City winger Lee Croft today confirmed what most people half-suspected – that there were “a few words said” on the back of this weekend's 1-0 defeat at Coventry City.
It left the Canaries dangling awkwardly in mid-table after a run of just one win in their last six games. And while it would still take a collapse of frightening proportions to leave the Carrow Road side short of that traditional, 50-point safety mark with 27 points left to play for, peoples' eyes were still starting to be drawn to the relegation scramble bubbling away down below.
Norwich need to rid themselves of those last, lingering thoughts ASAP; get their feet back on the gas and motor off into the summer break in a confident and breezy mood.
“There were a few words said,” said Croft, ahead of tomorrow night's home clash with promotion-chasing Stoke City.
“Obviously we didn't perform in a game that we should have done. The gaffer said a few things and the lads got our views across as well – why it's not being going well. So we need to put that right tomorrow.”
Earlier City boss Glenn Roeder had suggested that it was only in the second 45 minutes against Watford last mid-week that the Canaries hit the performance heights that they are now capable of. Sandwiched in-between the home defeat by Blackpool and the away-day miseries of the Ricoh this weekend and, in Roeder's own words, Norwich are in the midst of a very “flat” spell.
Like Roeder, Croft also pointed to City's performance – or rather, lack of it – in the game's opening exchanges as one of the factors behind this current dip.
“We haven't been starting games as well as we havde been – especially at Watford,” said the 22-year-old. “We didn't start well and luckily we picked up in the second-half.
“And then we didn't start well again on Saturday conceding an early goal and it's always difficult once you go behind to get back into the game.”
That will be the target for tomorrow night – getting their best foot forward early and trying to set the tempo of the contest from the start. Don't be dictated to, in short. Easier said than done when a team drawn from the land of Tony Pulis' giants hoves into view. But possible – as the Canaries proved in the manner in which they set about Watford after the break last Tuesday.
“On the run that we went on, we've been starting games on fire,” said Croft. “So we need to get straight into their faces.
“It's not that we've not been trying to do that – it's just not happened for us over the last few weeks. And, as I say, we need to put that right.”
The Potters have never been anyone's push-overs and just as the Hornets 'entertained' the crowd with Leigh Bromby's long throw, so Stoke will arrive with Rory Delap in tow – heaving his throws into the Canary box at every available opportunity. It will be a night for the Championship pragmatist ahead of the footballing purist. Roeder has long made it clear on which side of the fence he sits.
“They're very similar to Watford,” confirmed Croft. “They're a big, strong, powerful side who will cause us problems in that sense.
“But I thought we dealt with them well when we played them at their place,” he added, with the Canaries finally succumbing to a last minute, set-piece ploy and losing the game 2-1.
“We were unlucky to lose to a late goal, so we've just got to put on another performance against them tomorrow night.”
There is clearly a gauntlet at the players' feet. Roeder left one there on Saturday night with his comments regarding those who wanted a long-term future at Carrow Road having to show it on the field of battle; Dion Dublin, too, suggested that all concerned – himself included – had fallen off the pace of late.
“It's down to all the lads now,” said Croft. “We haven't played well for a few games and it's up to us to go and show that we are a good side. We need to get back on track and prove people wrong.
“We need to set off on another run now. The last few weeks have been really disappointing and, hopefully, we can now start off another great run against some of the top sides.”
Satrurday's trip to Coventry had the added fun of a change in systems. Croft, like Dublin before him, wasn't laying all the blame at 4-5-1's door.
“We played it at Crystal Palace on New Year's Day and I thought it went well there,” he said, in a game in which he in particular shone.
“I think it was just a case that we didn't really gel on the day – for whatever reason. And that was disappointing. And we worked on it in the week – and it was fine. It was just one of those things – that come Saturday afternoon, it just didn't come together for us.”
In amidst it all, he has also become the subject of some tabloid transfer tales – joining his ex-Manchester City pal Dickson Etuhu at the Stadium of Light being one of the more interesting stories to do the rounds.
“I don't read them,” he said. Much.
“It's nice that people are talking about you, but I don't know anything about it. I'm just enjoying my football – not so much in the last few weeks when we've not got the results that we've wanted, but I'm just enjoying myself.”
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