We looked beaten from the start

STEVE GEDGE Half-time at Molineux sees two selected supporters pitted against a team of cardboard dummies as they have to try to run through and score as many goals as possible.


Half-time at Molineux sees two selected supporters pitted against a team of cardboard dummies as they have to try to run through and score as many goals as possible.

It's no exaggeration to report that this inhuman bunch put up far more resistance on Saturday than the feeble Canaries ever managed.

This was a staggeringly inept display; easily the worst I've seen since returning to live in Norwich in 2001 and I'm struggling to think of one before then too.

In recent years people might cite the home loss to Cheltenham or the defeats at Fulham, Luton or QPR as City's lowest points.

But in each of those games the Canaries at least had chances - for example, only a deflection prevented Darren Huckerby from actually putting them ahead at Craven Cottage.

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On Saturday you'd be forgiven for thinking that the biggest threat Wolves keeper Wayne Hennessy faced was the onset of loneliness from all the activity occuring in the other half.

The 20-year-old sprang to fame with nine successive clean sheets while on loan at Stockport last season - it's not hard to imagine that the likes of Boston or Accrington gave him far more awkward moments than the Canaries.

It's not just me thinking this - the reporter on BBC Radio WM was plainly at a loss for words to convey to his listeners just how poor Norwich were.

Eventually he settled on "astonishingly lifeless", adding that it was no wonder Wolves only led 2-0 at half-time because they were "bemused by the feeble display from the visitors. You could almost believe it if you were told that Norwich had walked here."

This might be September 2007, but this performance had all the hallmarks of exactly a year ago - and we all know what happened on the last day of that particular month.

Like then, Norwich looked a motley group of players who fell into at least one of three categories: low on confidence, not knowing what their manager expected of them, or totally disinterested. That's apart from players such as Ian Murray, and you just wonder 'Why?'

I don't care how Norwich play at Carrow Road - they will always scrape out enough wins one way or another. Always have done, always will do.

But after five away fixtures this season, it's becoming apparent that City don't have any kind of game plan on their travels other than to try to avoid being beaten - something they're not all that good at. And when - rather than if - they fall behind, they invariably start panicking.

City's opening-day draw at Preston was fair enough; dull, but it put a point on the board.

Since then they've got backwards. Poor at Hull, abysmal at Rochdale - where they had to be thankful for David Marshall and an amazing close-range extra-time miss from a home forward to even get to penalties - and then to Charlton.

Now, unlike some, I don't necessarily blame Peter Grant for starting with the cautious line-up that he did there. What did annoy me greatly was that City didn't try to up a gear in the second half once it had become clear that Charlton, though a good, passing side who were well organised, could have been beaten. Exactly what City managed at both Birmingham and West Bromwich last season, in fact.

But instead, because the first goal came so late - forget the second one, that didn't matter in terms of the outcome - there was no time for the Canaries to regroup.

At least they showed some kind of spirit and organisation at The Valley, because it's hard to fathom exactly what the game plan was four days later at Molineux.

The line-up had to be different because of one major, enforced alteration, but at times on Saturday it seemed to be change for change's sake and because of this no one gave much idea of knowing what they were doing and they paid the price accordingly. Body language-wise they looked a beaten side right from the start.

The Canaries were no threat up front, Darren Huckerby in particular didn't look anywhere near 100pc physically or mentally, and the rest of the midfield just never got any kind of grip on proceedings as Wolves cut through them at will.

City have somehow got to find a formula for picking up away points or else they're in trouble. It's hard to see how they're going to put many - or indeed any - away wins on the board with this kind of disorganised, disinterested approach and you can't stay up purely on home victories.

Southend, as an example, were relegated last season with four away successes.

Peter Grant put together a squad that should be doing a whole let better than this. It would need a decent run of results or injury/suspension-free season for them to challenge for the top six, and while we haven't had the former, we've definitely suffered from the latter, but City should be much higher in the table than 20th.

Player for player, we have a better squad than Colchester, who, let's not forget, lost a string of key personnel over the summer, and yet look at their away record this season - draws at Sheffield United, Southampton and Blackpool and a win at Preston. Six points and eight goals - it's impossible to imagine Norwich stirring themselves from their self-inflicted torpor to match that kind of record any time soon.

And as if the overall playing performance wasn't bad enough on Saturday, the general approach to proceedings was terrible - and best summed up by the stupid, stupid dismissals.

Now City have had more than one player sent off in a match before, and there have been other times when they have had just cause to complain at a referee's decision. But on this occasion Steve Bennett got it exactly right.

Look, if you see a Poll, Wiley or Styles as your referee you know what you're going to get - a top-flight referee who has dropped down a level for a day and is keen to show why they're usually in the Premiership. They're not going to let anything go, so when it comes to tripping up an opponent right in front of them or committing a senseless act of dissent, you can't complain.

Charlton's anger at the flak thrown at Danny Mills' way after Tuesday's match can only have increased when they learned City had another two players red-carded in their next fixture. Three sendings-off in less than a week smacks of a side whose discipline has gone to pot. Talk about a captain leading by example...

But back to Wolves and and let's try to come up with some positives...

One, that the home side somehow didn't manage to add to their tally and the City back four were able to block their chances in any way - and with any part of the body - they could. A final score of 7-0 would still have let Norwich off the hook.

Two, there were no traffic hold-ups on the way back.

Three - and I'm struggling now - I suppose that at least Peter Grant didn't keep his yellow-and-green tinted glasses on in the way that Bryan Hamilton did seven years ago after another woeful afternoon at Molineux when he

insisted: "I've said to the players that the difference between the two sides was minimal and yet the final score was 4-0."

But despite Grant's clear anger afterwards on Saturday, he must be a worried man going into the next two league fixtures - forget Manchester City, success there will count for nothing if City don't beat either Sheffield Wednesday or QPR.

Both the Owls - who have won on each of their last two visits to Carrow Road

- and QPR will face the Canaries in desperate need of the points with managers well aware that defeat could spell the end of their reigns.

Somehow, the Canaries have to regroup after Molineux and win at least one of these games.

Poor as Saturday was I'm only mildly concerned at the Canaries' current away displays. But were they to fail to beat both Wednesday and QPR then you have to start to feel a whole lot more worried about their chances of making any real progress.

And given City's past ability to show their inabilties for all to see on live television you do have a nagging doubt about how things are going to turn out...