NEIL’S NORWICH ON THE MARCH
ALEX Neil insists Norwich are still very much in the automatic promotion race after his side swept away Nottingham Forest at Carrow Road.
The Canaries were ahead just before half-time when Wes Hoolahan found Jonny Howson, who slotted home past Forest keeper Karl Darlow.
Cameron Jerome then doubled the hosts’ lead when he found space to backheel Martin Olsson’s delivery into the net.
Hoolahan made it 3-0 from the spot after Olsson was felled by Chris Burke, before Burke himself grabbed a consolation for the visitors.
The result leaves Norwich two points adrift of second-placed Watford, and Neil backed his troops to close the gap.
The Norwich boss said:“As far as I was concerned, we have always been right in the automatic picture. It is back to a one-game swing now, where if they lose and we win then we are right on the cusp of the top two.
“It sets us up nicely for the international break now and we are going into that on a high.
“In terms of playing a good side on form, we dominated the match for the first 80 minutes and I was extremely pleased. I think the players deserve a lot of credit, they showed the hunger and desire it takes to be at the top end of the table.
“Especially after Tuesday night at Huddersfield people starting questioning our credentials a little bit. The last thing we want to do is have 80 minutes of quality football undone by ten minutes of sloppy football.
“We don’t need that creeping into our game, but to be fair we have been beating teams on form quite a lot so I am overall happy.”
Norwich started well and had an early penalty shout waved away after Bradley Johnson went down under pressure.
Forest couldn’t get a foothold and Hoolahan jinked into the box, but Henri Lansbury blocked his effort and after a handball appeal, Norwich won another corner which Forest managed to clear.
The visitors’ most dangerous attack early on was ended by Olsson when he fouled Michail Antonio in a two-on-two situation, and earned a yellow card when it could have been a red.
City kept Forest entrenched in their own half, and things did not get better when injured Dexter Blackstock had to be replaced by Burke.
A speculative Antonio shot landed on the roof of the net before John Ruddy blocked another effort from the lively left winger.
The deadlock was finally broken on 44 minutes as Hoolahan waited for the onrushing Howson who poked home past Darlow.
Norwich really took control of the game on 56 minutes when Olsson galloped up to the byline and cut the ball back for Jerome who nonchalantly back-heeled it into the net to make it 2-0.
And just three minutes later Olsson broke into the box and hit the deck; with the penalty awarded Hoolahan stepped to put Norwich three goals up.
Forest were given hope on 76 minutes when Ruddy couldn’t hold a long-range shot, and Burke had the easiest of tap-ins for 3-1.
Asked about Forest’s fading play-off chances, boss Dougie Freedman said: “I won’t accept that we are out of the top-six picture, because from where we’ve come from with two wins in 20 games, we have come such a long way, in fact we have probably come a long way too quickly and it has just caught up with us.
“I felt we were beaten by the better side, but I think there were a lot of little contributing factors that helped them.
“The 44th-minute goal was a body blow, the two goals in quick succession in the second half was hard to deal with, so a combination of things didn’t help us.”
THREE ‘N EASY: Wes Hoolahan celebrates scoring Norwich's third goal in a man-of-the match display
TUSSLE: Steven Whittaker and Forest’s Tyler Walker