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Good reasons to be grumpy. Bryan

PUBLISHED: 10:23 20 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:43 03 July 2010

If you've ever seen the TV programme One Foot In The Grave, you'll know how Bryan Gunn is feeling this morning.

Not only was his post-match mood as grumpy as the main character's, but the programme sums up just where Norwich City find themselves, with their expensive size 10 boots preparing to lace up in League One next season.

If you've ever seen the TV programme One Foot In The Grave, you'll know how Bryan Gunn is feeling this morning.

Not only was his post-match mood as grumpy as the main character's, but the programme sums up just where Norwich City find themselves, with their expensive size 10 boots preparing to lace up in League One next season.

Gunn tried to argue that City deserved more than they got from Portman Road, but yet another dodgy decision by a referee shouldn't hide the fact that they were never good enough to get the three points they so desperately needed.

Having seen his side stand up favourably to their East Anglian rivals for 45 minutes, Gunn saw the carpet pulled from under him just after the hour mark when referee Neil Swarbrick decided that the act of one player jumping over another without a great deal of contact or intent being involved constituted a penalty.

Now, it's easy to join the yellow and green bandwagon here, to be a 'home' observer and claim the referee was a muppet who got it totally wrong. So for the sake of accuracy and objectivity - the referee was a muppet who got it wrong.

Can't say fairer than that - and we can't say what effect the decision, and Giovani Dos Santos' successful penalty kick, had on the outcome.

City had started pretty well, Alan Lee pushing prodding and cajoling even before his team-mates had settled into formation for their friendly pre-match handshake in front of the fans - as if that's supposed to prompt the fans to pat each other on the back. Lee was as pumped up as it's possible to be, and it clearly rubbed off.

With only 16 minutes on the clock City were ahead, David Mooney putting a fine header past Richard Wright from Sammy Clingan's free-kick way out on the right.

Perfect.

City fans were in full voice - but on 25 minutes they were silenced as, right in front of their eyes, Ipswich equalised. A superb reverse pass by Pablo Counago on the Town left found Giovani, who flicked it on to Alan Quinn, and he buried his shot into the far corner. Not good defending, not what City needed.

But Town didn't swamp City - Darel Russell and Lee went close, but City were indebted to some excellent defending by Ryan Bertrand when their hosts threatened.

At half-time you might have been reasonably happy in the yellow and green corner of Portman Road. As long as you ignored the danger signs that is: the right-back position is for Jon Otsemobor, not Lee Croft. Take the latter out and you take out an attacking option. Croft was actually a better defender than attacking winger on the day, but still Ipswich found acres down their left side.

So, you come out for the second half pretty content with yourselves - what you don't do is come out complacent, and perhaps there was a touch of that about City, who you felt at times were still admiring some of their first-half play. Three times Alan Gow had possession, but wasted it for want of that extra touch - and all before Ipswich went ahead.

Enter Mr Swarbrick who, until then, had done a half decent job. So what did he see when Giovani knocked the ball through for Kevin Lisbie to chase? Did he see David Marshall come charging out and upend him, or did he see Marshall come out, stop, and Lisbie take evasive action, landing on his backside, the ball heading westwards?

It was clearly the former, although when he looked over at his linesman and then turned back you really did feel he was going to book Lisbie for diving.

According to Gunn, Ipswich manager Jim Magilton said he didn't think it was a penalty. But where does Magilton get off on comments like, “It was a great break and he flipped it over the keeper and Kevin knows what he is doing and goes down”?

What does he mean “knows what he is doing and goes down”? Do you mean cheating, Jim, or am I missing something here?

Too late crying over spilt milk and all that - Giovani despatched the penalty and City were playing catch-up. They badly needed a goal because defeat was unacceptable. But Gow was wasteful, Mooney was in and out and Lee looked like he was beginning to flag. So you look to the bench - and all you have is Cody McDonald, still raw but, as he proved when he replaced the injured Croft on 68 minutes, a talent.

However, one emerging talent wasn't going to be enough. While Gunn had McDonald, Magilton was able to take off Counago and the excellent Giovani and replace them with Jon Stead and Danny Haynes - who, fortunately given his previous against City, hardly got a kick.

With a defender and two defensive-minded midfielders on his bench, Gunn was left with few alternatives: in the end, he played just the Cody card, and pushed Doherty into attack and dropped Clingan back to midfield, finishing with four men up front. Had he had another striker on the bench he may well have been better served - who knows? But the bench was cautious, rather than aggressive - and when City needed to find a fresh pair of attacking legs they were unable to.

McDonald had perhaps the best chance, but headed over from Gow's cross when he should have done better. City's urgency left inevitable holes, so when Lisbie flicked on Wright's long ball for Stead on the left, there was only Clingan back, trying desperately with the aid of a raised hand to persuade the referee that the Town striker was offside. He wasn't - and Stead simply strolled into the area and slid the ball past Marshall.

A last-minute goal and it should have been game over, but City got a soft penalty of their own moments later when Quinn held down Lee, Clingan converting.

It was too little, too late - although City were left to believe it may have a bearing if the final outcome depends on goal difference.

By the time Reading come to Carrow Road next Monday it may be too late for that - and then both feet will be in the grave.


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