Norwich City captain Grant Holt: Half-time positivity was killed by Stoke winner
There was a positive mood in the Norwich City dressing room at half-time on Saturday – and captain Grant Holt admitted Stoke's winning goal knocked the wind out of them.
It took the hosts less than a minute of the second half to earn a lead they looked more likely to add to than surrender, in a game where one goal always seemed destined to be enough.
Now Holt wants attention to switch to City's remaining games and finally tying up Premier League safety – a run that starts with Chris Hughton taking on his predecessor on Saturday.
'It wasn't what we were after,' said Holt. 'I'm a little disappointed with the manner we started the second half. We've gone in to the dressing room at half-time really positive and to let the goal in so early was a bit disappointing.
'It kills you straight away and after that, they got their tails up and the pressure was on. Everyone knows when the Stoke crowd gets up and starts rocking it's a tough place to be. We were sloppy on one incident and got punished.
'They're all big ones between now and the end of the season. You have the added spice of Paul (Lambert) coming back with Aston Villa (on Saturday) and that's a big game for us.
'We have three big games coming up and if we can get the points, it's in our hands. We had a chat the other day and we just want to win every game. There's more pressure on them (Villa) and we'll just try to put them to the sword.
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'We're in good shape, he (Hughton) inherited a good bunch of lads, a good squad and a good unity. He's kept that. Everyone can see we are different to last year but the way we are as a team, we are still there, the lads are in positive spirit. We've still got a good camp and we're enjoying it.'
A visit from West Brom tees up City's final day trip to Manchester City – when the Etihad could be in the midst of an FA Cup-winning party. As for Holt, it was another day at the office where City failed to cause their opponents' goalkeeper much worry.
Indeed, it's the referee who Holt is keeping busier – the striker earned his seventh yellow card in 10 games with a poor challenge on Stoke centre-back Robert Huth. Holt remains unlikely to earn enough bookings to earn a suspension before the season ends.
'I didn't get the ball – I was annoyed as I had literally been whacked in the mouth three times off him,' confessed Holt, speaking on Goals on Sunday. 'I thought I'd try and get the ball and let him know I'm there, as they say. I knew it (the booking) was coming as the referee had just warned me.
'It's the frustration. It spills over. You are down there scrapping for points and want to win, and it kind of boils over. I think it's not the case I'm doing it intentionally. I think it's just a spell I've been going through lately. There are some I've been lucky to miss, and others I've been unlucky to get.'
Hughton agreed Holt's recent indiscipline is symptomatic of the Canaries' current plight.
'It's a little bit of frustration – what he is doing is working very hard for the team,' said the City boss. 'He has certainly given us an option and it is just a little frustration, but that is normal. That is the same for everybody.
'We have a changing room in there that is upset because we felt we had an opportunity to come here and get something.'