Crook: We must fight to end
David Cuffley First team coach Ian Crook is determined Norwich City will not be lulled into a false sense of security after moving out of the Championship relegation places.
First team coach Ian Crook is determined Norwich City will not be lulled into a false sense of security after moving out of the Championship relegation places.
The Canaries' 1-0 home victory over Plymouth on Saturday, their third win in four matches, lifted them out of the bottom three to 20th place in the table.
They could slip down one place if Barnsley beat Crystal Palace tonight, but the picture is a whole lot brighter than two weeks ago, when a 2-1 home defeat by Coventry left Bryan Gunn's men four points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Nottingham Forest.
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Nevertheless, Crook, who returned from Australia eight weeks ago as part of Gunn's new coaching team, insists City cannot afford to take their eye off the ball.
“It's a lot better now with the results we have had, but it's still going to be a fight for us,” he said.
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“If we perform as we have in those three wins - and I don't really think we played badly against Burnley and Coventry - and put in that level of performance we should pick up enough points, but we must not drop below that level.”
Gunn has chalked up a neat four wins, four draws and four defeats in 12 games since first taking charge as caretaker boss for the 4-0 home win over Barnsley.
“We looked at the results over the last few weeks and worked out that with that record over that period, we would be 11th in the table,” said Crook. “It's respectable without being mind-blowing but we must continue to put results together.
“Results are everything when you're talking about team spirit and a positive attitude.
“Winning three games out of four is the best sort of tonic for team spirit. It makes for a totally different mindset.”
He said the Coventry defeat and the other results that afternoon had brought home City's perilous position.
“Maybe there was a little bit of realisation when all the results went against us on the weekend of the Coventry game that we were in trouble,” he said.
“You can't tell each individual's mindset but we knew we were in trouble.
“The response over the last four matches, apart from a very disappointing Blackpool game, has been excellent.”
With three clean sheets in those four games, Crook said City had defended much better as a unit.
He said: “There is a belief that when you concede goals it's all down to the defence but that's so wrong. You defend as a team, you can't defend with five or six players.
“We have spoken to the two wide guys about that. Wes Hoolahan and Lee Croft are both good forward-going players - and so is David Carney. They're all positive players but we've asked them to do more of a job as defensive midfield players so we get our shape back quickly when we lose the ball and we remain 4-4-2 and not 4-2-4.
“That's one thing they have taken on board, the work ethic has been great and our defensive side of the game has improved.”
The loss of Hoolahan through an ankle injury and Darel Russell - who will be suspended for two matches after his sending-off against Plymouth - will disrupt City's preferred midfield quartet for Saturday's trip to second-placed Birmingham.
“It's always a blow,” said Crook. “It's nice to be able to plan ahead with the same group and get some sort of continuity, but we have players in the squad who can come in and do a good job.”
The Canaries have a two-week break after the trip to St Andrew's and Crook has mixed feelings about that.
He said: “If we pick up a good result at the weekend then perhaps it will be nice to have a break. If you don't pick up a result, or things don't go as well, you're wishing for another game two days later. We just have to make sure we stay switched on during the break.”
One thing that has struck the 46-year-old former midfielder forcibly since his return to Norwich has been the vibrant atmosphere from near full houses at Carrow Road.
He said: “I was coming off the pitch with Lee Croft after a training session and I said how great the atmosphere was at the game and he said 'You must have had that all the time' but to be honest, no. It's the big thing for me, this massive change. To be where we are and playing in front of 24,000, I don't think we had that many more than four or five times in all the years I was playing here.
“The support from the crowd has been electric - they really have been like a 12th man for us.
“We understand supporters' frustrations when they pay their money and they want success, but they have a huge part to play for us in the run-in and they have been magnificent up to now.”