Norwich City out to show they have matured ahead of Premier League return against Crystal Palace

Cameron Jerome puts the ball in the net but the goal is disallowed for a high foot by referee Simon

Cameron Jerome puts the ball in the net but the goal is disallowed for a high foot by referee Simon Hooper during Norwich's City clash with Crystal Palace earlier in the season. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil has bittersweet memories of Crystal Palace's opening weekend Premier League visit to Carrow Road but the Scot is convinced Norwich is no longer a soft touch ahead of the return.

City were bold and vibrant in their first competitive outing since that Wembley play-off success, but the Eagles cashed in on defensive naivety in a painful 3-1 defeat that doubled as a brutal early reminder of the quality gap.

'It was a really good performance, totally dominant for the first half of the game and we got hurt by a sucker punch,' said Neil. 'If I compare us then and now we have probably improved in some aspects and gone backwards in others. I have always liked my teams to control the ball and be expansive. We did that unbelievably well in that first game but it can cost you because the counter-attacking style is in favour in the Premier League now. It is all very well having a philosophy but if it doesn't get you points it is not good enough. I think we are more defensively solid, we have a better balance but I would still argue I enjoyed our football more at that stage, but there is always scope for improvement.'

Palace have endured their own struggles in the intervening months with Alan Pardew's squad toiling at the wrong end of the table three points ahead of Norwich.

'It just shows how difficult it is to win games in the Premier League,' said Neil. 'In terms of their recruitment and the players they have in the squad they have some really proven Premier League players. I have watched a lot of their stuff and it is maybe not taking a chance or making a mistake at a crucial time. I know how that feels. The game at this level is decided by fine margins. To go 14 games without a league win, that is nearly the best part of half a season. That is a vast amount of games and they will be alarmed by that. I am sure they will be asking a lot of questions and we have to make sure we take our recent form and performances into this game.'

Neil is keen to harness all the positive energy from last weekend's thrilling stoppage time win over Newcastle.

'You could probably tell by the scale of my celebrations at the time what it meant,' he said. 'I'm not normally one to get too carried away but to clutch it from the jaws of a draw, when we had one point and in my opinion we should have had all three at that late stage, I was hoping it wasn't going to be two points dropped. The fact we managed to clinch it you could see how important that was, not only for the players but everyone connected with Norwich. You saw how much it meant to the crowd and the scale of the celebrations, it was a huge step in our battle to get up the table. After Liverpool we know how that feels to be on the wrong end of it.'

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