Neil sets sights on tilt at ti­tle

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Jack Skel­ton

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.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

DOU­BLE TROU­BLE: Lewis Grab­ban cel­e­brates with Se­bastien Bas­song af­ter scor­ing the third goal for Nor­wich

FOUL: Nor­wich’s Wes Hoola­han felled

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.