FA Cup exit was a familiar tale for Norwich City supporters

Raheem Sterling twists and turns Ryan Bennett inside out in Norwich City's 3-0 loss to Manchester Ci

Raheem Sterling twists and turns Ryan Bennett inside out in Norwich City's 3-0 loss to Manchester City in the third round of the FA Cup. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil has managed to achieve so many feats in his first year in charge.

Maybe it was a little too much to ask to win promotion, mount a steady climb up the Premier League table and prevent what has become an almost inevitable FA Cup third round exit.

It's the third consecutive year Norwich have been dumped out at this stage. This time the cup run was over within half an hour. Manchester City's second goal signalled the end of a contest that was only ever going to end one way after a Sergio Aguero wonder goal set the tone early on.

Perhaps it was the memory of defeats against the likes of Bury, Charlton, Carlisle, Leyton Orient and of course Luton that haunted the home contingent at Carrow Road to such an extent that the atmosphere on Saturday had all the verve of a pre-season friendly with an added air of resignation.

Even very reasonably priced £20 tickets didn't make for a sell-out, which goes some way in showing the attitude some Norwich fans have towards a competition that their side have massively underachieved in for over 20 years.


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A quote emblazoned on the cover of the match day programme was blatant enough in its intentions. 'We're up for the Cup' said Ryan Bennett. Norwich's performance suggested otherwise. If the atmosphere could be mistaken for a pre-season fixture, the home team's display could too given the amount of time and space afforded to blue shirts all over the pitch. There were few passages of play that prompted any excitement.

It's become a familiar tale over recent years. Not just the result but the manner of City's FA Cup defeats have shared a similar pattern. At least this time it was a 0-3 defeat against Premier League title contenders and we weren't the victims of a giant-killing.

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There's a wider debate to be had about the format and scheduling of domestic cup competitions in this country. There were five all-Premier League ties over the weekend. Half of the teams in the elite league being drawn against each other at the first opportunity doesn't exactly help form the notion of FA Cup romance.

The fact that each side also have midweek league fixtures to contend with isn't an ideal situation to encourage full-strength team selections.

In Norwich's case it at least gives Neil and the players the chance to quickly forget about Saturday. City produced a great performance in the reverse fixture against Stoke early on in the season when the visitors had Jack Butland to thank for denying us all three points.

Since then the impressive front three of Bojan, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri have had time to gel which was evident in convincing victories over Man City, Man United and Chelsea at The Britannia.

Home defeats against West Brom, Watford and Crystal Palace though have been typical of their inconsistency and should give Norwich plenty of encouragement to go there and get a result.

Winning a midweek evening fixture away from home in the Premier League is something City haven't managed since September 1994, at none other than Portman Road. That's one statistic Neil seems much more likely to change.

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