NEIL’S FAITH REPAID BY HOOPER
ALEX NEIL decided to play Gary Hooper instead of his deadline-day signing Tony Andreu in the No10 role, and it paid off emphatically as Hooper bagged a hat-trick in Norwich’s victory over Blackpool.
The Canaries boss brought Hooper back into the side to play behind Lewis Grabban who spearheaded the attack in a 4-2-31 formation, meaning Jerome and Andreu had to settle for places on the bench.
Hooper grasped his opportunity with both hands as he struck two first-half goals before rounding off his man-of-the-match display by coolly scoring a 56th minute penalty.
Nathan Redmond finished the rout for Norwich by stepping up and hitting an unstoppable freekick in the last minute of the game, his third goal of the season.
Alex Neil said: “To score four goals and to keep a clean sheet is always pleasing.
“These games can be tricky because we are on a bit of a hiding to nothing, if we win comfortably people will say we are expected to and then if you don’t it almost feels like a defeat.
“Not only has Hooper got that finishing ability, he also works really hard and so does the group as a whole.
“Certainly the first half we harried after the ball, looked hungry and created a lot of chances, even before the goal.
“We could have been more than 2-0 up at half-time due to the opportunities we had but on the whole the group worked really hard and pleased with the result.
“We need to make sure the work ethic and all the other parts of Hooper’s game is as high as we can possibly get it.
“I expect everyone to give 100 per cent and I thought we got that from all the players today so I am happy.”
Blackpool had the first real chance with a Jamie O’Hara free-kick but it was well over.
Hooper’s first goal came on the 12th minute when a perfect through ball from Howson saw him race clear and calmly slot the ball past a helpless Elliot Parish.
Norwich were forced into subbing on Michael Turner for Sebastian Bassong on the 20th minute due to a back injury but it did not affect them as three minutes later Hooper had got his second.
An amazing bit of intricate skills saw Hooper play a one-two with Wes Hoolahan in the box and then rifle the ball into the net.
Grabban had two good chances but fired over the first time and then was caught offside to leave it 2-0 at the break.
Blackpool had a five minute spell deep in the Norwich half after the break but on 55 minutes Peter Clarke was adjudged to have made a foul on Hooper, who then stepped up to complete his hat-trick.
The visitors single shot of note came from the boot of Andrea Orlandi, but Ruddy saved well and the corner came to nothing.
Then on the stroke of the 90th minute, Redmond stepped on to fire a long-range free-kick into the net to complete the 4-0 win.
Lee Clark said: I thought the first three goals were really poor, and basic lapses in defence really.
“We looked pretty decent with the ball, but it is crucial to do the right things off the ball, and we made it so easy for them.
“It’s hard enough with the quality we’re coming up against because we know their quality, so to defend like that makes it easier for them.
“Listen, other results today means we are no further away so we’ll keep on fighting.
“Our home form is good, but we need to start picking up point away because we can’t just rely on our home form.
“I spoke to the players, it has to be something that changes on our next away game.”
TREBLE: Norwich City’s Gary Hooper scores their second and, inset, Hooper completes his hat-trick from the spot