It was a tale of two Norwich Cities.
You suspect that the fabled ‘wee chat’ was tossed to the side at half-time and replaced with a full-blown hair dryer on setting 11, such was the desperate situation which faced us at that point.
Early season great expectations replaced by distinctly hard times.
What the Dickens was that first half about? A packed Carrow Road was a bleak house on Saturday lunchtime.
Presumably, the training all week had focused on getting in the faces of an in form Everton – depriving their play-makers and free-scoring centre forward the time and space to do their thing?
Instead, Alex Neil’s starting XI gave the impression of having been out with the wives doing a spot of late night Christmas shopping.
After the wretched showing at Watford, we all expected a response brimming with energy and commitment.
“Please Sir, we want some more oomph,” was the fans’ plea to the boss and players after the thin gruel served up at Vicarage Road.
That Everton managed to beat Declan Rudd just the once was the only saving grace in a turkey of a opening 45 performance so miserly that Tiny Tim Cratchit would have found it difficult to have looked grateful.
Whatever was put into the half-time punchbowl worked flipping miracles.
Almost straight away, with the benefit of defensive tinkering and Wes pulling the strings, we looked worthy of our Premier League status for the first time in 135-odd minutes of action.
Game by game inconsistency is one thing but half-by-half inconsistency is a new torture offered up to us.
Suddenly, all that had been missing in action from the opening salvos was on show in front of a revived home faithful. Everton were stifled, hesitant and on the back foot.
Once Deulofeu and Barkley were subbed, we’d won the moral victory surely? Three points were there for the taking once Martinez had resorted to bringing Darren Gibson on to partner treacle-treader in chief Gareth Barry.
Quite how Cameron Jerome conspired to hit row Z instead of the net from a handful of yards, only he will know. It summed up our season to a tee. Missed opportunities.
I was listening in to Radio 5 Live’s commentary. Even old ‘Psycho’ Stuart Pearce declared he had never seen quite such a turnaround in performance and attitude from one half to the next.
With Sunderland following us under the wheels of the runaway Watford juggernaut and Swansea repeating our last gasp heartache at the Etihad, only Bournemouth and the Toon stole a march against an injury-hit, confidence-shot power house led by a Dutch version of a footballing Mr Scrooge.
Alex Neil’s ‘pick n mix’ policy of team selection has turned from a canny and pragmatic approach to someone increasingly unsure of his best team at this exacting level.
Russell Martin back in for Ryan Bennett bamboozled everyone outside of the Neil inner-circle, nearly as much as the now seemingly short-lived resurrection of Lewis Grabban in the previous home outing.
Wasn’t it Seb Bassong who did his best Gareth Barry impression the week before as Ighalo brushed him aside?
Why no last 10-15 minute appearance from Dieumerci Mbokani or Youssouf Mulumbu just to inject fresh energy and legs in a search for those additional points, which were begging to be grasped?
Nathan Redmond, Cameron Jerome, Alex Tettey and Gary ‘Neil’s collective bolt had been shot by then. Maybe the ghost of substitutions past – most notably the Tettey-Hoolahan switch at Newcastle – still haunts the gaffer?
While it’s clear that more consistent quality is needed for the second half of the season at Carrow Road, the best teams of the moment are also benefiting from their boss knowing who to rely on from week to week, as long as injuries and suspensions don’t cloud their choice.
Hats off to Leicester and Watford. Their starting XI has rarely changed and the near telepathic understanding that has brought early success is in stark contrast to our own stop-start spluttering.
The constant chopping and changing in midfield and up front has to be playing a major part in the lack of a regular rhythm that is required for a much needed good run of points to drag us out of the doldrums.
Positive noises may be coming from the upper echelons of the club in terms of planned activity in the transfer market however, the painful reality is surely that at best we are likely to attract a Gayle or a Naismith. Decent enough strikers but no world beaters.
As for quality defenders to come in and sort things out – answers on a postcard please.
No, it’s going to take the nucleus of the current squad to ‘do a Leicester/Sunderland’ of previous seasons. For that to happen, Alex is going to have to find the formula – the right mix and stick to it as closely as possible week in, week out.
For now, with that Scrooge-led, injury-hit, confidence-shot opponent up next, whatever starting XI runs out for us at the Theatre of Dreams, let’s pray they play for the full 90+ minutes and stop being the gift that keeps on giving.