Russell Martin - Home defeat to Watford was wake-up call

Michael Bailey Russell Martin believes the Canaries' opening night failure against Watford was the catalyst for their eye-catching start to life back in the Championship.

Michael Bailey

Russell Martin believes the Canaries' opening night failure against Watford was the catalyst for their eye-catching start to life back in the Championship.

After starting their second tier return with a 3-2 home defeat by Watford - a side tipped for relegation - Norwich City have won twice and last Saturday picked up a draw at one of the pre-season promotion favourites, Nottingham Forest, with an impressive display that could have so easily have earned all three points.

City's promising beginning has not been too far removed from the style with which they charged to the League One title last season and right-back Martin feels those harsh lessons, learnt in front of the Sky TV cameras against the Hornets, have served them well - so much so, the 24-year-old is in no mood to rule out competing at the top end of the table this season.

“If we can stay consistent, which we have been the last two or three weeks since that first game against Watford, who knows?” said Martin.

“Maybe that was the wake-up call we needed to realise this league is a tough, tough league because since then the lads have been absolutely brilliant.

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“Now if we can keep that consistency level like we did last year, you never know where it will take us.

“We're not putting any pressure on ourselves. We just want to come and show that we can play in this league, and we earned the right to do it last year.”

After conceding three goals and looking more than a little suspect as a defensive unit against Malky Mackay's side, City have tightened up considerably - the controversial penalty decision in Nottingham last weekend was the only goal they had conceded in the league since.

The change is no fluke, but rather down to work from manager Paul Lambert and assistant, Ian Culverhouse, on the training ground - leaving the solid base for an unbeaten run of three games and seventh place in the fledgling Championship table.

“That's what we want to be, we want to be hard to beat - and that's maybe why the Watford game was a wake-up call, that we couldn't be as expansive in this league as we used to be last year,” acknowledged Martin. “So maybe we needed that.

“Since then, the gaffer and Cully have worked on everything in training, a lot of work on the back four, which hopefully is paying off because I think we've been defending really well.”

Despite captaining Peterborough United to League One promotion, Martin left London Road for Norwich in January - one player left to pay the price for Posh's terrible start to their Championship campaign 12 months ago.

The full-back admitted he had a point to prove at City's current level. “Of course, I believe I can play in this league.

“I'm showing that now, but I hope I'll keep improving every week, as will most of the lads who haven't played in this league - you get used to it,” said Martin. “I'm really happy with my form, actually. I was disappointed with how the first game went, as everyone was, But since then I think I've got better every game, I feel like I'm coping OK and I'm happy with how I'm playing.

“Forest was probably one of my better performances so far in the season, so I'm quite happy with that because I was feeling pretty rough before the game with a bit of a bug - the girlfriend had it as well. But like I said, I'm happy. I just want to be consistent and Adam (Drury) has been brilliant as well down the other side, so that's all you want from your full-backs, to be consistent and performing well, and hopefully we're doing that.”

Arguably the international break has come at the wrong time for City - but Martin is confident the Canaries can return to action against Barnsley at Carrow Road on Saturday in a similar vein of form to the one they left at the City Ground. “We spoke about that before the Forest game, we didn't want to go into the two-week break on the back of a bad performance,” said Martin. “When you are playing well, being consistent and getting good results you want games to come really quickly. But it gives us time for the lads to recharge a little bit, the training is really intense and really hard, and it gives you a chance to work on a lot of things.