From bad to worse – to even worse

STEVE GEDGE Remember that dreadful away form that cost City a place in the Premiership two seasons ago and messed up any hopes of a top-six place last time around? Those were the days, eh? At least by this time two years ago we'd ground out draws at Newcastle, Tottenham and West Brom.


Remember that dreadful away form that cost City a place in the Premiership two seasons ago and messed up any hopes of a top-six place last time around?

Those were the days, eh?

At least by this time two years ago we'd ground out draws at Newcastle, Tottenham and West Brom.

Even a year ago, the first five away games began with successive defeats at Southampton, Stoke and Watford, but were then followed by victories at Ipswich and Brighton.

Two points from this season's first five away games isn't just the kind of travel form that has you nervously looking over your shoulder at the bottom three, it's also City's worst start away from Carrow Road for 21 years*. Twenty-one years!

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City are always going to take points at home; it's how well they do on their travels that will determine their fortunes. And so far this season they've consistently lost points to, at best, middle-of-the-table opposition, that they should be beating.

At Leeds - slumped after falling behind to a poor side against whom they should have at least drawn.

Derby - good spells, but missed chances to win.

Coventry - simply dreadful.

Southend - Cardiff go to Roots Hall yesterday and, unlike some, refuse to sit back on a two-goal lead and go on to win emphatically, which might explain why they're top of the table and we're 14th.

Plymouth - well done and much respect to anyone who did go, but the journey time involved for what I felt was a likely defeat was enough to make me stay at home after a 100pc start to the season from the first 10 games. Listening at home 340 miles away on radio was bad enough, I can't imagine just how unbearable actually being there must have been. By the sounds of it, if Dulux had chosen the shade of City's new change kit they'd be calling it 'surrender White'.

There may well be an ostrich-in-the-sand belief in certain quarters at Carrow Road that given time things will sort themselves out naturally, but can you really see fortunes improving in the coming weeks?

The last thing you want in the current climate is a live TV match at home to a side unbeaten away from home this season. All that and an atmosphere of discontent and protest. Burnley must be licking their lips in anticipation at the prospect of coming here on Sunday afternoon.

And if things don't get better at the weekend, the week after the international break offers no real cause for optimism. Away to QPR, (resurgent under a new manager), away to Birmingham (enough said) and at home to leaders Cardiff. Eight days that currently appear to have 'nul points' written all over them.

Yes, the start of the Canaries' season was good, but it was always qualified by the knowledge that it could only continue as long as City started with their first-choice team. And sure enough, Darren Huckerby has now missed the last three-and-a-half league games, while Adam Drury has been absent for the last two. City haven't won any of those games - and that's no coincidence.

Whoever's fault it is - be it the management at Carrow Road for not spending any money, the board for saving resources for another time (or possible manager), or the fact that agents or players would rather look elsewhere nowadays- City have showed no signs of plugging the gaps that were obvious on August 5, never mind those which have opened up in recent weeks.

Signing untried teenagers at the start of their careers or journeymen warriors who had, to all intents and purposes, retired, should be the mark of a desperate League One or Two outfit, not a club aspiring for promotion to the Premiership with a season-ticket waiting list that their rivals can only dream of.

Everyone knew that the managerial issue now rearing its ugly head again is only going to go away for as long as City were picking up points.

Look at the situation as something of a bank balance. Nigel Worthington was well in credit with supporters after his first three full years in charge, but that surplus of goodwill was steadily chipped away at during City's relegation campaign and as his side plumbed the depths of last season he was almost overdrawn.

A bright start to this season stemmed the downward trend, but that was cancelled out by the late goals conceded to Southend and Crystal Palace. And both the result and the nature of the defeat at Plymouth sent Worthington's balance plunging into the red.

A year ago perhaps, Saturday's result could have been brushed off by the club, both management and board, as being a one-off, but not on the back of the three dropped points to Southend and Crystal Palace - for many the final straws.

Had they taken four points from those games, Saturday would still have been just as woeful a result, but at least City would have shown that they could close out away games while in front, or shut up shop at home despite being under pressure from top-six rivals.

Now you hardly know what City are capable of any more. What you are certain of, however, is that when the going gets a bit tough there's no leadership or inspiration on offer on or off the pitch.

Even if City beat Burnley, 14 points from their first 10 games is not

play-off form. Change is inevitable - it'd be nice to think it could happen to save dignity, time and trouble. Somehow, though, I have my doubts...

*Yes, I'm aware that this was a season in which Norwich went on to win promotion, by being unbeaten in their next 10 away games, but, let's face it, the chances of that happening again are as great as Fabian Wilnis signing for City in the next transfer window.