Alex Neil - Norwich City’s Championship promotion rivals can expect a backlash

Norwich manager Alex Neil expects a strong Championship response from his men. Picture by Paul Chest

Norwich manager Alex Neil expects a strong Championship response from his men. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil is warning Norwich City's Championship promotion rivals to fear a Canaries' backlash.

Neil is adamant his men will respond to Friday's major setback in a 1-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough as they look to seal a Premier League return the hard way.

The Scot insists his men can prevail through the play-offs, should they fail to make up lost ground in the final two league fixtures against Rotherham and Fulham.

City must now rely on stumbles from their closest challengers after slipping down to fourth – two points away from the automatic promotion places – following a first league defeat in six.

'If it takes us into the play-offs then we fancy our chances against anyone,' said Neil. 'All it does now is make you more determined we play better the next game and do all the things we have been doing.

'Everybody shares in the disappointment. My message to the players is a simple one, 'That pain you feel at the moment, you don't want to feel that again, so let's win these last two.' We won't fall into the play-offs. I can assure you that won't happen.

'We showed enough in the 70 minutes after Middlesbrough scored to suggest we are up for the fight, we are desperate to do well, but in any given 90 minutes sometimes you will do enough and sometimes you won't. The majority of the time we have done enough. In a huge, huge game we didn't and we need to crack on.

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'In terms of effort and endeavour I couldn't question them. I thought they gave everything they had but when you are sleeping in the first 15 minutes and they start brighter then you are going to get punished.

'If I knew there was going to be a slow start I would have done something about it. The preparation for the game was exactly the same. At this stage of the season it is not about how much ball or how much pressure you have, it is getting the points on the board that is the difference.'