Before the Lord Mayor's show
David Cuffley Norwich City 0, Carlisle United 2: It is not every day that Norwich City win a trophy they can parade in front of their supporters, as we have been frequently reminded in the two weeks since they became League One champions.
It is not every day that Norwich City win a trophy they can parade in front of their supporters, as we have been frequently reminded in the two weeks since they became League One champions.
That being the case, there were two slightly unsatisfactory elements to Saturday's post-match celebrations at Carrow Road.
Probably the single most distinctive thing about the Canaries is their strip. So with thousands of supporters clad from head to toe in everything they could find in club colours, providing an impressive backdrop of yellow and green all round the stadium, it was rather a shame that the entire squad stepped up to receive their trophy and medals wearing dreary black T-shirts that matched the skies above. Perhaps there is a job lot about to appear in the club shop.
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But now every photograph or film clip capturing the moment when City were presented with only the seventh trophy in their 108-year history will show them dressed more like rock band roadies than Norwich City, the worthy champions they unquestionably are.
A further disappointment was the fact that up to half the supporters in the ground probably could not see skipper Grant Holt receiving the trophy because the podium was arranged to face the smallest of the four stands. We had a lovely view from the Press box, and no doubt the directors did, too, but how was it for you in the Jarrold Stand?
- 1 City's Giannoulis move enters the end game
- 2 Paddy Davitt: Player ratings after Canaries' 2-1 Cardiff win
- 3 Farke reveals Buendia concerns and fitness updates on Pukki and Krul after 2-1 Cardiff win
- 4 Paddy Davitt verdict: Relentless City operating on a different level
- 5 'My journey has been life-changing' - Cantwell reflects on three years since his City debut
- 6 Hugill stepped up when Norwich City needed him with determined display at Cardiff
- 7 'We need to pull our weight' - City skipper relieved to end his goal drought
- 8 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-1 Championship win against Cardiff City
- 9 Watch extended highlights of Norwich City's win at Cardiff
- 10 City boss on Quintilla future amid Giannoulis pursuit
These are, of course, minor gripes at the end of a memorable season when there has been very little indeed to complain about, just as it would be churlish to dwell on City's weary performance in the final match of the campaign, when Carlisle became the only side to beat them twice this season without the need for a penalty shoot-out.
There is no such thing as wrapping up the title too soon, but it doubtless contributed to the lack of edge in City's game - even though there had been plenty of spark in the 3-0 victory at Bristol Rovers the previous week.
Manager Paul Lambert made seven changes to the team that beat Rovers, only two of them enforced by injury with Stephen Elliott sidelined by an ankle problem and defender Michael Nelson suffering a sore toe. But for once, the regulars were less impressive than the understudies seven days earlier.
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster began the afternoon with the chance to equal Kevin Keelan's club record of 19 clean sheets in a league season, but it took just 56 seconds to end that possibility when Gary Madine fired Carlisle ahead.
Jason Price sent Ben Marshall racing away and he slipped a pass to Madine, who did not have to break stride before aiming a low right-foot shot perfectly inside Forster's right-hand post.
Russell Martin was inches away from equalising when his powerful low drive was just the wrong side of the post, but there was another nasty shock for City in only the seventh minute.
A free-kick was awarded against Adam Drury wide on the Carlisle right and when veteran defender Ian Harte floated the ball left-footed into the area, it appeared to go straight in for his 19th goal of the season - only for striker Price to claim the final touch, courtesy of his frizzy hair.
An awkward hush fell over Carrow Road, almost reminiscent of the opening day of the season, but City should have had a goal back in the 12th minute.
Darel Russell and Chris Martin combined to put Korey Smith clear and he took the ball wide of 'keeper Adam Collin, but his left-foot shot lacked power and Harte was back to steer it away from the goalline and deftly sidestep Oli Johnson before clearing.
Jens Berthel Askou, starting a first team match for the first time in five months, took time to settle but came to the rescue when he blocked Price's shot after Forster misjudged an effort to close down the striker. The defensive jitters continued when Price jabbed another shot wide after Russell Martin tried to chest down David Raven's cross to Forster.
City's only other effort of note before the break came after 38 minutes when Chris Martin got his head to Simon Lappin's cross but directed his effort straight at Collin.
Less than two minutes after the interval, a fine save by Collin denied City again. Smith had a shot blocked but the rebound fell to Russell, who struck a powerful left-foot shot that Collin, diving to his right, pushed wide.
Thereafter, though City had the lion's share of possession, Carlisle had probably the two best opportunities and could have won by a bigger margin.
Madine struck a rather tame effort straight at Forster after good work by Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, then Harte planted a free header wide from Adam Clayton's corner.
The match fizzled out in a succession of substitutions, most unusually when both goalkeepers were replaced in the closing minutes, Forster making way for Declan Rudd to a great ovation - effectively a heartfelt invitation to return next season.
City, by now, were looking forward to getting their hands on the trophy and to their lap of honour, and perhaps the civic reception. It was not so much a case of after the Lord Mayor's show as before it.