Relegation can never be a pleasant experience and to lose your last lifeline on a moment of controversy is the cruellest cut of all. With the help of the obliging Leeds strikers, Norwich had ably defended a lead gifted them by John Lukic. Then, with 10 minutes remaining, Tony Yeboah tumbled over and Mr. Wilkie pointed to the spot.
"The worst decision I have ever seen," was a typical reaction afterwards and one expressed, according to the vexed visitors, by Gary McAllister, the Leeds captain.
As his players formed a menacing huddle around Mr Wilkie, Gary Megson raced on to the pitch to call off the hounds but later there was no holding back from the Norwich caretaker-manager, who, if he wants a referee to support his job application, need not bother the County Durham official.
"When we saw who was in charge we knew we would be treading on eggshells and nothing happened in the game to dispel our fears," Megson said. "The penalty just put the top hat on it. Leeds did not beat us today, the referee did."
Reading that, Mr Wilkie might be inclined to add Megson's name to the lengthy list of offenders he will drop on the FA's desk tomorrow. "All the Norwich team will be reported, I won't be isolating any one player," he said. "That would be impossible because they were all around me, even the reserve goalkeeper."
He added that it would not be right for him to "turn a blind eye" to such visible dissent. Norwich believe he should have done so when Rob Newman challenged the forceful Yeboah. "I played the ball, won the tackle fairly and I was deeply upset to see the penalty given," Newman said.
The Norwich players were ordered not to discuss the matter but could not help themselves. "It was disgraceful, as soon as the referee gave it he must have known he had made the wrong decision," said Jeremy Goss, for whom Elland Road proved to be a distant cry from the Olympic Stadium, Munich, where the glory game had arrived for him and his team in the Uefa Cup.
That was less than two years ago but a lifetime for a club who since then have lost two managers, two star strikers and subsequently lost their way.
With the Leeds equaliser, and with Aston Villa and Crystal Palace both ahead, Norwich had to chase a winner, leaving themselves vulnerable to Carlton Palmer's second successive steal in injury time which keeps his side gazing at a European horizon. Earlier this season that looked a possibility for Norwich once more. From the Premiership high of sixth to 22nd place, they have come a long way in a short time and right to the bitter end the journey was far from agreeable.
Goals: Ward (36) 0-1; McAllister (80, pen) 1-1; Palmer (90) 2-1.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Wetherall, Pemberton, Dorigo; Wallace (Sharp, 70), Palmer, McAllister, Speed; Yeboah (Whelan, 81), Deane. Substitute not used: Beeney (gk).
Norwich City (4-4-2): Marshall; Newman, Newsome, Polston, Bowen; Sutch, Crook (Bradshaw, 82) Goss, Ullathorne; Akinbiyi (Sheron, 58), Ward. Substitute not used: Rhodes (gk.)
Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).Reuse content