DEAN SMITH earned the respect and thanks of Aston Villa fans on his return to his spiritual home.
But he couldn't earn the three points which might have prolonged Norwich's Premier League status for another week.
His goal-shy side went down with a whimper, beaten 2-0 by his ex-club and to really rub salt in his wounds, the final stoppage time goal was created by Emi Buendia – Norwich's Player of the Year last season!
The Canaries cashed in to the tune of £38million but the bottom line is in this league, cash is invariably king and the big boys buy rather than sell their key men.
Norwich went down as the first team to concede 70+ goals in three different Premier League campaigns to suggest the problems at Carrow Road started long before Smith's arrival.
The day may have ended badly for him but the lifelong Villa fan received a hero's welcome on his return to Villa Park for the first time since he was sacked in November.
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Chants of "Deano, Deano," rang around his favourite old haunt and he was given a special roar from the Holte End, who acclaimed the return of one of their own.
Smith waved to them and looked relaxed in his suit and open-necked shirt, stopping only to give Villa club mascot Bella the lion a pat on the back.
And early on his team tried to follow his chilled-out example, playing the ball out from the back with more confidence than a team welded to the foot of the table really should.
However Villa, who halted their four match losing streak at Leicester last week, were keen to play on the front foot now they were on home soil again.
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They were chasing their first Premier win since beating Leeds 3-0 on March 10 and they were helped by an unexpected starter.
Lucas Digne's season appeared to be over when he suffered a broken collarbone against Spurs in Villa's last home match.
But he made a remarkable recovery, much to Norwich's annoyance, as he caused them headaches all afternoon down the left.
Villa's first opening came following a corner from the Frenchman who whipped the ball towards the front post where Ollie Watkins raced in to volley narrowly over.
Leon Bailey's injury woes continued after he was wiped out by Brandon Williams and went down clutching his left ankle.
Although he tried to soldier on, the jinxed defender didn't make it to half-time, and he was replaced by Danny Ings just before the interval.
Poor Kenny McLean didn't even make it that far.
The Scot has been playing with injections to ease the pain of a fractured toe.
However he broke down in the warm-up and had to be replaced by his colleague for club and country, Billy Gilmour.
Meanwhile, Gerrard blooded 18-year-old Villa and England U19 midfielder Tim Iroegbunam, who was handed his first Premier start and acquitted himself well.
Norwich aren't where they are without good reason and Pierre Lees-Melou gave a heavy hint why, when he made a hash off a shot which ended up closer to the corner flag than the Villa goal.
At the other end Matty Cash headed straight at Tim Krul, then Coutinho and John McGinn both had shots blocked before Bailey made his one significant contribution.
He latched on to a rebound and smashed in a shot which crashed off the Norwich crossbar after 19 minutes.
However when the moment was replayed on the giant screens there were gasps as both sets of fans realised Krul had somehow managed to get a glove to the ball to fingertip it to safety.
It was a stunning save to mark his 150th appearance for the Canaries.
Not to be outdone, Emi Martinez then produced a spectacular dive to his left to turn a netbound 25 yarder from Milot Rashica over.
It was to prove a key moment because, six minutes before half-time, Gerrard decided the limping Bailey had to make way for Danny Ings.
And what an instant impact that move made as Villa swiftly took the lead thanks largely to the newcomer.
Ings first task was to take a pass from Tyrone Mings, then he swivelled and swept a stunning crossfield ball which caught Norwich on the hop.
Ollie Watkins got his head to it but then benefitted as Brandon Williams lost his footing and hit the turf.
And the striker gleefully cashed in as he lashed the ball high past Krul with the help of a kindly deflection from Sam Byram.
Norwich did their best to hit back immediately and almost levelled when Grant Hanley headed across goal but Williams's diving header sent the ball just over.
Norwich went in at half-time still a Premier League side as Watford led Burnley at the break.
But they simply lack the quality to stick in the top flight for more than a season.
Despite the danger they were in, it was Villa who bossed the second half and carved out the best chances.
Ings and Watkins worked a 1-2 and only Hanley's desperate lunge deflected Ings shot over.
Then Ings came even closer when his header from a Digne corner smacked off the junction of post and bar with Krul beaten.
Watkins slammed a shot into the side netting and all the Canaries came back with was a routine shot from Lees-Melou which was safely taken by Martinez.
Once again their lack of firepower told and their miserable day was complete when news filtered through that Burnley had scored twice in four minutes against Watford to effectively seal their fate.
But it was left to Ings to drill the final nail in their coffin.
Ironically former Canary Emi Buendia played a huge part in his old club's demise.
He set up Jacob Ramsey to shoot and despite Krul blocking, Buendia knocked the rebound to Ings who slammed the ball in off Krul.
Once again, the Premier League has proved too big a step-up for this yo-yo club.
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