Every once in a while, following Norwich City Football Club produces a ‘Pinch yourself!’ moment – one that, in every likelihood, sends a tingle up the spine of anyone whose veins run yellow and green.
Going 2-0 up at the old Olympic Stadium in Munich would be one such moment; going 3-0 up at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea, would I suspect be another.
For while the Norfolk side would still have to dig deep to see out a fabulous 4-3 away win against the in-form Swans to make it nine games unbeaten in the Premier League, when skipper Grant Holt buried that bullet header into the far corner a minute before the break, for that instant life as a Canary supporter can rarely get much better.
Particularly given the fact that it was Holt who scored – thereby ending his own, barren run of late as he finally earned his due reward for week after week of selfless front-line play.
As was noted by Chris Hughton afterwards, with the City chief having now masterminded the club’s best top flight run in 23 years with Norwich’s first away win of the season taking their current points haul to 19 points from the last available 27.
If the 40-point mark remains the traditional ‘finishing line’, City now lie just six wins short of being back in the land of milk and honey next season.
And given 2013-2014 is when the new TV deal kicks in, that’s a land of ever more milk and honey – as Messrs Bowkett and McNally are all too aware. Hughton had a big job to do this summer; to build on the legacy of Paul Lambert and – above all – keep City’s nose in that TV trough again next year.
Even in their fondest dreams, to find themselves on this kind of run going into a Capital One Cup quarter-final against Lambert’s ill-firing Villa must take some believing.
“I’m pleased for Holty because he’s working so hard leading the line up front,” said Hughton afterwards. “It was a really good header for his finish.”
In fairness, all four goals were decent. Robert Snodgrass’ back-heel to set Steven Whittaker in for the first was top drawer; Holt’s hanging cross for Sebastien Bassong to bury his third goal of the season was, likewise, heaven-sent whilst Snodgrass capped a magnificent individual performance with a peach of a late free-kick to finally kill off Swansea’s second-half challenge.
“We had a tremendous start – the first-half was probably as good as we’ve been,” Hughton told the BBC afterwards.
The difference, he said, came in the clinical finishing. They were, in short, as good in the opposition box as they were defending their own. In between, they had energy, movement, incision and belief as Jonny Howson made a telling return to the side in the absence of an injured Alexander Tettey.
“You have to soak up pressure against Swansea because of their style of play and the way that they keep hold of the ball, but you have to be clinical,” said Hughton, opting to throw Russell Martin in at centre-half as Ryan Bennett also missed out.
“And in that first-half we were obviously very clinical. Sometimes there’s no particular reason – it’s just the way that the game falls for you.
“And we’ve certainly put in performances this season that could have seen us score more goals, but at the moment we’re confident – confident in front of goal.”
The result took Norwich to 11th in the table; nine points clear of the drop zone.
The fact that the Canaries are scoring goals from all departments and can still be on this run despite having to chop and change the side following knocks to not just Bennett and Tettey, but both Michael Turner and John Ruddy of late speaks volumes for the depth of belief that sits in that dressing room right now. All founded upon a huge work ethic. Shift follows shift follows shift.
“It’s nice that we’re spreading the goals about the team, but it has had to be built on a solid team ethic. The players can’t be working any harder than they are at the moment,” said Hughton.
Spirit is not in doubt.
“At 3-2 we had to show real resilience. Weather the storm a little bit and then we came again – and that fourth goal was a massive goal for us. Massive. And ultimately the one that would win it for us.”
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