City midfielder Darel Russell offered a very simple prescription for Norwich's current goal-scoring woes – work, work, work.
Practice, he said, was the only way to make things perfect. For now, however, after last night's 1-0 Carling Cup defeat by MK Dons compounded the worries that followed Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Coventry City, all was far from perfect as and when the ball ever got vaguely near the opposition goal.
Laboured, indecisive and, all too often, shockingly off target were three of the more polite descriptions that accompanied last night's defeat at the stadium:mk; Russell could at least hold his head high – his 25-yarder that shuddered the keeper's left-hand upright was the closest anyone came to levelling Sam Baldock's deftly-taken 34th minute strike.
It displayed all the directness and simple venom that his team-mates lacked as the belief and the confidence to 'have a go…' drained away in the final third of the pitch.
“It was nice to get a strike – and it was kind of similar to the Colchester one,” said Russell afterwards, his 25-yarder in that 2-2 pre-season draw with the U's is still the pick of this summer's bunch goals-wise. Not that there is much competition right now.
“It was just a little unlucky that it wasn't the right side of the post and it probably would have got us back into the game. And, hopefully, from there we would have pushed on and – hopefully – have got a result.”
With City's urgent quest for a target man striker stuck firmly in the mud, it was telling that Russell would end the game in a centre-forward role. As direct and as willing as he is, the versatile 27-year-old still lacks the extra inches required for a Lupoli, a Koroma or a Cureton to work off.
As it was, the Canaries were guilty – according to Roeder afterwards – of becoming too “pedestrian” in their approach; that for all their possession in the second period, it never really got them anywhere as the Dons funnelled back around their own penalty area and defied anyone in a yellow shirt to find either the time or the space they needed to level.
The luckless Lee Croft came the closest; the ball almost bobbling back off his foot and on into the keeper's arms as a late, far post cross managed to sneak its way right across the Dons goal. Russell's drive apart, that was almost it after the break as the Canaries slipped away from the standards they had set themselves against Coventry at the weekend.
“We knocked the ball around well,” said Russell, with Wes Hoolahan in particular looking bright and inventive in his free role before the break.
“But we seem like we want to take just a little bit too long to get it into that final third and really get it into the back of the net,” said the City star, confirming Roeder's 'pedestrian' claim.
“We're getting the chances, but we're just not putting them into the back of the net – and not showing that conviction that we really want to put them in the back of the net.”
The most convincing connection before Russell's strike was a Koroma header in the game's opening exchanges that flew high and wide of its target.
“From that point of view it's disappointing,” said the City midfielder, well aware that the back half of the team is working pretty well – even with the absence of Messrs Kennedy and Stefanovic. Once again, Canary keeper David Marshall had a relatively untroubled outing.
“It must be hard on the centre-backs because they've got to work hard to keep goals out at that end – and we're not finishing them at the right end.”
It was, he said, just having “the will to put the ball in – and a passion to do it…”
All of which suggested it was almost more in the mind than anything else.
“And it's a habit – if you continually miss them, it becomes a habit that you're going to continue missing them. And you have to break those habits and get those good habits of putting balls in the back of the net. And that's all of us – from front to back.
“We want to have a good habit as a team, as a club, of scoring goals. And goals win games.”
The fact that Norwich are pinging the ball about with a better aplomb merely added to the deepening sense of frustration that City's traditional Achilles heel was continuing to dog everyone's best intentions.
“I think we're playing good football; we are creating the chances but, like I say, it's just that confidence and that passion. And real strength of will to put that ball into the back of the net.”
His heart went out to the 2,200-odd Canary fans who had travelled on a mid-week night to soak up the 'atmosphere' at stadium:mk.
“It's a Tuesday night and I can't believe their great support – and I feel sorry for them. And we need to put a result and a performance on for them on Saturday.”
As for where that 'killer instinct', that 'passion' and 'confidence' came from, the answer was simple.
“Practice,” he said. “Practice makes perfect. We're out on the training field and we've got to keep working on it. At least we're getting in those position and getting those opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.
“Now we just have to put the icing on the cake which is just scoring those goals…”
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