Russell Martin admitted Saturday’s frustrating 3-0 defeat at automatic promotion rivals Swansea City left Norwich City hurt.

Two fantastic first-half strikes – from Fabio Borini and Mark Gower, respectively – did the majority of the damage to the Canaries, who at least had the consolation of hanging on to second spot in the Championship despite the result. But City’s advantage is now just one point over Swansea and their Welsh counterparts Cardiff, with only six games to go. Nothing is close to being decided yet – but right-back Martin acknowledged Saturday evening’s defeat, made worse by Ipswich Town loanee Tamas Priskin’s injury-time goal, was hard to take. “It hurts because of the way they have celebrated – as if they have done it with six games to go,” said Martin.

“That’s the hurtful thing – you have to sit there in the next changing room listening to them celebrating. And really, 3-0 – it hurts because we don’t think it is a fair reflection of the game. Whether they disagree or not – the way they celebrated at the end they probably do disagree and they probably think they deserved it – but we are still in the driving seat and we’ll see what happens come the end of the season. For me it’s never a 3-0 game but a 15 to 20-minute period in the first half has cost us, that’s the disappointing thing.”

After a difficult first half, City penned their Welsh hosts in their own half for long spells after the break as they tried to force the issue – but captain Grant Holt’s miss early in the second period, heading an excellent chance wide from Dani Pacheco’s free-kick, proved costly. “We had chances to get back into the game, haven’t taken them and then they’ve gone and caught us with a sucker punch at the end,” said Martin.

“To go away losing 3-0 from here, with only that dodgy spell, the lads are gutted. After the first goal the gaffer maybe sensed the heads dropped a little bit, which isn’t like us, but credit where credit’s due – after they scored they played really well. They are a good side at home, their home record is really good and it’s a tough place to come. But I just think we just had a bit more belief second half really that we could get something out of the game. We have come back from situations like that numerous times before in the last 18 months or so, and we had a great chance. Unfortunately Holty couldn’t quite squeeze it in and if we score that it’s a totally different game.

The disappointment after the game in the City camp and from the impressive 2,000 Norwich following was obvious – but with an instant opportunity to get back on track at Watford tomorrow night, Martin is confident there is still plenty to be buoyant about.

“Teams are going to drop points from now until the end of the season, and I’m sure we will – to win six games on the bounce in this league is a tough, tough ask,” said Martin. “We’ve been on a great run and it had to come to an end eventually. But it’s one defeat, we are still a point ahead in second and we won’t get too down about it. The boys will pick themselves up and we’ve got a great chance to put it right Tuesday.

“The games are coming thick and fast now, and it’s a good opportunity for us to go away to Watford and put something right from the first day of the season, because we owe them one really after that – so it’s one we are all fired up for and looking forward to. “Six games to go and if everyone keeps playing the way they do – you can’t really say it’s a bad performance today – then we’ll do it. “Belief, mental strength, at this point of the season is so important. We had it last year and I think we will have it again this year. The group is such a focused group of lads considering we haven’t got much experience of being in this position in this league. The mental strength the lads have got and the focus they have is something I’ve not seen very often at football clubs and, with the gaffer and Cully (assistant manager Ian Culverhouse) behind them and the fan base we have, the following, I think it all bodes so well.

“And we all believe we can do it. We have got ourselves into this position and we certainly don’t want to throw it away, so I think we will bounce back on Tuesday and then… there is still a long way to go.”