Russell Martin on writing off Norwich City’s season, Nelson Oliveira’s red card, Jonny Howson’s injury as Alex Neil’s instructions following defeat at Rotherham United
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In reality, Russell Martin has no choice. With 20 games to go, so much is still mathematically possible.
Yet with 11 defeats on the board equalling City’s win total this term, reality also suggests the Canaries’ promotion hopes are hanging by a thread. History may prove there is already too much work to do.
“You don’t write it off, do you?” replied Martin. “We’re still in touch with the play-offs. I don’t think we were in the top six the last time the manager came in around this stage of the season, so the season isn’t a write-off yet I think. Nowhere near it.”
What City do have is more questions to answer, after the players couldn’t deliver the instructions of manager Alex Neil on the pitch from the off. Who’s to blame for that will form your opinion on the Canaries’ best way forward from here.
“The frustrating thing is we worked on it all week about how they were going to come out and start, about how we needed to start, how we needed to win the fight and win the scrap first, and then needed to start playing – and we didn’t do it for 10 minutes,” admitted the City captain.
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“Then we get a man sent off and we start playing, we start fighting, we start winning battles. We did that for a long period of the game.
“That’s the frustrating thing. The manager can’t go and do it for us. He’s prepared us for it. We’re ready for it. We talked about it in the huddle. We talked about it in the changing room. We didn’t do it well enough for the first 15 minutes. He can’t do anything about that.”
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Which lends itself to an obvious next question: Why did it happen?
Martin added: “I guess it’s attitude. It must be. It’s collective because we’re all on the pitch, but I just think we maybe thought we could come here and pass the ball, be nice and stuff. But coming to grounds like this with the situation they’re in, you can’t do that – especially in the first 15 minutes.
“We’ve done it well against teams like Ipswich and Rotherham last year, where you have to win that battle early on and then you can start to play. We didn’t do it here.”
Martin confirmed Nelson Oliveira both explained and apologised for his sending off, to his team-mates.
“I think he said he was in a head lock and tried to get out of it – the ref has got to be sure, and he said he was,” said Martin.
“Nelson’s not to blame. He apologised for his sending off, he shouldn’t have done it. It hurts us, but we still have to play with 10 men for the length of the game. Up to a certain point we did it quite well, got back into the game – and then threw it away.”
The skipper did have positive thoughts on Jonny Howson; another injury to the influential midfielder is the last thing City need.
“He just said his ankle stiffened up and it’s the one he had is operation on – he didn’t know how it came about, he didn’t get a kick or anything,” added Martin.
“But I think it’s a precaution more than anything because he didn’t want to let the team down. He felt like he wasn’t as mobile as he should be. But he said it’s feeling OK at the minute, so we’ll see.”