Melissa Rudd: A Norwich City story with a Premier League ending we’ve come to expect

Mario Vrancic set the tempo for City in the first half against Sheffield United but was overrun with the rest of his team-mates in the second period. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Mario Vrancic set the tempo for City in the first half against Sheffield United but was overrun with the rest of his team-mates in the second period. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Sunday afternoon felt like one of those films that starts off brilliantly but by halfway through you’re beginning to fear you’ve worked out the rest of a frustrating plot that promised so much more.

You hope for a twist, but the storyline plays out just as you'd predicted until the end credits roll. Or in Norwich City's case, the final whistle blows.

After an organised, controlled, dominant first half display against opponents who looked weary and lethargic, Daniel Farke's men came out for the second half looking light rabbits in the headlights.

There were more than 26,000 fans inside Carrow Road who were prepared for the onslaught from Chris Wilder's men in the second period after the proverbial rocket they would no doubt be given at half-time. Unfortunately the 11 Norwich players on the pitch weren't as switched on. It took less than four minutes of sloppiness for their 45 minutes of hard graft to be completely undone.

If the win at Everton followed by the draw against Arsenal gave a much needed injection of confidence, a dismal first half at Southampton and defeat against Sheffield United has drained most of it out again.

The reality of the situation is that City have now lost both home games against the teams promoted with them from the Championship, as well as the other three fixtures against those sides directly around them at the foot of the Premier League table. That is a particularly woeful statistic.

Aside from Todd Cantwell's effort that forced a smart low save from Dean Henderson, Norwich looked completely devoid of ideas in the second period on Sunday, stifled by United's higher press.

In his first league start of the campaign Mario Vrancic had relished the chance to dictate play from the centre of the pitch, but as the Blades closed down with far more urgency after the break and gave him less time on the ball City lost their shape and looked vulnerable.

The pairing of he and Alex Tettey looked like a Farke masterstroke until that point, but their failure to help stop the exposure of Norwich's soft underbelly when the tide turned will no doubt concern the head coach ahead of a trip to face a team who has scored at least twice in their previous eight fixtures.

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City's misery was compounded by more VAR controversy, a system supposedly in place to highlight and correct glaringly obvious errors that has so far done a better job of highlighting its utter contempt for spectators paying to be in the stadium.

It seems ridiculous that supporters inside grounds up and down the country are being forced to guess exactly what is being checked whenever a referee stops play and holds a palm to his ear. Even more so when a gigantic screen, present at most top flight grounds, could be showing replays of said incident.

The game's lawmakers, the International Football Association Board, maintain that replays must not be shown while a decision is being made to protect the referee. They do allow though for the use of a video footage to help explain a decision being overturned, a directive that seemingly isn't being carried out.

Unless I'm mistaken I can't think of a single time that has happened at Carrow Road. There were no clips played to show the apparent fouls when two penalties were awarded over the referee's head against Manchester United, nor the encroachment which led to Arsenal's penalty being retake, nor Sunday's overturned red card for Chris Basham.

At the very least communications between the referee and officials at Stockley Park reviewing the decisions should be broadcast in stadiums so that supporters can follow what is going on. It cannot be right that match-going fans are left at a disadvantage.

Of course, that's a conundrum that won't apply to the Carrow Road faithful should City churn out similar performances like the one on Sunday.

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