Neil sets sights on tilt at title
NORWICH City boss Alex Neil is refusing to rule out a run for a title that seemed unlikely when he was appointed, after Lewis Grabban’s double inspired a late onslaught to stun Watford at Vicarage Road.
A first half devoid of quality continued into the second period until Grabban converted a 65thminute penalty after Miguel Layun was judged to have felled Wes Hoolahan in the area.
The hosts were still reeling five minutes later as Cameron Jerome deftly lofted a curling effort over the stranded Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
A miserable climax to the game for the Hornets was capped by Grabban’s second when he turned in Steven Whittaker’s cross for his 11th goal of the season.
Norwich were seventh when Neil was appointed but are now only four points off the top two and the Scot believes his side are capable of sustaining their form.
“I was as pleased with the first half as I was with the second, although the spectators probably wouldn’t have been,” said Neil.
“Watford are a free-flowing, footballing team and we stifled them in the first half, then in the second half they left gaps for us to go and exploit.
“Any team in the top six could go on a run and win the league – no side has taken it by the scruff of the neck.We are in as good form as anybody so there’s no reason why we can’t continue.
“When I came in we were chasing our tails and my target was to finish above seventh. If we do that then we’re in the play-offs and if we gather a bit of momentum then you never know.”
A cagey first 15 minutes saw both sides resorting to long balls forward to their target men, with neither team able to trouble the respective keepers.
On 22 minutes in-form striker Odion Ighalo forcefully stole possession from Sebastien Bassong and played in returning captain Troy Deeney, but he pulled his firsttime effort wide of the left post.
The hosts looked brighter after the break as Ikechi Anya sprinted clear to cross for Almen Abdi, who could only steer his volley straight at John Ruddy on the hour.
Yet it was Norwich who took the lead as Hoolahan fell under slight contact from Layun in the area, with Grabban firing his penalty beyond Gomes into the bottom right corner.
The Canaries soon doubled their advantage as Hoolahan surged through the Watford defence to set up Jerome, who curled a sublime first-time effort over the stranded Gomes.
Watford were indebted to Gomes for two superb saves but the Brazilian stopper could not keep out Grabban’s second as he turned home Whittaker’s wicked curling cross to leave Hornets boss Slavisa Jokanovic dismayed.
“I am disappointed with how we played for the first hour in our home stadium – we didn’t make many chances but they didn’t make many too,” he said.
“We had the game under control and didn’t have any problems, but after the penalty we didn’t show any reaction.
“We’re very disappointed with how we finished the game – in football sometimes you lose but we didn’t find the best way to keep it close.
“Now we need to have the mentality to turn this result around as we have another chance at home soon.”
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Lewis Grabban celebrates with Sebastien Bassong after scoring the third goal for Norwich
FOUL: Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan felled