I guess the unbeaten run had to end at some point. And, given the priority is clearly a swift return to the grind of the Premier League, a defeat in the Capital One cup at Shrewsbury was always going to be preferable to one at Blackpool on Saturday.
But that’s enough of the positives. In fact, the return of a hungry-looking Jonny Howson aside, that’s possibly the *only* positive to be gleamed from a disappointing night.
In truth I didn’t see last night’s match, and instead can only base by thoughts on an a combo of BBC Radio Norfolk’s commentary, the BBC website and Twitter, but the common thread running through all three was that City were not very good.
That much was abundantly clear.
Chris Goreham, as ever (breaks in transmission aside), did a superb job of bringing the action from Shropshire to my living room, although I’m sure the irony of David Fox – a participant in the FA Cup debacle against Luton Town – providing the co-commentary was not lost on anyone. He was better placed than anyone to comment on City being on the wrong end of a cup upset.
And it didn’t make pleasant listening.
But we should not have been surprised – Norwich City and cup competitions are incompatible. Even in the heady Lambert years we failed miserably in one-off cup ties. The Hughton era threatened to buck the trend when we made it to the Capital One Cup quarter-final, but even then it ended in heart-wrenching disappointment.
Why did we fool ourselves that it would be different under Neil Adams?
While there are no excuses for losing to a side two divisions lower, Adams understandable decision to make the full eleven changes certainly did the Canaries few favours.
There is no questioning the quality of those brought in – we’ve discussed at length the depth of the current squad – but my making wholesale changes, however logical, you end up with eleven talented individuals but not necessarily a good team. And so it proved.
Last night’s starting XI was almost a brand new team and, however well drilled they have been on the fields of Colney, to expect them to ‘click’ as a unit was always going to be a big ask. And it’s not just the team cohesion that suffers. Minus a bona fide reserve league it’s also nigh on impossible to maintain the required levels of match fitness.
The upshot was a display as witnessed by those 992 hardy souls last night. Disjointed, leggy and lacklustre. And, as ever, it’s the travelling faithful who suffer the most.
To take almost a thousand supporters for a game 200 miles west from the Fine City on a Tuesday night was staggering, particularly when compared to the two taxis and a tandem that took the Ipswich away following to Wigan on Monday night. Alas, for the travelling Yellow Army it had a horribly familiar 2013/14 feel.
Yet, few have faulted Adams for playing a second string. With 30 players to keep happy – all of whom could expect a first-team start at some stage of the season – the cup competitions offer a perfect opportunity to offer game time to those on the fringes.
Carlos Cuellar – for example – looks unlikely to be sampling Championship football any time soon, and so to blood him in the Capital One cup was a no-brainer. Ditto Garrido, ditto Rudd.
Unfortunately that opportunity – for the Capital One cup at least – has now disappeared.
As it transpired, while Adams was no doubt hoping that some stand-out performances would offer him some serious alternatives, few of last night’s performers did themselves favours. Instead it was those who didn’t play who emerged the stronger. All of which was certainly not in the Adams plan.
As mentioned earlier, if there was a bright spot it was the return of a fit and healthy Howson. While in terms of full match-fitness he may still have a little way to go, he will have pushed himself to the forefront of his manager’s thinking. And that is a good thing.
With regard to of Saturday’s visit to Blackpool, I’m content to assume that last night’s disappointment will have little impact. Team Adams will clearly revert to an XI that closely resembles the one that drew with Birmingham and, in terms of confidence levels, it will be ‘as you were’.
But it will still be a tricky one, regardless of Blackpool’s perilous position, and the fragile beast that is ‘form’ will quickly be turned on its head if Lancashire proves just as challenging as Shropshire.
The Seasiders troubles have been well documented – and they have scored just three league goals to date – but we are all too aware of City’s penchant for providing strugglers with a platform to find some form.
If that particular banana skin can be successfully negotiated then slipping on last night’s won’t seem quite so bad.