All good things come to an end but it just had to be at the hands of a former Carrow Road hero – one Malcolm George Mackay. Considering what he has on his plate at present, his focus on the job on hand was admirable.
On his last visit to Norfolk – with Cardiff last season – the Malky bus was characteristically parked and the Canaries drew a blank. On that occasion our boys did at least batter at the bus door with over 30 efforts on goal, with their keeper making a number of jaw-dropping saves.
Last night, against a resolute Wigan side, no such bombardment came about and in truth, Scott Carson could have slipped off for a second-half cuppa and still had a clean sheet to his name.
A smack of symmetry from the reverse fixture in December when we won 1-0 with the goal scored in the first ten minutes.
The loss of three points in such a poor display against a side second from bottom is puzzling and troubling after such a magnificent run of victories against some of the tougher sides in the league.
But just as one solid victory against the neighbours didn’t define the season and guarantee automatic promotion, neither does an abject floodlit-bathed struggle against Wigan mean we’ve blown our chances.
It’s all about the response on Saturday against another side who are desperate for points in their own relegation struggle.
Lewis Grabban’s dodgy ankle caught everyone by surprise and if that is the end of his season it’s a cruel blow indeed for him and for the club. It is no coincidence that our two best spells this season – the first ten games and the last ten – have featured an in-form Grabban as first choice striker.
Why his mood and form fell through the floor in the intervening period is open to many a conspiracy theory. But while Neil Adams was unable to put the spring back in his step, Alex Neil – Skybet’s Manager of the Month for February – almost miraculously achieved it within weeks of arrival.
Every side in the league can offer up the injury-riddled bad luck excuse for under-performance but at such a critical stage of the season and with our boys looking in full flow, the loss of Grabban could turn out to be a defining factor if the promotion push falters.
The goal gauntlet now falls to Cameron Jerome and Gary Hooper.
Jerome has been great but tends to favour the spectacular over the two-yard toe poke. Not even a Messi can pull a footballing rabbit out of the proverbial hat every match.
We need a poacher and a snaffler of scrappy scuffed chances.
While Hoops does have that short-range poke in his toolbox, he can display an irritating slothful demeanour when va va voom is being cried out for, but now he has the chance to put himself in Canaries’ folklore in the last 11 games as Simeon Jackson did once upon a time.
Eight goals to match Simeon’s efforts would be nice. A tough call maybe but Hooper did come with a big reputation and price tag to match. Now it’s payback time.
Last time we were in the promotion mix was 2011 of course, when the legendary Lambert-Holt combo inspired a route to the Premier League on the tails of QPR.
But how did things look after 35 games back then I hear you ask…
Well, we’d just dropped points at home to Preston with Wes Hoolahan fluffing a Pirlo-esque chipped penalty in a 1-1 draw.
I have no recollection of what the internet reaction was to that disappointment but I imagine it was fairly harsh, as some of the Wigan reaction has been.
We’d already lost four times at ‘fortress’ Carrow Road back then – the same as this season.
After that blow against Preston, City were perched in fourth on 60 points – 10 points off QPR in the top spot with Cardiff, Swansea, Nottingham Forest and Leeds all still well in the mix for a glorious May.
The boys bounced back with a win at Leicester followed by a win at home to Bristol City. The final eleven games of that season featured seven wins, three draws and just the one loss at promotion rivals Swansea.
Only a similar run-in over the next few weeks will get us over the line without sweating over the lottery of the play-offs.
The four point gap to Middlesbrough now looks much more enticing. The rivals this time are of a very different appearance and all have slipped up of late but all invariably bounced back quickly.
With Derby and Middlesbrough still to visit our green and pleasant land, our fate is in our own hands.
No-one will be a push over as Wigan painfully showed but the trip to Chris Hughton’s Brighton – who recently vanquished Ipswich and Derby – and the final day visit of chief ‘fly-in-ointment’ specialists Fulham, possess distinctly slippery and painful possibilities.
It’s crunch time. A time for heroes.