Alex Neil lays it on the line to his Norwich City players
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil is warning his Norwich City players to cut out the charity undermining their Premier League quest.
The Canaries self-destructed in the closing stages of an agonising 2-1 defeat at Manchester City, with captain Russell Martin sent-off in the midst of late carnage at the Etihad.
Nicolas Otamendi profited after escaping the attentions of Ryan Bennett on a home corner, before Yaya Toure struck a winning spot-kick when John Ruddy was heavily punished for failing to collect a near post cross.
'When you set your team up there is nothing you can do about people making decisions that ultimately cost you the game,' said Neil. 'For how well we worked and how hard we worked it is really, really tough to take. If you look at the goals we have conceded recently it boils down to individuals, in the sense we need to either clear our lines, defend our box, win the header, whatever the case may be. As a manager or a coach you can't give them that. I am standing at the side – they have to be big enough, brave enough to go and deal with situations and at the moment, unfortunately, we are not good enough to deal with them.
'To lose the first goal off a set-piece, when someone doesn't pick up their man, is extremely frustrating. Then we get ourselves back in the game by committing men forward and we get that wee bit of fortune on our goal. After that it is basic errors from individual players. That is the bottom line.'
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Martin will now be suspended for Swansea City's crunch visit this week after blocking Raheem Sterling's goalbound shot with his upper arm following the fall-out from Ruddy's initial mistake.
The City number one's miscued punch proved equally costly at West Ham the last time Norwich picked up points in the top flight in late September, but Neil opted to focus on collective responsibility.
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'If you go back to West Ham that was quite a wee bit of time ago,' he said. 'It's just disappointing. John knows he has made an error but if you are going to collect points at these type of places and against this quality of player there is not much more you can say about it. We took advantage of Joe Hart's spill and John is fully aware of what happened. It wasn't just a case of John rushing out. He should probably have collected the first cross but then we should clear our lines.
'Russell tries to get in the way of the ball, as he should do, and I don't know if it has hit his arm or his shoulder, but the referee gives a penalty and you find yourself with a minute or two to go and you have conceded a losing goal.
'You see Hart make a vital save at the other end and those are the moments, whether it's a save or sticking your head on the ball or making a block, that make the difference.
'If you are going to get beat by a team at the top end of the pitch and they produce a bit of quality, when someone does something special, then sometimes you can hold your hand up and accept they have quality players.'