Alex Neil rues Norwich City’s sloppiness in brave Rotherham effort
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil admitted Norwich City were one defensive lapse short of an outstanding Championship display at Rotherham.
City's 1-1 draw at the New York Stadium bore the hallmarks of Neil's first game at the helm, when City's 10-men prevailed at the expense of promotion rivals Bournemouth on the south coast in January.
Norwich's task against a relegation-threatened Rotherham, clearly seething from a pre-match points deduction for fielding an ineligible player, became even tougher after Lewis Grabban's 26th minute red card for his aggressive reaction to Craig Morgan's grappling.
Gary Hooper's sublime 20-yard volley, allied to a manful defensive effort and Rotherham's wayward finishing, appeared to have offset Grabban's early exit, until Jordan Bowery's far post header halted City's bid for a remarkable escape.
Promotion rivals Middlesbrough's 4-3 defeat at Fulham merely compounded the sense of loss felt by the visitors following Neil's pre-match plea for no more slip-ups.
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'Of course it makes it worse to find out Middlesbrough have slipped up but if someone had said to me you would go down to 10 men and you would be that close to winning a game then you would be happy,' said Neil. 'I was pleased with my players, well, the ones who stayed on the pitch. I thought they worked extremely hard. It felt like a defeat.
'Whenever you are leading with five minutes to go and concede then it is going to feel that way and barring some sloppy defending we would have come away with the three points, which would have been a fantastic achievement.'
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Neil rued his depleted side's failure to sense the danger before Adam Hammill wriggled free to stand up a cross met by the unmarked Bowery.
'I think the ball broke into the middle and instead of just clearing it higher up the pitch we tried to be cute and knock it down and the ball popped up behind us,' he said.
'We managed to recover but a deflection took it into the lad's path to put the cross in and we didn't pick up well enough in the box. It cost us the game. At that late stage we need to turn them in behind and go and squeeze the game rather than get roped into taking touches in the in middle.'
City's uncomfortable afternoon may have become even more testing if the Millers' possessed a predator of Hooper's ability.
'Gary's finish was fantastic,' said Neil. 'I thought he did extremely well when he came on he linked the game for us and he showed his quality with an excellent strike.
'For them, I can only remember (Matt) Derbyshire had the one chance they should have scored from and if you limit a team with 10 men to one opportunity that is not bad.'