Norwich City’s fighting spirit impresses Alex Neil
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Norwich City’s refusal to surrender in a stirring 2-1 Championship win at Bournemouth was the abiding memory Alex Neil will take from his maiden victory.
Cameron Jerome’s instinctive finish sealed an improbable comeback when the leaders looked set to cash in on Jonny Howson’s second-half dismissal, after Gary Hooper had earlier cancelled out Matt Ritchie’s opener.
Neil knows only too well he was targeted by Norwich after a series of setbacks under his predecessor, but City’s fighting spirit impressed the 33-year-old.
“In the first 20 minutes we dominated the match, without really creating clear-cut chances, then we conceded a sloppy goal from our point of view,” he said. “We went on the back foot for five minutes and probably thought, ‘Here we go again’, and we had the sending off to deal with as well, but we showed character to dig in and make sure we weren’t going to be defeated.
“I think we can still improve in certain aspects but you cannot argue with the start, it was fantastic. To go away to the league leaders, down to 10 men, and then manage to get a victory is great. For me all credit must go to the players.”
Neil vacated his seat in the directors’ box after Howson’s red card to bolster City’s response from the touchline, in tandem with first team coaches Gary Holt and Mike Phelan.
“I’m definitely claiming that as my first win. Listen, if we had lost I would have probably been blamed for the defeat,” he joked.
“Thankfully we managed to get a goal when I came down and go on and win the game, so it was a perfect start. At the end of the day Mike (Phelan) and Gary (Holt) had prepared the team all week. I didn’t want to intrude too much because I didn’t have a chance to work with the players during the week. They had selected the team but I did speak to the players (on Friday night) when we were doing our de-brief about Bournemouth. I spoke to them at half-time and then when we went down to 10 men I just felt the circumstances had completely changed at that point and I was better suited to lend my support at the side of the pitch with the staff.
“The shape had to change and I wanted to speak to the guys about how we contained Bournemouth and didn’t concede a goal.”
The new Norwich boss had little sympathy with Bournemouth counterpart Eddie Howe’s insistence Michael Turner’s handball incident in the build-up to Norwich’s first-half equaliser was rough justice on the hosts.
“It did hit his hand as the ball comes in,” agreed Neil. “I think it was Cameron Jerome who went up for the first ball but as he flicked it, it is like a dead hand, it doesn’t come across his body to direct the ball back into the box. It sort of hits it and then his hand stays there so I don’t think he knew too much about it. Then as it drops Hoops, who is lively, manages to smash it into the net. Sometimes you get those decisions, sometimes you don’t.”
• Norwich loanee Jacob Murpny played 58 minutes in Scunthorpe’s 4-1 League One win at Walsall on Saturday.
The teenager moved to Glanford Park on a one-month deal after a previous spell at Blackpool. Carlton Morris played the final 10 minutes in York’s 1-0 League Two defeat at leaders Wycombe. Harry Toffolo and Louis Thompson are expected to feature on Monday night for Swindon at Coventry City.