Gary O’Neil sick of Premier League mountain climbing after Norwich City’s painful defeat at Aston Villa

Jordan Veretout of Aston Villa is fouled by Gary ONeil of Norwich during the Barclays Premier League

Jordan Veretout of Aston Villa is fouled by Gary ONeil of Norwich during the Barclays Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Mountain climbing is a skill which Norwich City's players are finding too much of a challenge this season, and one which midfielder Gary O'Neil has had quite enough of.

The Canaries have conceded the first goal in 18 of their 25 Premier League matches – and gone on to lose on 14 of those occasions.

Defensive lapses and individual errors have become the common theme of the campaign for Alex Neil's team, despite so many encouraging signs in the first half of the season.

Conceding an unnecessary set-piece goal on the verge of half-time was a heavy blow to take during Saturday's 2-0 loss at Aston Villa, when Joleon Lescott headed home a whipped Carles Gil free-kick.

That painful concession was compounded by goalkeeper Declan Rudd's ill-judged charge out of goal to try and thwart Gabriel Agbonlahor six minutes after half-time, only for the Villa striker to roll home into an empty net.

O'Neil admitted the Canaries had shot themselves in the foot once again, to allow Newcastle to drag them into the Premier League relegation zone,

'We're obviously bitterly disappointed with how things went, the goals we conceded, you're going to struggle to pick up points and win games if you concede goals in the nature that we did,' O'Neil said.

Most Read

'They gave Aston Villa the impetus when we probably hadn't moved the ball as well as we could in the first half, but we were definitely in control and there was no panic.

'We felt like if we improved, as I felt we would, as the game went on we would have gone on to win the game and then to concede in the 44th minute from a high ball floated into the box. There was no real quality on the ball, no pace or anything, to concede from a ball like that is tough to take.

'And then we make it even worse, when we've had a chat about going out and having a good go in the second half, we've given ourselves a mountain to climb.'

Several chances came and went for the visitors in the second half, O'Neil having one of the best when he slid just wide in the 63rd minute after lively play from Steven Naismith on the left wing.

The Canaries could not spark a comeback though – leaving the post-match talk to again focus on their defensive failings.

'I don't think we were purposefully sitting deep,' O'Neil continued. 'Obviously the problem is trying to conduce the space between the lines between the midfield and the back four, and the midfield and the forwards. If you're going to squeeze up, we need to all squeeze up together.

'We didn't manage to quite get out of our line in the first half, I would agree with the fact that we were slightly too deep, it was one of the things we discussed about coming out and changing but then we go 2-0 down.

'To be fair, we have a right go from there, but the game's done, you need a miracle to come back from 2-0 down.'

Naismith had cited a lack of communication being a problem soon after his January switch from Everton but O'Neil didn't feel that was an issue at Villa.

'It's something we discuss and try to encourage out of some and try to make our team as vocal as we can,' he added.

'I don't think speaking to each other would have stopped either of the goals so there are issues in the way we are conceding goals which is causing us to have to play out of our comfort zone.

'And when we are playing a team who have been struggling, we've given them a big lift after 43 minutes because they haven't really done a lot, they haven't really threatened our goal yet they go in 1-0 up and they haven't really got to do anything from there.

'They can play free and defend and try and hit us on the counter so we just need to do better really, as a group of players and we'll find out if we're good enough in the next 13 games.'