Norwich City’s season feels like it is spinning out of control

Referee Mike Jones rubs salt into the wounds by giving Mark Bunn a yellow card after awarding a pena

Referee Mike Jones rubs salt into the wounds by giving Mark Bunn a yellow card after awarding a penalty. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

With each passing week of this season to forget, the similarities between 2013 and 1995 grow ever more strong.

Granted, we've still to take Gary Megson back on the pay roll, although given that he doesn't currently appear to be doing too much at the moment...

And how, on Saturday, the memories of Elland Road and the relegation of 18 years ago came flooding back.

Granted the diplomatic Chris Hughton limited himself to 'almost criminal' on Match of the Day when reviewing the officials' decision-making process – a term I use in its loosest-possible sense – whereas Megson could not hold back when he was in charge and declared: 'Leeds did not beat us today, the referee did.'

And it wasn't the result which sent us down – but if we do end up in the bottom three it effectively will be.


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It's that point when you just feel the season is spiralling out of your control, and you're left completely helpless by a series of unlikely events.

Back in 1995 we took a 36th-minute lead through Ashley Ward before Rob Newman was penalised in an equally-dubious manner as Kei Kamara on Saturday and then Carlton Palmer struck deep into stoppage time.

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Did we ever get Alan Wilkie in charge of a City game again? I'm not sure we did, and we can only hope that this is also now the case with Mike Jones and his assistant Richard West.

On Saturday night it seemed as though the only people who seem to seriously think it was a penalty for Arsenal's equaliser were a linesman and Martin Keown.

Even that sage thinker on the game, Neil Warnock, declared on the BBC that 'that penalty that started this would not have been given at the other end of the pitch'.

If we'd have lost 3-1 without incident I'd probably have been as happy as it's possible to be when your side is just four points off the drop zone and looking increasingly nervously over their shoulders.

To be honest, I expected a bigger margin of defeat.

But when you lose in Saturday's fashion – if the principle of element of doubt was run rough-shod over in a similar fashion in the courts then there would be some extremely high-profile miscarriages of justice with which we'd now be very familiar – it's not unreasonable to wonder whether the fates are really conspiring against you.

If people can decide in a split second that that was without the merest hint of doubt a cast-iron spot-kick then who knows what other misfortunes might be waiting around the corner.

Perhaps Arsenal might have drawn level in the time which remained, but a point at the Emirates would have been a huge result to take into the run-in. Now, our confidence has been extremely dented.

We can at least be thankful that Reading this Saturday goes ahead at 3pm.

Because the memories of our previous must-win home game against the Royals are still all too raw.

This weekend is seven days shy of the fourth anniversary of a 2-0 defeat which all but sent us down to League One.

And because it was put back to a Monday night, the likes of Gow, Carney and Lee simply couldn't play catch-up some 50 hours after rivals Barnsley had picked up a vital point.

We cannot afford any repeat of such a tepid performance this weekend.

And if it needs the same conclusion as Reading's last visit to Carrow Road, a 90+4 winner from Grant Holt, then I'll take that right now.

Because this is now a game we have to win.

Unless there are extremely mitigating circumstances, such as being reduced to eight players, this is a day when scratching out another point simply won't be good enough.

I wouldn't go as far as to say that don't beat Reading and we'll go down, but this fixture represents our best chance of victory now.

Reading are down, they're taken just five points in 16 away matches, have scored once in their last four outings and but for drawing with Liverpool would have come here on the back of eight successive defeats.

Tempting fate as it is, there are no easy games in the Premier League, but...

• FAIL TO BEAT ROYALS AND IT WILL BE TOUGH

The one thing you could always say about ourselves, Sunderland and Stoke was that we've all been struggling to win.

Until yesterday lunchtime, that is.

On the back of that result it's hard to imagine that Sunderland won't knock off the wins they need to be absolutely sure of staying up against at least Stoke and Sunderland next month.

And it's the same with us. Beat Reading and it's impossible to think that we wouldn't have enough about us after that to beat someone, somewhere. Fail to beat the Royals, though, and an increasingly uphill task would really start to rely on others' failings, rather than our own achievements.

Like hoping that Stoke can't win at QPR this weekend.

It could also be that Wigan's inability to be as rubbish in the FA Cup as the Canaries could yet prove our salvation.

You look through their run-in and surely the most winnable game, Swansea at home, comes four days before their return trip to Wembley.

And if the fixture they should have been fulfilling that weekend, Arsenal away gets put back three or four days - which is quite possible - then a post-Wembley hangover could really kick in, given that they round off the campaign at home to Aston Villa, a side who will surely want to finish with a flourish.

• THINGS NOT LIKE THEY USED TO BE...

How football isn't like it used to be (part 194)...

This is no criticism against the club, it's just the way things are now.

Twenty years ago, if we'd had a really poor result against Reading but then did enough in the next three fixtures there would be a huge last-minute rush for tickets to see what happened at Manchester City.

Not this year, though. To be sure of your ticket for the Eithad your application has to be in by this Saturday evening.

You may be guaranteeing yourself a seat for a crucial final-day fixture, or it might be completely meaningless with us safe and the home side already jettisoning Roberto Mancini. Who knows?

And I would criticise Manchester City for putting last season's prices up by £11, but it's probably no more than visiting fans were charged at Carrow Road at the turn of the year.

Saturday apart, £50 is increasingly becoming the benchmark charge for such occasions.

• WHAT A PITY

It's a pity that Easter came so early this year and that tomorrow is a school night. Because otherwise it would be interesting to carry out a comparison of certain local attendances. I know it's not comparing like for like, but how close would the crowd for our FA Youth Cup semi-final get to the gate for the Championship game between Ipswich and Crystal Palace?

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