25-year-old. Being carried off at the end of a 2-0 defeat at Reading.
Given that Kennedy was sent off in his last appearance before that – away at Sheffield Wednesday – it is not the kind of send-off anyone would have planned for a player who, for parts of the autumn, looked back to his formidable best.
But as with Middlesbrough's Matthew Bates last season, taking on loan players in the final stages of their long-term rehab comes with attendant dangers – that for all the skills of the modern day surgeons, any knee is just flesh and blood; having been rebuilt two or three times, it might simply not be able to take the strain of professional football any longer.
The same will be true of the newly-signed Carl Cort who was given a 30-minute run-out after Matty Pattison disappeared with a dead leg.
“I had to get Carl Cort on sooner than I wanted to,” said Roeder, after the 31-year-old's international clearance from the Spanish FA arrived just in time for his inclusion on the bench.
Where he sat alongside the unused Arturo Lupoli. With Leroy Lita ineligible and Antoibe Sibierski out for “two to three weeks” with his foot injury, Roeder had gone into Royals battle without a recognised striker in the side; Darel Russell doing his stand-in role with Pattison sat in the hole off him.
Both would miss gilt-edged chances in the game's opening ten minutes as the Canaries, to their credit, started by far the brighter and twice opened up their hosts down the right.
The 'What if…?' questions were inevitable given the final scoreline; Roeder once more pointing a finger at the Italian's lack of physicality; his inability in the manager's eyes to cope with two, Championship-standard centre-halves blocking his path to goal. Lupoli's next chance will come wide on the left, said Roeder.
Or rather as and when David Bell slips out of the reckoning.
“I think that maybe playing down through the middle against the physical presence of their two central defenders is tough for Arturo Lupoli,” said Roeder.
“That's not a criticism of him – that's how he is physically made. And at the moment – in a game like that – is probably better suited to playing in a wider position.
“In a way that Billy Davies used him at Derby when he was on-loan from Arsenal; I think he played him a dozen times, but played him wide-left. And at the moment Belly [David Bell] is doing very well there. So he's just going to have to be patient to get a game.”
There was, however, no hiding Roeder's fury and frustration at yesterday's results; the manner in which Trevor Kettle adjudged Fotheringham to be the guilty party and not Long as he clattered into the back of him would rankle with the manager long into the night.
“It's a tough one to take,” admitted Roeder. “To take a team that I think will win automatic promotion so far, to lose a goal in such an unjust way…
“As I say, I feel for the players down there. They've given their all and they do not deserve that,” he said, hoping to find support in his assessment from his opposite number, Steve Coppell.
“I always think Steve Coppell is very honest in his assessment and in his heart he'll know that they didn't deserve to win that today. Against Watford we played very, very well for the whole 90 minutes and lost to two individual mistakes.
“That hasn't happened today. The only people who have made mistakes are not wearing yellow – and he ain't wearing blue and white.”
Draw your own conclusions as to who that left.