Leon Barnett’s weekend didn’t quite go as well as anyone in Norfolk might have hoped.
Yesterday and the on-loan Baggies defender was agreeing a full-time switch to Carrow Road complete with a three-and-a-half-year City deal.
This afternoon and Barnett was seeing red as the Canaries slumped to a 2-0 home defeat by Portsmouth – with a goal from Dave Kitson and a penalty from one-time Norwich transfer target Greg Halford ending City’s six-game unbeaten sequence.
“We shouldn’t have lost it,” was Paul Lambert’s simple verdict afterwards, with Pompey keeper Jamie Ashdown proving a particular thorn in Norwich’s side.
Him and David Nugent – the latter proving instrumental in both Pompey’s goals; the luckless Barnett earning his second yellow of the day for the foul on Nugent deep into stoppage time that gave Halford his chance from 12-yards.
Nugent had earlier run over half the length of the pitch before teeing up Kitson for the all-important opener.
So there may be another point worth making here. Fresh from a 2-1 away win at an in-form Swansea City side, Portsmouth may just be finding their Championship legs in time for a decent Christmas after all the turmoil – on and off the field – that relegation from the top flight brought this summer.
Likewise, at this level the likes of a Nugent, a Halford and a Kitson are no mugs; all have earned their ticket out of this level be it for Preston, Colchester and Reading respectively.
And whilst they may well have found themselves returned to sender of late, these boys are decent players. They have been around this Championship block before and proved their worth.
“Sometimes when the players are in there in the dressing room you can criticise people when things haven’t gone your way, but I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” said the City chief, with the result leaving the Canaries in sixth this evening and still in the play-off mixer.
It is one of Lambert’s big managerial traits in that he is rarely to be found having a pop at his players in public. And today was no exception to that long established rule.
City simply needed to find a way beyond Ashdown whilst they were on top.
They didn’t – and Nugent and Co duly punished them in the game’s last 20 minutes.
“The way that we’re playing the game of football at the moment is really, really pleasing,” the Canary chief told BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
“The breaks never went for us to today and that’s Sod’s Law what happens when you have so many chances – that ultimately the other team will get a chance and take it.”
City, of course, went into battle this afternoon minus skipper Grant Holt who was serving a suspension following his fifth booking of the season in that 2-1 away win at Derby County last weekend.
Given the form Holt has been in, Simeon Jackson had a hard act to follow.
Lambert was not looking for any easy excuses – other than it just wasn’t City’s day in front of goal.
“The chances that we created were really pleasing and on another day they would have gone in,” he said.
“I’m disappointed with to lose, but not disappointed with the way that we played.”
He wasn’t planning to dwell over-long on the coulda’s and shoulda’s to emerge out of this afternoon’s reverse.
“It’s the same when you win – you move on. And – as I’ve just told them in there – the way that we’re playing, we will drive on.”
Lambert was waiting for official confirmation that Barnett’s exit was for two yellows and not a straight red – atop of the first booking. The difference is a one-match ban for the former; a three-game absence for the second.
“The way he’s been playing has been excellent and the fact that he’s now ours is great,” said the City chief. “So we’ll just have to see what the report is.”
Jackson, strike partner Martin, Wes Hoolahan, Barnett, Fox and the on-loan Henri Lansbury all went close as Norwich manfully tried to prise Portsmouth open. In the event it was not to be.
Lambert being Lambert will probably be more concerned about still being three points short of the safety line, as opposed to where it might leave Norwich in terms of a top-six finish.
The manager’s feet have always been planted to that particular floor on City’s first season back in the second flight.
But whilst his side continued to deliver performances that delight him, so anything remains possible this season.
The man has ‘the touch’, after all.