Kuqi strike was no surprise

Good to see that the second half of last week didn't go to waste in that the Canaries learned how not to lose those flimsy 3-1 leads by never remotely ever looking like getting into such an advantageous position again.

Good to see that the second half of last week didn't go to waste in that the Canaries learned how not to lose those flimsy 3-1 leads by never remotely ever looking like getting into such an advantageous position again.

Nigel Worthington must have been one of the few people inside Carrow Road to have seriously considered that Saturday's game " had nil-nil written all over it".

Even though they posed much less of a threat than the line-ups that City have been unable to beat in the last two and a half years, Palace upped their tempo after the break, and as the home goal led the most charmed of lives as the second half wore on you just knew that sooner or later the Canaries' luck was going to run out.

And when Peter Taylor brought on a certain former Ipswich striker you sensed it was about as likely as a German international missing a penalty that Shefki Kuqi wasn't going to score. Indeed, about the only element of doubt was in which corner he was going to perform his trademark belly-flop goal celebration. And unlike the Kieran Richardsons of this world, wisely he elected for the area in front of the Palace fans.


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City never looked like getting anything out of this game. Just as at Southend on Tuesday the 90th-minute heartbreak was so much on the cards that it might as well have been posted early on the scoreboard - "Four minutes of stoppage time to be played just as Palace are about to score".

So, this year the Canaries have now managed to lose at home to Ipswich, Wolves and Crystal Palace. It's hard to imagine a more easy way of winning enemies and influencing people than a sequence of results like that.

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To be fair to the Canaries at Southend - and that's the only time that this phrase will be used - they did bounce back from Freddy Eastwood's early super strike. When that went in, memories of the horror first half at Luton a year ago began to flash back. But apart from that they had very little to offer in the closing 20 minutes or so as they buckled amid the atmosphere of a full, tight little ground. Strictly speaking it wasn't a local derby, but it felt like it, being played at a proper time and in front of a noisy full house. Just a shame that over-reacting police forces won't trust City and Ipswich to play at any time other than a Sunday lunchtime now.

And while we're stilll on the subject of Rooots Hall, a note to Paul McVeigh

- don't try and waste time in an opposition corner again as you're just going to get as easily brushed off the ball as you were on Tuesday. And practising corners that manage to get past the first man at the near post wouldn't go amiss either.

And as it was at Southend, so it was again on Saturday. Palace were under so little pressure in the second half it's hard to remember Gabor Kiraly having to make a save.

We've now played, if you like, 'bottom of the top half of the table' sides on successive Saturdays now and been found wanting against both. Coventry and Palace could make the top six, but you didn't come away from either game thinking that they were particularly outstanding sides. And yet we've lost to both.

It can't just be me, surely most of the 19,000-odd other season-ticket holders, never mind management or directors, can see that if City lose a player or someone has an off-day all of a sudden an improved first-choice team quite capable of securing a play-off place reverts to the kind of shambolic, self-destructing outfit seen all too many times last season.

Now it could be that frantic efforts are going on behind the scenes to address City's serious lack of strength in depth, but the early signs are not encouraging. As solid a debut as Paddy Boyle had against Palace, have we really been reduced to the state of having to beg, steal or borrow young trialists from Premiership clubs who haven't even made their league debut?

Are we sitting on the various transfer proceeds and residue of parachute money until January, or possibly next season - when, as things stand, we revert to being an ordinarily-financed second-flight outfit, albeit a well-supported one - or maybe the manager doesn't want to spend any money or perhaps even hasn't been given any.

Whatever the reason, the longer City stick with their existing small squad the more we're going to fall needlessly behind in the race for the top six by dropping points to sides we ought to be a lot better than. Already thanks to the efforts of the last week we're three points below what we should have, and the next couple of weeks don't look too encouraging. Do you risk Earnshaw at Rotherham. A place in the Carling Cup third round is probably too high a price to play were he to join Darren Huckerby on the sidelines.

Then games against Plymouth and Burnley that you would have pinpointed at the start of the season as likely three-pointers, but which now look far more testing.

"Blips" such as the ones we've supposedly suffered over the past week wouldn't be so bad if you didn't feel that other clubs, with the possible exception of Leeds, were managing to avoid them. Such as Ipswich or Colchester, picking up points like they're going out of fashion. And that's before we even consider the example of Reading, who have come from behind to beat Middlesbrough, won at home to Manchester City and picked up an away victory. Three things we couldn't manage in an entire Premiership season and yet they've achieved the lot before the middle of September. Bet they'd even be able to hold on to a 3-1 lead as well...

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