Grant Holt's stoppage time penalty miss summed up a Premier League day of bitter frustration in a goalless affair against Southampton at Carrow Road.
- Match report: Norwich 0-0 Southampton
Artur Boruc guessed right to athletically parry Holt's drilled spot kick in the final throes of a tussle played in wretched conditions. City, in truth, deserved no better after a laboured performance against a far more adventurous Saints' outfit.
Holt initially looked to have earned a second yellow card for simulation when he tumbled a yard inside the Southampton box deep into time added on. Referee Mark Clattenburg strode purposefully towards the grounded Norwich captain before his near side assistant referee motioned flag across chest for an apparent shove by precociously-talented fullback Luke Shaw.
Jason Puncheon was yellow-carded for his protests in the aftermath but Boruc's leap maintained the status quo. Chris Hughton had only recently bemoaned City's relative lack of spot kick decisions. Holt's miss was the first penalty awarded to Norwich in 12 months. The irony will not have been lost on the home fans who trooped away in the driving snow showers and icy temperatures.
Norwich remain five points clear of the Saints and eight of the drop zone with Wigan on FA Cup duty. Boruc's defiance is unlikely to alter the course of the Canaries' march to Premier League safety but another late win fresh from the heroics against Everton on home soil last time out would have all but secured their top flight status.
This was a disappointing day for Norwich in every sense. Losing at Manchester United where the champions-elect predictably dominated territory and possession was perfectly acceptable. Here, against a newly-promoted club below City in the table, they were similarly anemic in their attacking intent. Hughton played his part with a first start for Kei Kamara alongside Holt, but yet again two up top failed to tip the scales, especially with Wes Hoolahan sacrificed and relegated to the bench in favour of a more muscular approach. The Irishman only had to wait 34 minutes before replacing the injured Anthony Pilkington (hamstring) but being deployed wide left only limits the Dubliner's ability to inflict damage.
Saints' midfielder Adam Lallana was the dominant creative force. Pace and intelligent movement set him apart from the toil and limited adventure in City's engine room. The former England U21 international spurned his side's best chance early in the second period when he hammered over from 12 yards with the goal at his mercy. Mark Bunn also had to repel the Saints from range but a fresh clean sheet should not mask how easily Norwich were routinely cut open by the fluidity of the visitors.
Norwich's defensive solidity is a testament to Hughton's organisational skill. The City boss needs to urgently solve the conundrum in the final third of the pitch. Whether it is mixing and matching personnel or systems of play, City look incapable of carving out the chances and the goals that can take them to the next level. Robert Snodgrass had the best chance in open play after rounding Boruc but Maya Yoshida sensed the danger. It was a poor return for the hosts. Hughton's revisions in recent weeks illustrate he knows where the problem lies. Finding the solutions may be harder.