It may have been a sixth Premier League defeat without a goal but Dean Smith felt he could take some elements of encouragement from a 2-0 defeat at West Ham.
Jarrod Bowen scored twice but also had a goal disallowed for offside and hit the post and bar, as the impressive Hammers moved up to fourth, beating a Canaries team closer to full strength.
“Certainly enough for encouragement,” was Smith’s verdict. “It’s been obviously a better performance than the three previous performances but we’ve got some experience back now so I expected it to be as well.
“We were in the game for long periods. I know they’ve had a lot of pressure from set-pieces but mainly from long shots.
“I was disappointed with the manner of the first goal, Jarrod Bowen hasn’t even had to jump in our six-yard box and that certainly took the stuffing out of what would have been a half decent first half.
“I wanted the players at half-time to show more urgency in the second half. I thought West Ham showed more urgency as well unfortunately but at the end of the day I thought the team with the better quality won the game, so I’ve got no complaints about the result.
“But I thought there certainly were positives to take.”
Adam Idah had been denied by Lukasz Fabianski superbly tipping his shot on to the post at 1-0, denying him a major confidence boost.
On the Irish striker, who started up front alongside Teemu Pukki, Smith said: “There’s parts of his game that he still needs to improve. There were a couple of opportunities in the first half where, I’ve got an old saying, don’t make a good chance better, and I felt that he turned down a couple of good opportunities where he could have had a shot.
“That’s the part of the game that we need to get better but there’s no denying that Fabianski makes a good save and that certainly gave us a lift.
“We had to weather the storm in the first 10-15 minutes of the second half where they had hit the post and the bar, but after that we put them under some pressure for 15-20 minutes.
“Unfortunately, they score with five or six minutes to go with a big clearance from the goalkeeper that we should be dealing with better.
“Jarrod Bowen again sets the ball back and they have an overload on the far side and a fractional goal is scored, and 2-0 is game over pretty much.”
Todd Cantwell again wasn’t involved but Smith said it had nothing to do with the January transfer window speculation – with Josh Sargent also missing out after his wife had given birth.
“I expected him to train yesterday but he came in still feeling unwell and under the weather, so we had no choice but to not let him travel with us,” he added of Cantwell.
“He went in today, was feeling better, and he has completed a fitness session, so I expect him to be training Thursday and Friday leading into the Everton game.”
Pressed on there being no transfer implications, Smith said: “He was genuinely under the weather. Josh Sargent was also missing because his wife gave birth yesterday, so really pleased for them, their first child. He’ll be back for Saturday.”