‘Physically we are struggling to compete,’ Alex Neil on Norwich City’s soft spot

Reds' skipper and match-winner Conor Hourihane led from the front for Barnsley. Picture by Paul Ches

Reds' skipper and match-winner Conor Hourihane led from the front for Barnsley. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil is under no illusions he must cure Norwich City's soft centre.

The Canaries were again overwhelmed on Championship soil by a committed Barnsley in a decisive first-half onslaught before Youssouf Mulumbu and Martin Olsson offered some ballast.

'Physically we are struggling to compete. That is a problem for us,' said Neil. 'How do you change that? It has to be different personnel because the guys tasked with doing that and fighting and winning the scraps are not doing it. We put the two boys on at the break because I needed people who were going to fight and scrap for me and for the club and I thought they did that. Youssouf made a big difference and Martin offered that strength and power down the left.

'The last time we got promoted we won physical fights all over the pitch every week and then our quality came through.Then I went very solid in the middle of the park and I haven't had a lot of those players available to me but, yes, going back to what was practical and worked for me the last time might be a course of action. In recent weeks we have been beaten up by teams.'

City's failure to adapt is stunting any attempt to end a decline, despite a 5-0 romp at home to Brentford the previous weekend.

'Brentford sat off us, let us have the ball and we are really comfortable when teams let us have the ball and go and play,' said Neil. 'We cruised against Brentford. This test was completely different. Barnsley turned the ball forward, fought and scrapped for second balls and put it in behind us. I really don't think any of that was tactical. If that is a tactic it is something you normally see in League Two. You have to cope with that. They are good at what they do, if you don't match it you are going to have a tough day and, to be fair, they thoroughly deserved the win based on the first-half performance. To get out of this league you have to be flexible to overcome any test you might face.'