Norwich City are relegated
Chris Lakey Charlton 4, Norwich City 2: Norwich City surrendered their Championship status with barely a whisper at Charlton. On a day when they needed to win to have a chance they capitulated. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, because Barnsley ensured they won the two-horse race with a win at Plymouth, but the manner of City's performance raises huge question marks about every single person at Carrow Road with a responsibility that ends with players running out on to the pitch.
Norwich City surrendered their Championship status with barely a whisper at Charlton.
On a day when they needed to win to have a chance they capitulated.
It wouldn't have mattered anyway, because Barnsley ensured they won the two-horse race with a win at Plymouth, but the manner of City's performance raises huge question marks about every single person at Carrow Road with a responsibility that ends with players running out on to the pitch.
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Players, management, coaching staff and, over an even longer period of time, the owners of this once proud football club are culpable.
The season has been bad enough - for it to end on such a low note is unforgivable.
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Three goals in the first half an hour did the damage and although City twice narrowed the gap they were never close.
The travelling army of 3,500 loyal yellow-shirted fans sang their encouragement in the dying minutes, but they were let down - badly.
Charlton knew their fate already but the sound of the whole ground singing “stand up if you're going down” was surreal.
Questions were being asked as City lined up for kick-off as Gunn selected Adrian Leijer at centre back and Jason Shackell left back, the position he had occupied on day one, prior to his ill-fated move to Wolves. Gunn went for Korey Smith on the right side of a four-man midfield. Ryan Bertrand was absent, presumably injured, as was Lee Croft, who failed to shrug off a calf injury, while David Carney and Alan Gow were dropped to the bench.
Deon Burton was the first to show, but his header from Danny Butterfield's cross inside two minuets was easily collected by David Marshall.
Russell saw a shot blocked as both sides tried to settle early - and the best settler for a dodgy stomach is a goal.
With the City fans in the Jimmy Seed Stand lending a huge splash of colour to proceedings the stage was perfectly set - but who would star? Charlton had no nerves, City were brimming with them - confidence long since departed from their season.
It was a slow opening by both sides, Alan Lee doing best to raise adrenaline levels.
Nicky Bailey tried a long-range effort - greeted by huge cheers from the City fans, indicating a goal for Plymouth against Barnsley.
Charlton fans taunted City by suggesting they'd be joining them in League One next season - and on nine minutes they maybe thought they were right.
Just as City had been given the encouragement they needed their advantage disappeared - within maybe a minute.
City failed to deal with Lloyd Sam's cross from the right and Bailey was there to head home.
So Plymouth were doing their part - but Norwich weren't.
Perhaps it was typical of City this season, the inability to deliver on a promise.
As City reeled from the shock, Charlton lost defender central Darren Ward after a clash of heads, with Chris Solly coming on and Kelly Youga joining Mark Hudson in the middle of the defence.
Perhaps that would prove better encouragement than Plymouth provided.
Lee won City's first corner of the game when Youga poked the ball out on the chase after nice work by Smith - and Hudson promptly conceded the next after challenging Shackell in the air.
Mooney got City's first effort on goal, when he clipped Shackell's cross goalwards, but it was hardly threatening - the tale of the first 20 minutes for the Canaries with Charlton looking more comfortable and creative in possession.
Smith was the pick of the City players in the early stages, upstaging more illustrious team-mates with his endeavour and, whisper this, his commitment.
Perhaps that was best exemplified on 25 minutes when Charlton went further ahead. Thierry Racon was given far too much space on the right of the area to cut inside and create a shooting opportunity with his left foot. Marshall parried but could only palm it out to Burton, who had the easiest job in the world.
It was met with a chorus of “you're not fit to wear the shirt” by the travelling army - and it was hard to disagree with them. If ever a team looked destined - resigned even - for relegation it was this lot.
Before the half hour mark it was all over - Jonjo Shelvey put in an inswinger from the left, Burton helped it on its way and it was curtains.
A thin trail of yellow shirts leaving the stadium was clear for most to see - but who could blame them?
Those who stayed behind sang “what a load or rubbish” and, again, you couldn't blame them.
The fact that Barnsley had equalised was almost irrelevant.
As was Lappin's volleyed effort which went into row Z.
Lappin and Mooney couldn't get shots in from a yard out as keeper Rob Elliot tried to smother the ball, but was hardly an effective response from City, who were clearly shell-shocked.
Gunn changed it around on 40 minutes, striker Cody McDonald coming on for Leijer, with Lappin dropping to left back and Shackell moving inside to partner Doherty.
Within moments Russell tried with a shot from 25 yards - and Elliot collected comfortably.
McDonald showed the enthusiasm he will need next season as he drove wide, but for all intents and purposes the game was dead.
There was some respite in time added on, when Lappin's corner was met at the back post by Otsemobor who headed back across goal for Lee to head home from a yard. But any talks of the mother of all comebacks was ridiculous in the circumstances.
t Half-time: Charlton Athletic 3, Norwich City 1
Bryan Gunn regretted using the word miracle after last Monday's home defeat by Reading - he needed one now.
When Barnsley took two second-half minutes to go ahead at Plymouth then the task was impossible.
Lee did well to hook the ball back from Mooney's cross as City tried for a second, but there was a lack of urgency that exposed City's resignation.
With six minutes of the second half gone Charlton confirmed that with a fourth: Sam did Lappin for pace down the right, and with Shelvey waiting to tap it in, opted to slide it across to Burton, who completed his hat-trick from three yards.
The problem now was not relegation - that was a given - it was how many goals they would concede.
McDonald showed another glimpse of next season with a volley straight at Elliott after Lee nodded down, but it was a brief moment of interest.
Perhaps as telling was the Canaries shirt which appeared on the pitch, thrown by one of the now many disgruntled visiting fans. At �40-odd a go, that's some gesture.
Whoever threw it had a reward on the hour when Clingan curled in a lovely free-kick from 20-plus yards to make it 4-2.
But that only encouraged Charlton - Hudson shot over from six yards and Zheng Zhi stung Marshall's fingertips as City's defence creaked again.
Lappin had the ball in the net from a free-kick on 69 minutes - but was booked for taking it too early. Ridiculous.
Doherty could have made it half interesting in the melee following a Lappin corner but kicked thin air and Charlton cleared.
It was City's best spell - but at 4-2 down with less than 15 minutes of the season left and Barnsley winning it was too little too late.
Doherty and Shackell joined the attack, with Clingan at the centre of a back three with Otsemobor and Lappin - but Gunn still had options on the bench that he wasn't using.
Lee forced Elliot into a good save but at the other end Shelvey lashed a shot against the crossbar.
Five minutes of time added on was perhaps cruel - it had already been over long before then.
t Result: Charlton Athletic 4, Norwich City 2
t NORWICH CITY: Marshall, Otsemobor, Doherty, Leijer (McDonald, 40), Shackell, Smith, Russell, Clingan, Lappin, Lee, Mooney
Subs: Cureton, Carney, Gow, Nelson, McDonald
t CHARLTON: Elliott, Butterfield, Ward (Solly, 14), Hudson, Youga, Sam (Tuna, 83), Racon, Zhi (Wagstaff, 71), Bailey, Shelvey, Burton. Subs: Wagstaff, Solly, Randolph, Kandol, Tuna.