The Tuckster’s take on a good performance against Wigan and the value of Wes Hoolahan…
Apparently, only Barcelona have a longer unbeaten run than Norwich City in any of the top five leagues in Europe – amazing isn`t it?
After such a low key start to the season, Chris Hughton`s Canaries have now gone unbeaten for a quarter of the season which is simply extraordinary.
The visit of Wigan Athletic gave City a superb chance of extending that run to ten league games and as we all know if you want to stay in the league you need to be winning home matches against the like of the Latics.
Michael Turner was restored to the starting line up along with Javier Garrido, Alex Tettey, Steven Whittaker and Wes Hoolahan who all missed the cup defeat to Villa.
I was very pleased to see Tettey and Wes back in the side. Both have been outstanding this season and Wes in particular has been one of our biggest attacking threats. Prior to kick off it was announced that Hoolahan had signed an extended contract that will keep him at Carrow Road until 2015 – great news indeed.
Wes showed his ability within minutes when he took a high ball out of the air, turned and flummoxed a defender in one movement. It was a sublime moment of skill that received a warm round of applause. There wasn`t another player on either side who could`ve done that and it underlines Wes` worth to the club.
With just 15 minutes on the clock it was Hoolahan who was instrumental in the opening goal. Unbelievably he completed a block tackle on Emmerson Boyce and played a quick pass to Pilkington that sent the City winger through on goal.
He took a touch before smashing a shot past Ali Al-Habsi that the Wigan keeper could only get a hand to. It was thoroughly deserved and City continued to pass the ball around very nicely indeed.
Pilkington and Snodgrass were always a threat and it was only a terrific save from Al-Habsi that prevented Snodgrass scoring from a point blank header after a lovely cross from Garrido. It may sound a little harsh but there`s no way that Marc Tierney could`ve produced such a classy cross.
Pilkington thumped a shot just wide after Al-Habsi had spilled the ball, while at the other end Mark Bunn had little to do, dealing with what little came his way quite comfortably.
Ronnie Stam saw a fair bit of the ball but his end product was pretty poor and Jordi Gomez was anonymous. Wigan were unable to get much of a grip on the ball as Johnson and Tettey dominated the centre.
In the second half, Roberto Martinez saw the need for change and replaced the injured McCarthy and Gomez with Jones and Sean Maloney.
It was a substitution that worked as it was Maloney that equalised on 51 minutes after good work by Kone. Maloney hit a cracking shot from the edge of the area that Bunn had no chance with.
It just goes to show that even the supposed mediocre teams in this league all have players that can score out of nothing with a thunderbolt. We`ve seen it recently with Gardner, Holman and now Maloney.
But it didn`t break Norwich`s stride and they carried on in impressive fashion. For once, the referee, Lee Probart who was appalling most of the afternoon got a decision right when Snodgrass was fouled and he allowed play to continue.
The ball went to Pilkington on the left wing and he surged into the box with Boyce for company. He twisted and turned back and forth until Boyce was in a knot. With that done he sent a pin point cross into the area and the smallest man on the pitch, nipped in between two defenders to head past Al-Habsi.
It was a great moment for Hoolahan – on the day he`d signed a new contract, he scored the winning goal and got the man of the match award.
With the Canaries back in front they continued to sparkle in midfield and generally run Wigan fairly ragged, notably when Pilkington was again denied by Al-Habsi with a strong hand to keep out the City winger`s fierce drive.
But it still needed a tremendous block tackle from the excellent Sebba Bassong in the final minutes to deny Kone who was clean through.
One downside though was the sight of Grant Holt pulling up short after a sprint in the last minute. It looks like a hamstring and it remains to be seen how serious that will be.
With so many games coming up in such a short space of time, the loss of our talisman would be a big blow over Christmas.
We all know that this run won`t last forever, but I`m loving it while it continues and it has now seen us, at time of writing, rise to seventh in the Premier League.
The team are playing with a real zip in their step and clearly they are all working flat out to both keep their place in the team as well as keep the points tally ticking over.
We don`t have the biggest squad but there are some good players like Howson, Morison and Bennett that can`t get in the starting eleven.
Those players will all get their chance and everyone will be needed over the next few weeks.
This was a good performance against a side that can be dangerous as Spurs recently found out but the most important thing was the three points. Wes Hoolahan was terrific and thoroughly deserves his new contract. Next up is a tricky looking away day at West Brom, come through that and we have mouth watering games at home against Chelsea and Man City. Tough times ahead but we`re in good shape.