The FA Cup third round has been a graveyard for Preston North End’s back-up goalkeepers two seasons running.
Connor Ripley had a game he would rather forget as the Lilywhites finished on the wrong end of a 4-2 scoreline to Premier League strugglers Norwich at Deepdale.
It came 12 months after Michael Crowe failed to cover himself in glory in last year’s cup exit at Doncaster’s hands.
Ripley had come into the side for only his fourth game of the season as Alex Neil chose to rest those players who had been busy over Christmas.
For Norwich’s second goal, the 26-year-old let a shot go under his body.
With the third, Ripley came out of his box to get to a through ball ahead of a breaking Norwich player.
His clearance found the feet of Adam Idah rather than the back row of the stand and the teenager dispatched a 40-yard shot back over the stranded keeper.
Ripley though, can be cleared of blame for conceding the penalty for the fourth Canaries goal.
Yes, he took Idah to ground when the young Irish striker was through on goal but the alternative was to let him walk the ball home.
As auditions go to remind the manger of your talents, Ripley flopped and Declan Rudd looks safe in his role as PNE’s No.1.
There was no rebuke from Neil post-match because there was no need.
Chucking players under the bus helps no one and the Preston boss wasn’t going to go down that route.
Neil didn’t do it last season either when Rudd dropped that clanger at Birmingham.
“Connor came in at half-time and I said ‘it’s gone, just buckle down and do your best in the second half’,” Neil said.
“The one thing about football and being a footballer is dealing with disappointment is at least 50 per cent of the game.
“You need to deal with frustration at not playing well, you need to deal with disappointment and criticism which is always going to come your way.”
While Ripley had something of a nightmare, his Norwich counterpart Michael McGovern was very decent at the other end of the pitch.
He made a string of good saves towards the end of the game as PNE tried to claw a way back into the game.
The damage had been done by then though, and it would have taken something special to get back into it.
North End were behind inside 90 seconds, a third home game running when they had to chase the game. During the first half 1-0 turned to 2-0 and then 3-0.
Not that the home side were steamrolled by their visitors, it was just that Daniel Farke’s outfit made things count when passages of play and chances came their way.
For that opening 45 minutes PNE just could not got a foothold in the game.
In the second half they were better and Norwich afforded them more room to play as they dropped back to sit on their lead.
Billy Bodin briefly made it interesting soon after half-time by reducing the arrears with a close-range header.
Idah’s penalty which saw the 18-year-old complete his hat-trick, restored the their three-goal cushion.
Only six minutes from time did North End peg them back to 4-2.
While the first half had offered few positives, there was more to take out of the second period.
More of the PNE side came into the game and showed they were much better individually and as a team than they had been for 45 minutes. It was too late to prevent a cup exit though.
Only Darnell Fisher and Ben Davies from the starting XI against Middlesbrough on played in this one. Most had been in and around the squad in recent weeks, the exception being Tom Bayliss who has been a peripheral figure.
It was Bayliss who a lot of fans were keen to see, with him restricted to three appearances in the League Cup since since his August arrival from Coventry.
The midfielder did okay, in line with his most of the team he was better in the second half than the first.
Would you have him in the starting XI in the league at this juncture? Probably not yet but time is on his side.
Ryan Ledson caught the eye more in the engine room, with him calmer than in some of his past appearances.
Joe Rafferty was the pick of the defenders, while up front Jayden Stockley carried off the starman honours.
Stockley worked tirelessly in leading the line but with little reward. He could at least claim an assist for Bodin’s goal.
Bodin came more into his own in the second half after an anonymous opening.
You’d put Josh Harrop, scorer of the second, into a similar category.
Any thoughts that the Norwich front line looked a bit lightweight in the absence of Teemu Pukki, were quickly dispelled by Idah who last January had played in the Norwich youth team beaten by PNE in the FA Youth Cup.
Just 85 seconds had gone when Marco Stiepermann strode up the middle and slid the ball Idah’s way. He ran in the gap between Jordan Storey and Davies to steer a fine finish from the edge of the box beyond Ripley.
Onel Hernandez netted the second in the 28th minute, moments after Ripley had saved well from Idah.
The ball was cleared out as far as Hernandez who cut in field from the left and hit a low shot which went under Ripley’s body.
Norwich’s third goal came seven minutes before the break, Ripley coming out to get to a through ball before Hernandez.
He kicked his clearance straight to Idah who took a touch and lifted a peach of a shot into the unguarded net.
Bodin scored in the 48th minute, redirecting Stockley’s header into the roof of the net.
Idah made it 4-1 from the spot on the hour but he had looked offside when running clear to win the penalty.
Harrop ran on to Bodin’s pass to net in the 84th minute, PNE at least going down with some fight.
They can focus exclusively on the Championship now and after recent results, all their attention will be needed to get back on track.