There was little by way of good cheer from City winger Anthony Pilkington after yesterday’s 3-2 defeat at Aston Villa – ‘devastated’ was the word on his lips.
All of which was something of a shame for a young man whose blossoming form on the Premiership stage had continued with his fourth goal of the season – a ‘wonder goal’ according to boss Paul Lambert as the Canary star picked out the top corner of Shay Given’s goal with a stunning, first-half free-kick.
It gave City an early lead only for the Bent-Agbonlahor show to dominate proceedings and leave the Norfolk side with two weeks to regroup before entertaining a resurgent Arsenal at Carrow Road.
The 23-year-old vowed that individually and collectively the group would roll up their sleeves at Colney and work hard to right the wrongs of Villa Park.
Up against a decent Villa side with real pace and menace in the shape of the two-goal Bent and his side-kick Gabby, nothing quite fell right for the Canaries.
The first-half exit of Bradley Johnson with concussion, the missed hand-ball in the run up to Bent’s leveller and, of course, the costly mix-up between Leon Barnett and John Ruddy just three minutes after the re-start – it wasn’t the greatest day at the office for Lambert and Co even if Steve Morison’s 77th minute strike kept the game alive until the final whistle.
“I’m devastated today because we’ve just been beaten,” said Pilkington, quizzed on BBC Radio Norfolk as to how it felt to bag his fourth goal in the top flight and to remain City’s top-scorer – one ahead now of both club skipper Grant Holt and his strike partner Morison.
It was points, not plaudits that Pilkington sought from this weekend’s trip to the Midlands. To come away empty-handed was disappointing.
“We need as many points as possible; we set up here today to get a good result – and we haven’t got it,” said the £2 million summer arrival, looking ever more a smart piece of business.
“We started very well; we got ourselves in front as we’d worked on in training this week, but they’ve gone up the other end and scored and then we’re on the back foot.
“We’ve come in at half-time, talked about it and then two minutes later we’re 2-1 down. We’re not happy – we came up here to win.”
Pilkington wasn’t about to point fingers; as a team, they hadn’t quite hit the heights of a Liverpool (a); unforced errors had cost them dear.
“Individually maybe we didn’t all play as well as we could and that’s led to a disappointing result,” he said. “We’ve got two weeks now to work our socks off on the training ground to start putting it right.”
The international break ensures that the Canaries will have plenty of time to both regroup and re-charge the batteries after this defeat.
Pilkington, however, would prefer to be back at the coalface, digging for points as soon as possible.
“We’ve just been beaten so we want the next game to come as quickly as possible, so I don’t think the break has come at a good time for us – we want to get back on the road of picking up positive results,” he said.
“So it’s disappointing that we have to wait two weeks for the next game, but on the other hand it’s good that we’ve now got these two weeks to work hard on the things that we need to do.”
Morison’s late strike did at least put the Canaries within sight of a point, but to repeat events of a week ago when Norwich pulled a big, 3-3 draw out of the fire against Blackburn – and all from being 3-1 down – was just too much of an ask. Villa aren’t that much of a soft touch.
The other point, of course, is that if you concede three goals against any Premiership team you are always giving yourself a mountain to climb in the sense of needing three goals of your own to earn just point.
City will need to tighten up again in and around their own penalty area if life is to become slightly more comfortable this winter.
The spirit, however, never wavers.
“We never give up – the team spirit in there is excellent – but today we didn’t get enough things right individually,” said Pilkington.
“We should have been passing the ball a lot better and making better decisions, but we weren’t – and I think that’s why we have been beaten today.”