City skipper Grant Holt believes strike partner Chrissy Martin is back to his very best – just in time for this weekend’s thumping great home clash against Leeds United.
The two were re-united from the start again in last weekend’s 3-3 draw with Reading.
Had Michael Oliver had is way, of course, the pair would have been split up again for the next three games after Holt was dismissed for a late tackle on Ian Harte.
Fortunately, the 25-year-old official’s hasty – and costly – decision was overturned by an FA appeals panel this week ensuring that it will be Simeon Jackson who starts the game kicking his heels among the substitutes.
Martin’s trademark free-kick and his all-round performance in front of the Sky cameras will have surely ensured he keeps his starting place against the fifth-placed Yorkshire side.
Martin – who celebrated his 22nd birthday earlier this month – has bagged two goals in his last three games for the Canaries since finding himself playing second fiddle to Canadian international Jackson.
He has, said Holt, returned to the fray with a fire in his belly – and an obvious hunger to claim a starting place by right.
“I think he’d been frustrated by being left out and it showed,” said Holt, speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk ahead of tomorrow’s big game – a contest due to be viewed by a record home crowd as the two sides renew last season’s intense rivalry.
It should be just the stage for a fired-up Martin to show his worth once more.
“When he’s firing on all cylinders, you just fancy him to score every time he gets the ball,” said Holt. “At the end of the day, I think Chris is back to his best.”
The two, it appears, had swapped notes ahead of the trip down the M4.
“We had a chat in the week and there were things that we felt that we needed to do – to get closer as a partnership,” revealed Holt. It clearly worked as the pair ran Reading ragged in that opening 45 minutes. Before You-Know-Who spoiled the party.
It all ensured that the Canaries now head into battle on the back of three straight draws – from the home game against Burnley and Andrew Crofts’ late leveller, to the away trip to Millwall where the tables were turned late-leveller wise and then on to Reading last weekend where fortune – and officialdom – turned against the Norfolk side.
Together the three points from the last nine have seen Norwich slip out of the play-off places as Leeds motor into them. There is, however, only one point between them going into this weekend’s intriguing clash. As ever, you walk a tight-rope when you play in The Championship.
“You’ve got to pick up points wherever you can,” said Holt, the Canaries are – when all is said and done – still unbeaten in three games; the level of performance hasn’t offered too much cause for concern.
“If you look at that Reading game, had I stayed on the pitch I think we would have comfortably won the game,” said Holt.
“We were dominating the game. The Millwall game was obviously disappointing; we’d worked hard; got in the lead but, unfortunately, we conceded a late goal.
“But these are tough games. Reading where around the play-offs last year; not many teams go to the New Den and get points off Millwall – and we did. But we’re unbeaten in those three games and now we’ve got two games to look forward to which are big games.”
The second game needs little introduction – it is the first of this season’s derby clashes with Ipswich.
This weekend’s home clash with Leeds remains quite a warm-up act.
“Carrow Road will be rocking,” he confirmed. “And that’s where you want to be playing – in front of full crowds.
“And I know that we usually do, but they’ll probably come with a little needle after we took the title off them last year – so it should be a good atmosphere. And it’s up to us to help create one.”
If Martin-Holt up-front is a all-but a sure-fire certainty, Canary chief Paul Lambert will have far more to ponder further back.
Korey Smith is the latest unwanted casualty as the youngster took a whack to the ankle at Reading last weekend and was ruled-out of this weekend’s encounter.
With Matt Gill struggling with a calf injury and Andrew Surman deemed to lack the required match-fitness after his own, lengthier lay-off, and both left-backs – Adam Drury and Steven Smith – amongst the casualty list, so Lambert will have to juggle his slender resources carefully once more.
He may, of course, have little option but to throw one of the genuine kids in – quite a game to make only your second or third first team appearance.