Canary fans were tonight in seventh heaven after the Norfolk side swept clear into that second automatic promotion place courtesy of a 3-1 win over Bristol City.
It was, in many ways, the icing on the cake after a weekend in which result after result went the way of Paul Lambert’s men.
The fact that the two winning goals came in the 89th and 91st minutes is almost taken as read these days.
What was more telling as to the current state of the Canary Nation was whether or not Norwich would take full advantage of their late date with the in-form Robins – or whether the nervy, home paralysis that gripped both Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City over the weekend would, likewise, inhibit the Canaries.
Come ten o’clock and both Forest boss Billy Davies and Cardiff’’s Dave Jones had their answer – if no-one else would take on the challenge of over-hauling QPR for the title, then Norwich would after tonight’s victory took them three points clear of Swansea City in third.
A gauntlet had been delivered – and Norwich had risen to the challenge, courtesy of Grant Holt’s second minute penalty strike and those typically late goals from substitute Henri Lansbury and a fit-again Andrew Surman.
“It’s monumental,” was Lambert’s simple description of tonight’s victory as he spoke to Sky Sports immediately afterwards.
It is, in fairness, a result that will set down a crucial marker with the rest of their promotion rivals – that the Canaries appear, for now, immune to the kind of final furlong jitters to have hit Swansea, Forest and Cardiff of late.
What was fascinating coming from a manager whose first and foremost goal this season was to secure safety was a battle cry tonight of over-hauling QPR – and adding back-to-back titles to his already glittering playing career.
That would be a truly astonishing achievement. But right now anything remains possible as the Canaries fly into the final straight.
“You’ve got to go for [the league leaders],” Lambert told Sky Sports. “They are the team everybody has got to try and catch at the minute and a brilliant team they are.
“But the key is good players, it’s not rocket science.
“Good players who want to win games and if we can do that and keep the stadium rocking then we’re in with a chance.”
Wes Hoolahan set the ball rolling by winning that early penalty; skipper Holt carrying on where he left off last week by despatching the spot-kick high into the left-hand corner.
No chance of City’s top-scorer dinking the ball back into David James’ waiting arms.
Albert Adomah threatened to poop the party with a 65th minute leveller before Sky Sports viewers were treated to the kind of late, late show that has become the norm in these parts under Lambert’s charge.
As ever, the Scotsman could be found heaping the praise on his players as City struck a big, psychological blow with tonight’s result.
Whilst everyone else might be stumbling and stuttering, Norwich are driving on and on.
“I think the way we played and the way the players have gone about it, they have been terrific for me,” Lambert said, after yet another late, late show.
“They gave me everything they’ve got. That’s the type of effort you get from the lads.
“And I have to give the lads enormous credit for keeping going and they never know when they are beaten. The crowd were right behind us and what you see there is lads who are willing to go to the well.”
With Aaron Wilbraham failing to recover from the knock he picked up in that 3-2 win over Leicester City last week, Simeon Jackson was handed something of a rare start alongside Holt.
In the end, however, it was the on-loan Lansbury – on for the Canadian – who once again proved his worth with the game’s all-important goal a minute from the end.
As for Holt, his second minute penalty was his sixth City goal in the last eight games.
It took the 29-year-old to 18 for the season.
From his 82 league and cup appearances, Holt has now scored 48 – a phenomenal return that puts him right up with the Canary greats in terms of strike rate.
It should, likewise, ensure that the Canary captain already has one hand on that Barry Butler Memorial Trophy as the Norfolk side and their supporters continue to dream the impossible dream – with ever more conviction.
Leave a Reply