Norwich City will end the season outside of the play-off places after an inconsistent run of form since caretaker manager Alan Irvine took over. The Canaries have won four, lost three and drawn one following the sacking of manager Alex Neil.That included an extraordinary 7-1 home win over automatic promotion hopefuls Reading. Norwich scored six first-half goals as they blew away the Royals with a dominant attacking display.
Wes Hoolahan and Alex Pritchard both scored a brace, with Nelson Oliveira and Russell Martin adding the other first half goals before Cameron Jerome scored with 89 minutes on the clock. Yann Kermogant scored a 39th minute consolation for Reading with his side already 4-0 down.
Norwich then faced fellow play-off challengers Fulham at Carrow Road, but they were unable to carry any momentum from the previous game and fell to a 3-1 defeat.
That was despite the away side being down to ten men for much of the game following Chris Martin’s dismissal in first-half injury time for elbowing Norwich left-back Mitchell Dijks as they contested a long ball.
That defeat meant Norwich’s chances of reaching the play-offs were virtually over, and on Easter Monday it became mathematically impossible due to other results going against them, despite Irvine’s side claiming an impressive 3-1 win away at Preston North End.
Graham Dorrans and Josh Murphy helped the Canaries to a 2-0 lead at half-time.
Tommy Spurr pulled one back for Preston midway through the second half, but 20-year-old attacking midfielder James Maddison sealed the win with his first senior goal for the club.
With nothing left to play for, Norwich then welcomed league leaders Brighton & Hove Albion to Carrow Road, with the away side needing a win to clinch the title.
The home side won 2-0 thanks to two bizarre own goals by Brighton goal keeper David Stockdale, both of which came from long-range shots by Pritchard that rebounded off the frame of the goal, struck Stockdale on the back, and rolled into the net.
The first Pritchard strike was a powerful drive that smashed into the cross bar before bouncing off the unfortunate Stockdale and into the net.
The second was a curling effort that hit the post before squirming in. Brighton put in a performance that was far below their usual high standard, but a relatively comfortable win against the likely champions shows the potential that Norwich possess but have been unable to capitalise on this season.
Norwich’s failure to reach the play-offs can mostly be attributed to their awful defensive record. Only two Championship teams have conceded more goals this season than the 66 that the Canaries have let in: relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest (70) and rock-bottom Rotherham United (96).
At the other end of the pitch Norwich have performed very well, however, with 76 goals. Fulham are the only side who have scored more. Their form has improved since Alex Neil was sacked, which will leave the fans wondering what might have been had a new manager been brought in earlier on in the season.
By the time the change finally happened, promotion was already a long shot for the Canaries, and it has proven too much work for Irvine to do in such a short period of time.
Irvine has been unable to introduce any real consistency to Norwich’s performances, but he has unquestionably made them more exciting and unpredictable than they have been for most of the season.
Relegated in 2013-14, promoted in 2014-15, relegated again in 2015-16, but 2016-17 will end in disappointment with one of English football’s perpetual yo-yo clubs staying in the Championship for another season.