Paddy Davitt verdict: City cannot dine on romanticism when the reality is stark
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City have come so far on this Premier League journey. But the final steps appear to be out of reach.
In any other era a point and a clean sheet at Newcastle United would represent a good day at the office for the Canaries.
By way of context, City had drawn only once on their previous nine visits to St James' Park.
But the dejection and the frustration hung heavy at the final whistle. Teemu Pukki slumped to the turf and gazed into the distance.
Daniel Farke's coaching staff shuffled around each other in the vicinity of the away dugout; exchanging the odd glance but seemingly with precious little being said.
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It was a study in human behaviour. It was a microcosmic snapshot of how near and yet how maddeningly far Norwich remain from being a viable Premier League entity.
Tim Krul was embraced by Farke, after he had stopped posing for selfies with some of the home fans who used to worship him.
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Coach and keeper gave each a look that bordered on what more could they possibly do to turn cohesive performances into tangible results.
For Newcastle read Tottenham, at home and away. Crystal Palace at home, Aston Villa away. And that is only since Boxing Day.
Steve Bruce, formerly of Norwich and now the frontman for Mike Ashley on Tyneside, summed it up perfectly after somehow escaping with a point that pushed the Magpies upto tenth position.
If he had been offered a 13-point buffer on the Canaries, after City's early-season Carrow Road home win, he would have taken it. He went on to state any team who can beat Manchester City and Everton or draw at Leicester deserves respect.
They simply 'do not win enough games'. Quite.
Implicit in Bruce's post-match dissection was Norwich possess the quality to be in a considerably healthier position in the league table. What they lack is the cutting edge, or as Farke pertinently observed, 'the brutality'.
That is no slight on Teemu Pukki, who increasingly looks like a man who has played far too many minutes for club and country over recent months. The snap and the precision to his finishing was absent at St James' Park.
Pukki's brain and cunning continue to get him into productive shooting positions but there is something missing at the vital moment.
The fearsome Finn needs assistance and bar Todd Cantwell's rich goalscoring bursts, there has not been anywhere near enough from the rest of Norwich's midfield, or defence for that matter.
Sam Byram's hunt for an elusive opening Norwich goal goes on.
Only Martin Dubravka knows how he got in the way of his goalbound early header. Byram was later unable to direct another close range chance on target, when the ball reared up and clipped the top of the Newcastle bar.
That lack of conviction, that lack of composure was stamped right through this Norwich display. It is a running sore and a blight on all the impressive work that routinely leads to so many chances spurned.
Norwich is the only team in the Premier League not to reach double figures, for goals scored away from home. That is a damning statistic.
The route to safety has looked hazardous since a below-par festive points haul.
Now it would take a shock result or three down the stretch, starting with the visit of champions-elect Liverpool, to prolong this fight.
You know Norwich will be brave and committed and to paraphrase Jurgen Klopp, after that opening night win back in August, 'cheeky' but on the mounting evidence it will still not be enough between now and May.
Norwich's transfer activity in January, bar Ondrej Duda's arrival from Hertha Berlin on loan, was firmly focused on the future.
That should not be taken as an admission the game is up but more of the strategic, longer term thinking that got Norwich into the Premier League. City cannot dine on romanticism when the reality is stark.
It will need to be a managed refresh of the squad in the summer, accepting departures are inevitable, and additions to a core group in order to be considered leading candidates to make a swift return.
For this Premier League crop of Norwich City footballers, the end appears to be in sight. Unless there really is Farke's 'little miracle' around the corner.
Achieve that, from this position, and it would arguably rank as the greatest achievement in Norwich City's history.