NERVELESS NEIL WON’T SIT BACK
Hooper’s late goal sinks the Trotters
GARY Hooper’s late strike claimed three key points for Norwich in a last gasp win over Bolton – leaving Canaries boss Alex Neil purring over the forward’s goalscoring instincts.
The ex-Celtic man’s finish deep into injury time saw Norwich seal their fourth successive win, after Adam Le Fondre had cancelled out Graham Dorrans’ early opener.
And Canaries boss Neil vowed to continue to play attacking football in their quest for Premier League promotion.
“The one thing we know about Gary is if you give him the ball in and about the box, he’s got real quality and he’s a danger,” he said.
“If we can get him into good positions, the one thing Gary’s got is goals in him, there’s no questions about that.
“My job’s simple, I said it before the game – we’ve got five games and we need to try and win every one.
“If it means I’m going to throw caution to the wind and go for it and it maybe costs us, then I would rather do that than play defensive and see out a draw which probably over the piece won’t be good enough for us.”
“I was pleased with the decisions I made – now they have paid off. Had we conceded it might have been different but those are the decisions that you live and die by.”
The high flying Canaries took a ninth minute lead when Dorrans’ free-kick took a wicked deflection off the Bolton wall to fly past a stranded Adam Bogdan.
Jonny Howson nearly found the back of the net four minutes later to double Norwich’s lead with a thundering long-distance effort that Bogdan expertly parried wide.
Despite Norwich’s early dominance, the Trotters hit back when Tom Walker’s pinpoint 18thminute left-wing cross found Le Fondre who buried his sixth in Bolton colours from close range.
Walker nearly bagged his second assist of the day when his 21st-minute delivery evaded all except Liam Feeney who fired just wide.
After the break, the lively Dorrans nearly capped off a sublime Norwich 63rd-minute attack with a left-footed effort, but Tim Ream and Bogdan combined to deny the Scotsman his second.
Walker again delivered a sublime cross for Eidur Gudjohnsen but the veteran headed the 68thminute effort into the ground and John Ruddy collected the loose ball.
But as the spoils were about to be shared, Norwich substitute Hooper broke Bolton hearts with a chipped finish after latching onto Cameron Jerome’s ball deep into stoppage time.
And moments later a mix-up in the Bolton rearguard nearly led to a third after Jerome fed in Lewis Grabban to go one-on-one but an onrushing Bogdan denied him.
Bolton boss Neil Lennon – who managed Hooper at Celtic – slammed his side’s defending and vowed to make changes.
“It’s just unacceptable, totally unacceptable that with two minutes to go we can leave a £6millon striker in front of goal with a free shot – where we go, I have no idea,” Lennon said.
“It was a diagonal, it was a knockdown, and he’s in acres – it’s just not good enough so I am going to have to make changes there’s no question of that.
“The difference is Norwich can bring on a £6million striker who I know very well because we developed him for three years and he’s one of the best around.
“Gary Hooper is the best striker I have worked with. I got him from Scunthorpe for £1.5m and sold him for £6m.
“But it’s criminal defending from our point of view and it’s happening far too often.
“We can’t keep giving away last-minute goals, it’s just a lack of moral fibre I think.”
LAST GASP: Gary Hooper celebrates his late winner with Cameron Jerome