City scorer Andrew Surman insisted it there would be no let up between now and the end of the season as the Canaries digested yesterday’s 6-1 home defeat by Manchester City.
The 25-year-old bagged his fifth goal of the season six minutes after the re-start to reward their home side for their own endeavours against the title hopefuls. But try as they might, having gained a sniff of a possible point they could never quite turn possession into clear and converted chances.
At the other end, of course, it was a different story as Roberto Mancini’s men delivered something of a masterclass in clinical finishing to run away with the contest in the game’s final 20 minutes.
It leaves the Norfolk side with four games left to play – kicking off with a trip to relegation-haunted Blackburn Rovers next weekend.
Pride, points and Premier League prize money are all at stake; nor is manager Paul Lambert about to allow anyone to head for the beach early – however much the efforts of the Canary squad deserve some serious R&R.
“This is going to be a difficult one to swallow,” admitted Surman, whose second-half arrival alongside Wes Hoolahan briefly threatened to turn the tide back Norwich’s way.
“But we’ve got to look forward to the next one – we’ve got four games left and we’re aiming to get 12 points out of those four games. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”
Liverpool could have at least half an eye on the FA Cup final the week after, whilst Aston Villa could conceivably arrive at Carrow Road on the final day of the season needing a point or three for survival. The dramas may be far from over even if the Canary faithful are spared the kind of wretched dramas that unfolded at Fulham (a) one year.
Yesterday wasn’t the greatest day at the office; the final twenty minutes were hard work as any slip in concentration was punished with the kind of ruthlessness that only serious money can buy.
“They’re a good side, but it was disappointing those 20 minutes in which we conceded four goals,” Surman admitted, as Tevez and Aguero went to work with a vengeance.
“We were in the game up till then, really. But then we didn’t take our chances when we had their goal under pressure.”
On another day Joleon Lescott would have been in the wrong place at the wrong time as Grant Holt headed goalward; Anthony Pilkington would have found either the bottom corner or the fast-arriving Jonny Howson – on such ifs and buts, games can change. And titles can be won or lost.
“That’s 11 goals we’ve now conceded against them in the two games and it is very hard to swallow – I think in large parts of the game we did compete today. But if you give them a few chances, then they’re going to take them. And that’s what they did today.
“You’ve got players like Tevez and Aguero who are going to score from nothing and that’s what they did today. After that it’s always going to be an uphill struggle against a team that’s pushing for the title.”
And one that can call upon the services of Yaya Toure and Micah Richards off the bench.
“They are two power-houses and that’s why they’ve got some of the best players in the world because they’re the richest club in the world,” added Surman. “And it’s not just their starting eleven – they have got a really talented squad.
“Maybe 6-1 flattered them a little, but when they had chances – they took them. And that’s why they are some of the best players in the world.”
Manchester United’s 4-0 win over Villa this afternoon duly restored their five-point advantage. And whilst they to teams have still to meet at The Etihad, Surman’s money is still on the Reds to take this year’s honours.
People like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes know exactly what it takes to see both games and titles out – as both proved at Carrow Road earlier this spring.
“I think United will win it. I think they’ll hold on – they’ve got the experience of the past and I can only see United winning it.”