Jonny Howson wants substance to beat style for Norwich City

Jonny Howson looks a picture of dejection after Norwich City concede a third goal to Birmingham at S

Jonny Howson looks a picture of dejection after Norwich City concede a third goal to Birmingham at St Andrew's. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City need to remember it is substance over style if they want to achieve Championship promotion this term.

For all the pretty triangles and intricate passing, City's first defeat of the campaign was a thoroughly lacklustre one – as the Canaries' apparent search for the perfect goal was undone by a routine Birmingham cross and far-post header.

The rest of the afternoon was blighted by examples of how not to defend, and it left stand-in captain Jonny Howson a frustrated man.

'It could possibly be so (looking for the perfect goal),' admitted Howson. 'As you mentioned there we've got terrific players and it's okay having these players.

'But it's about doing it on the pitch and in both boxes is where it matters – either putting the ball in the net or stopping it going in against you. You do that however that may be. So yes, it's okay saying we've got these terrific players but we need to go and prove it; to show it week in, week out. We can't do it for three or four games and then have a game off.

'If you want to be consistent and achieve something – certainly what we're going for – then you need to do it on a more regular basis.'

The international break will be a long time to mull over Saturday's events and come City's return to action at home to Cardiff in under a fortnight, Howson admitted no one could have complaints over losing their place in the squad.

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With Wednesday's transfer window closure it could be an interesting few days.

'Two weeks in football can be a long time in football sometimes – and we've got the window closing as well, so we'll see what happens,' added Howson.

'I'll have the kids keeping me busy on Wednesday, so I'll go into training on Thursday and see who's there and who's not. It's not a part of my job so I'll leave it to those that it is.'

There was no getting away from the frustration of the City support on Saturday night – and although the players and staff are conditioned to move on from such disappointments as quick as humanly possible, it rankled with them too.

From comparisons to that opening-day win at Blackburn, to the City squad of two years ago, to the vows of improvement following last season's timid top-flight failure – there are plenty of discussion points hanging around following that 3-0 weekend humbling in the second city.

That's handy too, given everyone has a fortnight to rinse them for all they are worth.

But one thing City's stand-in captain Howson won't have is the fact City missed having Cameron Jerome on the pitch at St Andrew's.

If they did, they might as well give up on their latest pursuit of the Premier League dream right now.

'Throughout the season there are going to be players that will be in and out of the side, and if you're looking to challenge for promotion you need to deal with these things,' said the 28-year-old.

'Be it injuries, suspensions, illness, you need to be able to replace those players and players have got to step up and take charge.

'I don't think it was a case of missing someone. When you want to challenge for promotion, all of us at times could've been better.'

City's number eight – much like Norwich boss Alex Neil – is not someone to offer up excuses. He had the chances to do so, but carried the honesty to turn them away.

'I think in any game of football, if you're sloppy you will get punished and we found that out here,' Howson added. 'The higher you are, the more clinical they are with that punishment – but certainly at this level, you get found out if you're not at it and you're sloppy in possession or in your play.'

Even suggestions the second-half penalty that doubled Birmingham's lead inflicted maximum damage, as it came when City were trying to press for an equaliser, were given little weight by the midfielder.

'I think you're looking for something that we never really did,' Howson added. 'It's not like we were dominating or really in control of the game. In any game you can always look at certain instances that might change the game, but as an overall performance it wasn't good enough.

'It's very disappointing. The performance wasn't there and the result was just as bad. The other games have been fine and we were unbeaten going into this – it would've been nice to be in that position going into the break.

'But we move on. We will try to put things right where we've gone wrong and whether you win, lose or draw, you always move on to the next one because you can't affect it now.'

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey and Facebook @mbjourno