Paddy Davitt verdict: Crime sheet has a familiar ring to it for Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil had roared himself hoarse by the end but how many are still listening is debatable after another miserable Championship road trip.
Norwich City's fourth consecutive away league defeat plumbed new depths for self-inflicted cruelty. In recent times it has been the failings of those on the pitch that contributed to a cycle of decline. Neil must look in the mirror for the key reason behind this latest avoidable loss.
The Scot perceptively outlined the threat from Barnsley well in advance to actually try and deploy a set of players capable of nullifying the Reds, and then imposing their greater quality.
The early sight of 5ft 7in Alex Pritchard attempting to out-jump towering centre-backs, or the Murphys trailing behind aggressive, attack-minded full-backs, or Graham Dorrans and Jonny Howson swamped by the pressing and intensity of Barnsley's central midfield was hard to watch.
A Nelson Oliveira-inspired fightback, following another half-time inquest on the terraces matched, you suspect, in the Norwich dressing room, merely accentuated the scale of Neil's selection error.
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Implicit in his post-match mitigation was a sense of loyalty to those who swept aside Brentford. Neil's only loyalty in this trough is to himself, because he will pay the price of failure. To identity the danger and not unleash suitable resources calls into question his judgement and the degree to which this debilitating slump has taken a personal toll.
The honest, earnest Scot looks considerably older than his 35 years with each passing afternoon prowling the technical area.
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Neil may have disregarded any sentimental attachment to a club where he spent four years of his career as a tigerish midfielder, but the bitter irony was Norwich lacked a combative presence at Oakwell before Youssouf Mulumbu entered the fray.
Josh Murphy and Pritchard were sacrificial offerings and, fuelled by Neil's ire, the transformation was abrupt. Mulumbu injected drive and enthusiasm, Martin Olsson energy down the left flank, and the duo's arrival released the likes of Robbie Brady, Jacob Murphy and Dorrans to roam higher up the pitch.
Norwich arguably deserved a point for a desperate, swarming assault on a Barnsley backline which survived on the bravery of their close-range blocks at times. Yet there was a crushing inevitably to the outcome. Just like at Brighton and QPR and Derby County.
This is not a blip, this is not even a rut now, it is a season spiralling in the wrong direction. Neil's dissection of the problems is rooted in sound logic but the man who first walked through the door at Carrow Road appeared capable of steering the ship away from the iceberg. Now his Canaries stumble from one obstacle to the next.
Brentford offered brief respite but neither Aston Villa or Huddersfield are likely to be quite so compliant in conceding space and time for City's talented ball-players to weave their pretty patterns. Both will now be battles of mind and body, fraught, tense affairs in front of a public who increasingly thirst for change and a board who have backed the present incumbent. That inherent contradiction runs like a faultline underneath these next two Championship tussles.
Defeat at Barnsley hurt because Neil's selection policy exposed the residual weakness in this Norwich squad. We have seen it at Birmingham. We have seen it at Brighton. Now we have witnessed it in graphic fashion for 45 minutes of carnage at Barnsley. Neil knows that as much as those who berated him at the final whistle. He remains the only one who can do something about it.
His side, however, is continually being called to answer the same charge. That is why there is such growing disenchantment.