Close but no hurrah – a lack of resilience and missed opportunities will underpin Norwich City’s hard luck story according to Alex Pritchard, as they miss out on an immediate Premier League return
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Should Norwich City have been good enough to earn promotion this season? It's a question that may well swirl around heads for years to come.
The Championship table answers it to a degree – the Canaries under Alex Neil were not up to the challenge.
This could be the first time City have broken through 70 points in the second tier without at least extending their season. Only once have they done it before and failed to earn promotion – and that came down to a 2002 play-off final penalty shoot-out in Cardiff.
For all the recriminations and blown opportunities, perhaps the biggest frustration is City still won't have missed out by much.
'It's a difficult one to take with the team we've got, when we perform like we did against Brighton and at Preston,' conceded Alex Pritchard.
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'I've said before, the games against Ipswich, the points we've dropped at home – and I know we've been good at home – but our away form has been abysmal. It's not been good enough and we've not been resilient enough away from home. That's cost us.
'The fact is we haven't been good enough. We thought we could have been good enough, but we haven't been. We owe it to ourselves in these last two games (at Leeds on Saturday and at home to QPR on May 7). We've got to go out there and perform for ourselves and for the fans.
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'We've not been good enough for the fans this year, and they've still stuck with us. Obviously some games they've been on top of us and I fully understand that, but on Friday they were on it and it was great.
'This hasn't been us, I think. The skipper has said it too. But what can we do about it now? It is what it is, we've got two games left and hopefully we can win both.'
Pritchard's own season has been inextricably linked to City's – only half-trusted by his previous manager. Then under interim head coach Alan Irvine, he has been first name on the team sheet alongside one frustrating early withdrawal, following Mitchell Dijks' first-half red card at home to Blackburn.
'That one is obviously frustrating as a player, but the manager has got to do what he's got to do and I respect that,' added Pritchard. 'I'm just thankful to Alan for playing me in every single game.'