Canary hero Wes Hoolahan proved the master of understatement as he looked back on the first hat-trick of his professional career in yesterday’s thrilling 4-2 defeat of Sheffield United.
It took the 28-year-old’s tally to the season to eight – with numbers six and seven arriving from the penalty spot, the first in distinctly controversial circumstances as Canary skipper Grant Holt wrong-sided his opposite number Nick Montgomery and found himself a-tumbling into the United box.
Just as birthday boy Ched Evans did with Michael Nelson three minutes before the break.
One was given, one was not. And on such decisions play-off campaigns can be won or lost; as can relegation fights and caretaker manager jobs, a point not lost on United’s stand-in chief John Carver afterwards.
Not that any of the above mattered much to one Dubliner. Twice handed the opportunity to put City within one point of those automatic promotion places, he twice converted with aplomb.
The third, deep into injury time, was more of a tap-in as Holt continued to prove the provider; but it still required a cool head to calmly steer the ball into the bottom corner as a ten-man United finally fell apart.
“It was good – coming off the bench and scoring a few goals,” said Hoolahan, the result keeping City in fifth spot, albeit now just a point shy of second place.
The two spot-kicks sent United keeper Steve Simonsen first one way and then the other as the Dubliner toyed with the Blades No1.
“When you go to it and you see the keeper diving a bit beforehand, then you put it to the other side,” revealed Hoolahan, proving something of a deadly assassin from 12-yards distant.
As for the third, it was one of those where he almost had too much time to ponder the possibility of his first senior hat-trick.
“Yeh, I did – have a bit too much time, but it just sneaked in,” he laughed. “But it was a great move – Holty done brilliantly; he went down and squared it back to me and all I had to do was knock it in. Fair play to Holty.”
All of which capped yet another spirited second-half revival that had The Faithful purring in contentment come the final whistle.
City had, of course, been a goal adrift at the interval – and lucky to survive a long and loud penalty appeal as Evans went a-tumbling.
Cometh the break and cometh the changes – off went Simeon Jackson, on came Hoolahan; out went that three-man front-line, back came the diamond. Once Anthony McNamee joined the fray on the hour-mark and Norwich were at their sparkling best.
Once again, they played till the very final whistle – and earned their due rewards as a result.
“We keep going and going,” said Hoolahan, quizzed as to what it was about these second-half revivals.
“And the Gaffer keeps on at us – that it’s not over until the final whistle. And we kept going and going – and lucky enough got the few goals at the end.”
City, in fairness, also got the breaks from Lady Luck – as Hoolahan was big enough to admit.
“It all evens itself out during the season,” he said.
“Yes, we got a bit of luck with the first penalty – the second penalty was a definite handball. But, yes, the first was a bit dodgy and I think they probably had a shout for a penalty as well, but that’s how it goes.”
Particularly when you’re managerless, 20th in the table and heading south for the winter. Norwich know that feeling all-too well as Sheffield United stare into the abyss on the back of two, crushing defeats in the space of three, tough days.
“When you’re down there, it’s hard,” he sympathised. “Everything goes against you and all that.
“But they’re not a bad team, so they should obviously come back up and be mid-table.”
Afterwards and Lambert was full of praise for his star midfield turn.
“Brilliant,” he said, simply. “Different class; a brilliant hat-trick.
“It doesn’t matter whether its penalties or not, you’ve still got to go up there and stick them in which he did do – and he did great for the last one. He’s got to be in that position to score.”
As ever, the question was raised as to whether Wesley was worth a start.
“There always is a temptation to start him, but you try to pick a team that will win you a game. That’s what I try and do and as I’ve said before, I don’t have any favourites.
“I look at the lads as equal as eachother; I just try to pick a team that I think will win a game.”