City boss reflects on midweek defeatALEX Neil cut a frustrated figure after his side’s 3-1 loss to Stoke City – admitting that the game swung on Gary O’Neil’s first half red card.
Strikes from Jon Walters and Joselu, plus a Ryan Bennett own goal, inflicted defeat on the ten-man Canaries, whose contribution came in the shape of a stunning 55th-minute strike from Jonny Howson.
Neil believes that his team were more than holding their own in the contest until O’Neil was dismissed for a poorly-timed lunge from behind on Potters midfielder Ibrahim Afellay just after the half hour mark.
“Up until that point we performed really well. We had the best chance through Ryan Bennett. Afterwards, it becomes tough,” he told Norwich City TV.
“We conceded the first goal, which was disappointing, but after that we showed a bit of character and Jonny pops up with a fantastic strike.
“For the second goal that they score, we don’t squeeze the ball quickly enough. It’s in and about the edge of our box and we don’t get there to shut the ball down.
“It ended up being really tough from that point on because when you’re drawing the game you’ve got something to hang on to.”
Neil had no explanation for O’Neil’s red card which will see the experienced midfielder serve a three-match suspension, missing the games against Bournemouth, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
“I think there are opportunities in games where there are 50-50 challenges, and challenges that you need to make, but the ball’s going out near the halfway line,” said Neil.
“There hadn’t been a scuffle or an incident beforehand, so I’ve got no explanation that I can give you.
“He’s probably the one player I’d have picked that wouldn’t have done that. I don’t generally know what happened, Gary’s apologised but it’s still really disappointing.
“He’s let his teammates down tonight, basically. He’s been performing really well and it’s helped the team recently, so he will be disappointed in himself.
“It’s happened now, and we need to get our focus for Saturday.”