Purists may abhor penalty shoot-outs, but sometimes they can put a tie out of its misery. Last night's Coca-Cola Cup fourth-round replay was such an occasion, Norwich winning the decider 3-2 when a goal from normal play had long since passed into the realms of the impossible.
The crucial miss belonged to Mark Patterson, who shot too close to Bryan Gunn, although to blame him for missing out on a home quarter-final with Birmingham City would be to pass over some worse than mediocre performances from 21 other outfield players.
It takes something to turn the decider into an anticlimax but on a freezing night this lot managed it, scoring only four of the 10 penalties at their disposal. In sudden death John Newsome managed to convert his, sending Keith Branagan the wrong way, and, when Patterson missed his, last year's runners-up were out.
Those who watched last night will find it hard to believe that either team deserved to go within two matches of Wembley. After a goalless draw at Carrow Road three weeks ago, neither side looked capable of breaking the impasse. The tie was virtually chanceless and pretty charmless too.
At least Norwich had the excuse that they are without proper guidance at the moment, Martin O'Neill deciding that life under his chairman, Robert Chase, was less than perfect. A clue to the next man to live with the problem was in the stands, however, where Gary Megson, the Bradford City assistant manager, was sitting - with perhaps more than a scouting mission in mind.
The mood of the visiting fans was more blatant with a huge banner proclaiming: "Let Chase know it's time to go". Other supporters - and only 8,736 bothered to turn up - probably felt they would like to go with him as the match descended into one, long bore.
The home team almost broke the deadlock six minutes from the end of extra time, when Gerry Taggart profited from confusion after a corner and shot with his left foot. Again Bryan Gunn made a good save.
Norwich, meanwhile, were the prettier side but looked just as clueless when they got near the penalty area. Their best chance came after 48 minutes when Mark Bowen shot from 20 yards and, when Branagan fumbled his save, Robert Fleck was first to the rebound. Unfortunately for him the ball bounced high, he could not direct his attempt properly and Branagan blocked.
At half-time and after 90 minutes the crowd gave vent to their frustration with jeers and at one point the sound of "what a load of rubbish" was heard. It was difficult to fault their judgement.
Bolton Wanderers (5-3-2): Branagan; Green, Fairclough, Bergsson, Taggart, Phillips (Whittaker, 106); Curcic, Todd, Patterson; McGinlay, De Freitas. Substitutes not used: McAnespie, Davison (gk).
Norwich City (5-3-2): Gunn; Polston, Sutch, Prior, Newsome, Ullathorne; Carey, Bowen, Milligan; Fleck (Adams, 96) Ward. Substitutes not used: Newman, Marshall (gk).
Referee: D B Allison (Lancaster).Reuse content