City midfielder Andrew Crofts could do little else but echo the thoughts of Canary boss Paul Lambert after this weekend’s 5-1 mauling by league leaders Manchester City.
Though Lambert would suggest that, defensively, Norwich weren’t at their best at The Etihad, the fact remains that their hosts for the weekend are still looking a class apart this season.
Better teams than Norwich will, likewise, come a mighty cropper against David Silva and Co.
The trick was not to overly-dwell on what was something of a one-off occasion.
“They are a top, top side – you can see that,” said City’s Welsh international, who – together with his freshly-bolstered midfield colleagues – at least kept their hosts at arm’s length for the first-half.
And 1-0 at the interval was a decent return; things only really started to unravel once Samir Nasri’s 51st minute free-kick was allowed to bounce in from some 35-yards distant. Everyone appeared to leave it for each other; the bounce then leaving John Ruddy to make a horrid, hurried attempt to palm the ball clear – one which only succeeded in pushing the ball inside his left upright.
It was, in short, a wound of the self-inflicted variety; not big or clever when it comes to that all-important second goal. Particularly, not when it comes so soon after a re-start too.
“The most disappointing thing was the goals that we conceded – we were disappointed at that,” added Crofts. “But saying that, I think they had most of the play even if we gave it a right go at the start of the second-half.
“But, as I say, we were just disappointed with the goals that we conceded. But we will put that behind us now, re-group on the training pitch and get ready for next weekend.”
The danger always was that if the Canaries came out to play, City would then exploit the new-found space with ruthless efficiency. Which they duly did as goals from Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson condemned the Norfolk side to their biggest defeat of the season thus far.
From a distance, the goals did all look a little too easy. But these are some of the best players in world football right now; and all playing with the kind of ease and belief that comes with that long, unbeaten record.
“We tried to contain them in the first-half,” said Crofts, with Steve Morison once again asked to plough his lonely furrow up top. His reward would come with City’s consolation strike after the break – Morison’s fourth goal in five Premiership outings.
“And maybe we sat off them a bit too much,” he added, as the Canaries went into damage limitation mode, fearful of being down and out before the interval.
Having weathered the initial onslaught, coming out to play in the second period merely opened up the game to the hosts’ advantage. But at 1-0 down, Norwich needed to chase the game if they were ever going to prise anything out of the contest.
Damned if they didn’t, they were damned when they did… it is not easy picking your best policy against a team of such talent in such form.
“Second-half you’re thinking: ‘We’re having a go here…’” Crofts told BBC Radio Norfolk. “But then we concede a couple of sloppy goals – and that was the most disappointing thing.
“Apart from today we have always been in games, but we’ll re-group in training and go again.”
A difficult afternoon was made that much more emotive for both Crofts and Morison by the minute’s applause in memory of Wales boss Gary Speed, who took his own life last weekend.
On the day the news broke, Crofts admitted he had been left ‘devastated’. A week on and his thoughts remained very much with Speed’s family; his wife and their two, young boys.
“It’s been a sad, sad time – I absolutely loved him as a manager,” said Crofts, handed that anchor midfield role by Speed. All seemed set so fair for the start of richly promising a World Cup qualifying campaign next summer.
“He was a great, great man and a great football person – and he was held in so much respect by everyone in football. And he was creating something special for Wales – this is the highest ranking that we have ever been. And that was down to him.
“He’d put the foundations in and, hopefully, we can pay that back to him by way of a tribute.”
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