But it fizzled back towards fragmented, patternless dreck, as it tends to in the Championship this season. All thundering clearances, keenly contested second balls and misplaced passes. Wycombe made their maximum five subs at once and found some energy in the closing stages, defender Anthony Stewart should have done better when inexplicably put through by keeper David Stockdale. Norwich, offended, raised their game marginally and added a second with sub Adam Idah tapping in after Kenny McLean’s shot was saved.
Daniel Farke’s side were competent rather than special but that will be more than enough to get them back into the land of the oligarchs next season. There is no lack of effort from Wycombe or anyone else in their current league, but several factors contributing to a worse standard than usual this season.
The 38-game season is usually crammed into 39 weeks, which feels demanding once international breaks and cups are factored in. This year, with a delayed start, the season is 34 weeks long. That leads to a ruinous schedule of Saturday-midweek-Saturday with little time to reflect, improve or prepare.
“In football management the most difficult thing is to give your team a ‘handwriting,” Farke said before the game. “At a Championship level it’s even more difficult because the schedule is so relentless. You just have recovery sessions and preparation sessions for the next game.”
The supposed chasm between top and second flights is not borne out by recent history. Only three of the 15 teams relegated between 2014/15 and 2018/19 made an immediate return. Bournemouth and Watford will be keen to alter that stat along with Norwich this season, but the prediction that bonkers Premier League money would make Championship promotion a formality for relegated teams has not materialised.
Instead the competitive problem could be at the other end of the table. Wigan, Rotherham, Charlton and Barnsley have seven Championship relegations and seven League One promotions between them in the past five seasons.
That suggests League One is weak, which makes the bottom of the table forgiving for second tier mainstays. That’s never been more evident than this season, with Wycombe looking marooned and Sheffield Wednesday operating with a six-point deduction.
Covid is biting beyond the lack of crowds. Few teams are spending big after some laughable fees in the before times, the £15 million Middlesbrough paid for Britt Assombalonga feels like a high/low point. Premier League teams also seem keener to send prospects abroad for loans rather than the league below; there is no Tammy Abraham figure storming the season.