Norwich City boss Alex Neil will do it his way again at Wolves
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil may be one of the youngest managers at the sharp end of the English game but the Norwich City boss is streetwise enough to know he is under the spotlight just as much as his players.
Neil's tactical approach and late substitutions at Newcastle have been scrutinised as much as the deficiencies of his own side following a graphic implosion at St James' Park in midweek.
The Scot, however, will stick to his guns at Wolves on Saturday if the Canaries' find themselves fighting a similar rearguard action.
City head to Molineux still second in the Championship but looking to repair the damage from what Neil labelled a 'bizarre' loss on Tyneside.
'It becomes an issue because we didn't see the game out,' he said. 'I would do exactly the same thing again. I have done it numerous times. I did it at Nottingham Forest, when I brought Ryan (Bennett) on because they brought (Nicklas) Bendtner on and we saw the game out comfortably. People will find fault with everything.
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'I would say it is more about not winning your headers, winning your battles. If anyone was to set up a back five with the task of seeing out a game for 90 seconds then I think most people would be relatively comfortable with that scenario.
'At one point they had three attacking players, (Dwight) Gayle, (Yoan) Gouffran and (Matt) Ritchie. We had a back four, because that is the one area of the pitch you always want cover. They then went four up top by bringing (Aleksandar) Mitrovic on. I wasn't comfortable going four versus four because you lose one header or someone slips and you are out-numbered so I went for five versus four with Ryan coming on.'
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Bennett replaced Jacob Murphy against the Magpies, in a signal Neil was determined to protect a slender lead.
'Jacob was done. There was nothing left in his legs,' said Neil. 'At one point he tried to move inside to deal with Jonjo Shelvey and (Paul) Dummett went on his outside with a 40-yard run and he couldn't get there. The next ball went to the full back again and he couldn't get there again. His legs were done.
'We have asked a lot of him this season and at that stage in the game he had fatigued. He has played a lot of games and this is the first time he has played for a sustained period in the Championship. He had given us everything we had. We had Jonny Howson operating in that area and he has good energy and good legs and is capable of getting us up the pitch.'
Neil would not be surprised if big-spending Wolves fight out promotion alongside both Newcastle and his own squad. Walter Zenga's men won in the north-east but slipped up in midweek at lowly Wigan.
'I would think they will be in and around the play-offs, anything better would be a good season for them,' he said. 'The way Wolves play, they average under 50pc possession, so going to a place like Newcastle probably suits them because they have good counter-attacking players. Wolves could pick them off and win that game. At Wigan the onus was probably on them to dictate and the two goals they conceded came when they were in possession. They have got energy in the middle of the park, they are big, strong and athletic with some good attacking players so they will be a handful.'