Table? What table?
Manager Peter Grant took Norwich City's seventh defeat in 11 Coca-Cola Championship matches on the chin and insisted: “I'm not looking at the league table.
Manager Peter Grant took Norwich City's seventh defeat in 11 Coca-Cola Championship matches on the chin last night and insisted: “I'm not looking at the league table.”
The Canaries remain in 18th place, just five points clear of the bottom three, after their 2-1 defeat at Preston, during which veteran Dion Dublin and striker Peter Thorne were added to their growing casualty list. Dublin departed after 24 minutes with a calf strain, while Thorne, his replacement, had to be withdrawn at half-time with a thigh strain.
But with four of the six teams below City picking up points last night - Luton and Barnsley had home wins - Grant would not be drawn into contemplating a relegation battle and said: “I'm not interested in the table. I'll look at the table in May.”
Instead he bemoaned his side's misfortune - both on the injury front and in their narrow failure to salvage at least a point at Deepdale after trailing 2-0 at the interval, defender Jason Shackell reducing the arrears with his first goal for the club.
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Said Grant: “That's football. I know football is all about winning games. We've not won another game, so that's the disappointing thing from tonight. I'm judged on results and that's what the team's judged on, but if we play like that I'll be more than happy.
“We just need to add to our prowess round about the box, score more of our chances, but there were a hell of a lot of good things in the game. We created a lot of chances at a place like this. I've played here with so-called better teams than the one I've got here tonight and never dominated the game as much as that.
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"It was plain for everybody to see. We lost two bad goals but I thought we dominated from start to finish.
"I think that's the last three league games we've played where we've battered everybody we've played, but we've got very few points. We're not converting the chances we're having or the domination we're having.
"There was a lot of very, very good football there and a lot of good knowledge shown on the pitch. To come to Preston and batter them the way we did - because I feel we did - and to come away with nothing is very disappointing. To come away with a point, I would have been disappointed."
He admitted there was an element of risk in playing 37-year-old Dublin so soon after his 90 minutes at Chelsea in the FA Cup on Saturday.
He said: "It's always difficult with an experienced player, to play him two games on the bounce like that. He's got a calf strain, he got it a couple of minutes into the game.
"You can't legislate for that, but I think the boys did extremely well. It was a blow to lose Dion. It does not help changing the team, but I thought the boys showed some great character and deserved much, much more out of the game.
"People always question leaving an experienced player out, but sometimes needs must. Sometimes the body just doesn't accept it. But we have to play people because of the injuries and suspensions we have. I couldn't afford to make too many changes. If Dickson Etuhu had been fit I wouldn't have played Dion - that's a guarantee - but with Dickson, Hucks and Saf all being out of the side, and David Marshall, to go and change another position when I didn't need to was a big call for me. It's backfired on me a little bit, but there's nothing I can do about that.
"Peter Thorne's got a thigh strain and he's only been on a few minutes, but that just seems to be the way that it is at the moment."
Midfielder Etuhu, suspended last night, is also struggling with a hamstring injury as City prepare for Saturday's visit of Coventry, winners last night under new boss Iain Dowie.
"It will be touch and go. I'm desperately hoping he's fit because I'd still change the team for someone like him because he deserves to be in there with his performances," said Grant, who showered praise on his players despite the defeat.
He said: "It would be difficult to pick out any individual. I thought everyone was exceptional. Gary Doherty, who I left out last week, was playing in central midfield and was doing exceptionally well, then went back to centre-back and did exceptionally well. Young Chrissy Martin came in for his first game and played in two or three different positions. I thought Simon Lappin was excellent, and used the ball very well. We defended well, and I thought Andy Hughes was excellent again.
“I don't need to sell Mark Fotheringham to anybody. I know how good he is. I know he can play, he's got confidence to play, he can pass the ball with either foot. He has an eye for a pass that will hurt the opposition. You've seen some passes tonight that, if it was a top player in the Premier League, you would say 'What a wonderful pass'.”