City winger Anthony Pilkington ought to have been the first in the queue to buy City Man of the Match Steve Morison a pint last night after the 23-year-old wiped out memories of that Old Trafford miss with two, top flight strikes in Norwich’s 3-1 win over Swansea City this weekend.
In fact, there was just 48 seconds on the clock when Morison’s perfect knock-back across the Swans six-yard box invited Pilkington to smash the game’s opening goal home – an invite he took with aplomb with the sweetest of first-time connections.
After the break, of course, he had every reason to thank Bradley Johnson as his controlled pass back across the face of goal offered up a second chance to get on the score-sheet.
Once again the former Huddersfield starlet needed no further prompting as he swivelled on the spot and sent City’s killer third strike into the far corner to become Norwich’s leading Premiership marksman with three strikes to his name.
“The ball’s come in and Moro [Morison] has done excellent to nod it down and it’s fallen nicely for me,” said Pilkington afterwards, as the Canaries cemented their place in the top half of the Premiership table with a solid home win against their fellow new arrivals.
They wobbled a bit after Swansea’s 12th minute reply, but once Pilkington had grabbed his second of the afternoon in the 63rd minute, Norwich walked to the finishing line. No nerves a-jangling this weekend.
“All I’ve done is look to get a good connection and put the ball in the net and after the previous week when I’ve missed a few chances, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game than this week.
“But everyone is misses chances – everyone is human. It’s how you bounce back from that and I’m grateful that after 48 seconds I had the chance to put it right. I wasn’t going to miss that one today.”
It is all credit to the young man’s strength of character that – so early in to the contest – he had both the confidence and the composure to finish in such ice-cold style after finding himself well and truly under the Premiership spotlight with the miss at Old Trafford.
Credit too to City boss Paul Lambert; he has clearly not only got the lad’s head screwed on again post-United, but also has given him the licence to get himself into such danger areas; to not be hugging the far touchline all game. Get in there and hurt them…
“He encourages me to get in there, get in around the box and be creative,” said Pilkington, long since having recovered from last season’s nasty ankle injury while on League One duty with Huddersfield.
He has found himself a new home in the top flight and is having the time of his life; Liverpool (a) next weekend; after that a home clash against his boyhood heroes, Blackburn Rovers.
“He [Lambert] wants us to provide goals – and score goals,” said City’s new leading marksman. “But it doesn’t really matter who scores goals at the end of the day, it’s all about the three points.”
He also has a nice line in humour – not least about Johnson’s clever lay-up for the second.
“He’s mis-kicked it, to be fair,” he laughed. “But, no, he’s done really well to put it back across into the danger area and I’ve just managed to swivel and get something on it.
“But that’s a massive three points for us today and one that we’re going to enjoy. Switch off until Monday – and then start working towards Liverpool.
“And what we can’t do is get too carried away. We’ve got to keep our feet firmly on the ground and just remember that this is the toughest league in the world and this is where we want to stay come the end of the season.”
Running out at Anfield next Saturday will be a million miles from where it all began for the Canary winger – at Atherton Colleries. He, like so many of his team-mates, knows all-too well what the other side of life is like.
“It has been a big step-up,” he admitted. “But one that I like to think that I’m thriving on. And I love playing against the big teams, in the big stadiums – you can’t beat it.”
He has, after all, played in front of one man and his dog before now.
“I think the majority of this team have been through non-league in some time in their career and I think that’s why we’ve got so much togetherness – we’re all in the same boat here.
“There’s no big-time Charlies as you see in other clubs. We all want to work hard for eachother and we’re all pushing in the right direction for the manager and the fans.”