Stand-in Irvine is aiming big
NORWICH interim boss Alan Irvine is continuing to look at securing a play-off place after victory against Barnsley, despite not knowing if he will continue in the hotseat.
Jacob Murphy’s goal seconds before the end of the first half gave Norwich the lead, and a fortunate deflection off Angus MacDonald sealed the threepoints against a Barnsley side who spurned plenty of chances.
This win was Norwich’s first under interim boss Irvine and now has them five points away from Sheffield Wednesday in sixth, with the Scot not about to rule out a play-off place for the Canaries come the end of the season.
“It was quite simple the instruction that I got the Friday before last, that was can you take these two games and look after the training, and we’ll have the conversation afterwards, so that’s where we are at the moment and I expect I’ll hear something in the next day or so,” Irvine said.
“We’re in a better positon than when the day started and if we can do that several times between now and the end of the season then who knows how close we get.
“I said last week about the number of points we had to play for and I said before this game and when you look at each game in isolation I feel we can win if we perform well.
“I don’t think anybody would have expected the three teams directly above us having two defeats and one draw, so it gave us a chance to close the gap on a couple and leapfrog Preston.”
There was little in the way of chances in the first half, with Norwich’s Alex Pritchard hitting just wide and Tom Bradshaw heading over after a well worked Barnsley set-piece.
But with half-time looming Russell Martin’s long ball allowed Cameron Jerome to find Murphy in the box.
The young winger did well to make space before sliding the ball across the turf into the bottom left corner.
Barnsley started the second half with plenty of attacking intent but no clinical edge.
Adam Hammill saw his backheel well-saved by Michael McGovern, and Marley Watkins headed wide before failing to capitalise on a mistake from Martin.
Despite being second best for most of the half it was Norwich who scored again. Adam Davies did well to push Steven Naismith’s shot away and got up well to get his body behind Murphy’s effort only for the ball to bounce off MacDonald and into the net.
This loss was Barnsley’s third consecutive away defeat, but boss Paul Heckingbottom recognises his side had enough chances to win the game.
“We weren’t clinical enough, which is something we’ve spoken about over the last few weeks,” said Heckingbottom, whose side remain 11th.
“We gave two sloppy goals away and it’s always difficult going behind in this league, but when you’re missing chances it makes it even more difficult.
“So that’s the take away message from the game, hit the target and score goals.
“We needed to be more aggressive and we were happy with the first half in a lot of ways but we didn’t cause Norwich enough problems.
“We looked a threat on the break, however we didn’t dominate with periods of pressure like we did in the second half unfortunately.”
MURPHY’S LAW: Jacob Murphy nets the opening goal of the game and, inset, celebrates his strike