City star Wes Hoolahan was in little mood to celebrate his wonder strike last night after watching all his hard work undone by two, “sloppy goals”.
For just as the 26-year-old's 30-yard strike was out of the very top drawer before the break, so the manner of Southampton's two goals after it were a case of Norwich once again fumbling around in the bottom drawer. The pants drawer, in short.
But had Hoolahan ever hit a sweeter strike?
“No – I don't think so,” he said afterwards. “It was alright. But there's no point now because it feels like we lost, although we drew.”
Given the level of Kelvin Davis' performance – the ex-Ipswich keeper turned it on again in the corresponding fixture at St Mary's last autumn – it need to be something very special to beat the Saints No1 from that kind of distance.
And having been teed up by the quick-thinking of Sammy Clingan, so Hoolahan grabbed his second goal in as many games under new boss Bryan Gunn with an effort that had the lot – bend, dip, swerve, pace and accuracy. It ticked every box.
And yet what should have been a match-winning thing of beauty will get lost beneath the full-scale inquiry that inevitably follows another two, big home points lost. Particularly when all three would have pushed Southampton deeper into the mire.
“It does feel like a defeat – we're in the dressing room and all the boys are head down,” said Hoolahan afterwards.
“We're comfortably winning 2-0 and we give away two sloppy goals. So it does feel like a defeat.”
It was left to the resolutely upbeat Gunn to remind everyone that that one point could still cme to save Norwich's bacon this season as that clutch of ex-Premiership clubs struggle to keep their foothold in the second tier of the English game.
Leeds United won't be the only famous name gracing League One next season.
As ever, City were chalk and cheese. Or rather third and fourth gear before the break; second and third and then reverse afterwards.
“In the first-half I thought we were great; I thought we passed the ball – and then in the second-half it just seemed to be a bit flatter,” said Hoolahan, insisting that it wasn't nerves that strangled that first-half flow.
Gunn suggested afterwards that 2-0 is probably the most dangerous scoreline in football; that caught in two minds as to whether to push on and kill the game dead or sit back and protect what they'd already got, City ended up doing neither. And once Lloyd James' deep, diagonal cross into the box was floating goalward, so an all-too familiar script was being followed to the letter.
“I don't know what the case may be – we probably thought we were comfortable. I don't know. To get a deflected goal for the first one and then a sloppy one for the second and that changed the game around.
“I don't think we got nervous; I thought we were still comfortable – we just didn't pass the ball well and the movement wasn't as great as it was in the first.”
When it zipped, it worked. The luckless Jamie Cureton could have wrapped the contest up just before the interval as the Canaries really got into gear only for Davis to pull off a world class save to deny him. At that point, Norwich were flying – and then the half-time whistle blew.
“It did come at a bad time. We were zipping the ball about; we played well; thought we should have been three or four-nil up and the keeper made a great save from Curo [Cureton] that could probably have killed the game off.
“A bit disappointing, but hopefully we'll move on and we'll get a good three points on Friday.”
Hoolahan has, at least, now had a chance to see the new coach at work. And having never heard of this Crook character before, appears impressed. The two can both play for fun.
“He's not too bad,” said Hoolahan, with a smile. “He's been on the training pitch and shows off his skills now and again.
“I'd not heard of him before, but, yeh, he can play a bit…”