Veteran Canary striker Dion Dublin was in no mood to spare anyone's blushes after yesterday's 1-0 defeat to Coventry City – least of all his own.
For the 38-year-old, one-time Sky Blues hero – roundly booed every time he touched the ball at the Ricoh for daring to move to Midlands neighbours Aston Villa – admitted his own performance had slipped beneath the standards required as he warned that the Canaries still had some unfinished business this season. With the wrong end of the table.
“It was tough today because I think we made it tough for ourselves,” said Dublin afterwards. Never one to shy away from home truths, the City frontman was hitting all too many a nail on its head with his post-match verdict.
“The quality of the individual performances was poor; team performance was poor; everybody that was involved – I think – was poor today.”
The manager would add the name 'P Taylor' to that particular list as the Cheshunt official managed to find six yellow cards in a Canary performance that didn't really offer an eye-watering challenge all game. Instead, they were all niggly, awkward little challenges that wholly befitted a testy, disjointed day at the office that will see both Gary Doherty and Darel Russell sitting out the next two games after picking up two yellows apiece.
First-half substitute – a phrase that tells its own story – Jamie Cureton had a couple of chances, the best from a slick free-kick move, but otherwise ex-Canary keeper Andy Marshall had a relatively easy outing. His voodoo-like hold on his former employers continues.
“A very disappointing day – but they deserved it. They deserved the win,” said Dublin, not about to point fingers at new formations as City boss Glenn Roeder went into battle with a new-look, 4-5-1 set-up – one designed to match Coventry's own, three-man centre-midfield. Which might have worked had the Canaries matched the individual effort and invention offered by their opposite numbers.
“I just think Norwich were poor today,” said Dublin. “I can't really say anything else.”
One win in six is not what anyone ordered after that magnificent unbeaten run hauled the Norfolk club off the bottom. Dublin, for one, insists there is still work to be done. After all, the traditional safety-mark of 50 points is still some way distant – certainly on this current run of form.
“If we continue to play like that, we've got to look over our shoulder again,” he warned.
“We seem to have taken a step back having done so well overall in the last 17, 18 games. Yes, that run we went on was good, but if we start slipping back and thinking it's going to be easy… thinking that the play-offs are there, that we're safe… No, no chance. It doesn't work like that.”
City's schedule is not about to get any easier with promotion-hunting Stoke next on the agenda to be followed by an invariably tricky trip to Sheffield United – and all now minus two of their more physically resolute players in Doherty and Russell. Dublin's experience will once again be in demand by Roeder and his management team.
They have, after all, already proved quite capable of holding their own against the best in this division. They did that at Vicarage Road on Tuesday night only to slip back again on Saturday – back to something akin to the Leicester (a) performance only this time with some David Marshall heroics thrown in.
“It's annoying – we can play better. You guys have seen it – we've played poor this season and then we've gone on a run of great performances and that's where we should be.
“We should have stuck at that performance level; that standard of football. And we haven't. We've taken a step back and taken our foot off the gas. And that's what you get when you do that.
“We are not good enough as a footballing team to play at 90 per cent. We're not good enough – simple as that. And if we do play at only 90 per cent, we're going to get beat.”
Still firmly in the frame for this season's Player of the Season award – a fitting end to a glorious professional career – Dublin wasn't about to duck out of his own responsibilities yesterday. He remains one of the game's most honest professionals.
“We have to play everybody playing 100 per cent and I don't mean trying 100 per cent – the quality has got to be better. The passing has got to be better; the passing was poor today.
“We didn't really give ourselves a chance of winning the game; didn't really create many chances; didn't really make their keeper do anything apart from the two from Jamie,” said Dublin, who once Doherty had seen red found himself slung in alongside Jason Shackell and Alex Pearce at the back. To little effect, in his eyes.
“Too many mistakes at the back. By myself. Got myself in the wrong position and Mifsud went through and Marshy's made a great save – that's twice in two games that he's saved me – so I know I was poor today. But I won't be poor on Tuesday – if I'm selected.
“I will make sure that my performance is better. And I think that everybody has got to do the same.”
Given the physical test that awaits on Tuesday night – and if Watford had Leigh Bromby, so the Potters have Rory Delap with his long-throw attached – Dublin's place in Roeder's thinking is nigh-on guaranteed as the Canaries look to nail the last of those relegation fears to the floor.
“Are we safe? No, I don't think so,” said Dublin. “And we have no right to think that we are safe either. It's all about pulling our socks up, playing against Stoke on Tuesday and playing better. And winning the game.
“We have to win the game on Tuesday. We've come here; Coventry have deserved what they've got; we've deserved what we've got; we've just got to forget about it now.
“Go home, re-group and try and get it right on Tuesday. We know that it's going to be a massive game – and a massive hurdle to try and get over.”