Norwich City boss Alex Neil was glad to see the Canaries come through to claim all three points away at Wolves this evening and claimed the club were “right on track” to secure promotion back to Premier League by May.
Neil made two changes to the starting XI which were defeated by Newcastle United in the dying few minutes on Wednesday, with Timm Klose and Wes Hoolahan both starting for the Canaries.
It was City who got off to the perfect start to quieten critics as Cameron Jerome scored in the second minute, whilst Robbie Brady aided the Canaries to a healthier lead in the 73rd minute through a 20-yard shot in the top-left corner. Wolves came back to grab a consolation goal through Dave Edwards in the 80th minute but City were able to withstand the pressure to leave the Molineux with all three points.
Following the game, Alex Neil admitted the result against the Magpies was “tough to take” but they proved it hadn’t affected them.
Midweek was tough to take. I think it was tough for the players, fans and for me, and I think the disappointing thing is after you’ve won five out of six, or six out of seven matches, there’s a lot of people saying they’re going all soft now, they’re going to come back to this and I think we showed tonight that it’s not affected us.
We went into the game and got an early goal, and I thought we deserved to win the match over the piece.
Twitter: FULL-TIME: Wolves 1-2 Norwich City. #ncfc https://t.co/KRylSG6OPS (@NorwichCityFC)
He added how important it was to see out the final few moments of extra time, hoping there was no repeat on the cards of the Newcastle match.
We did [come through the last few minutes]. I put Ryan (Bennett) on and I normally put five at the back but Ryan goes up and wins the header and that’s the difference between winning and losing the game sometimes. You make the calls and sometimes they work for you, sometimes they don’t.
Though he insisted that he’ll have expectations of his team if they’re chasing the game in the remaining few minutes:
I don’t know if it’s a new initiative [having five minutes additional time] but I’ll be thinking if we’re chasing the game and needing something, I’ll be expecting something late to come up.
Alex Neil also justified how important it was that City grabbed a win against Wolves to ensure distance was not created against their Championship rivals.
We needed to win the game. You look at the table and I think we dropped down to fifth before the game and not that table’s are crucial at the moment, you don’t want to give any of these teams any leads upon us that we need to try and chase and catch up as the season goes on.
I think it was important that we came here, put a good performance in and won the game, and we did that.
Twitter: TABLE: @NorwichCityFC are back up to second after their victory.
@htafcdotcom are top with a two-point cushion. https://t.co/rhTiWOydVn (@SkyBetChamp)
Neil also believed the Canaries could have headed into halftime further ahead than their 1-0 lead would have suggested:
They’re a good side at home, they’ve signed some quality players particularly at the top end of the pitch. I think some of the passing movement in the first half was great and we should have been more than one up. Jacob (Murphy) had a great chance and that should have really put the game to bed.
Wes Hoolahan was a missing name on the starting list against Newcastle on Wednesday but was a vital player in City’s 2-1 win over Wolves this evening, and Alex Neil spoke of the mutual respect shared between him and the Irishman:
He’s magic. He’s a special player for us and I thought during the week against Newcastle, the game didn’t suit him, which at 3-1 it probably looked right but then I bring him back today because I know that in certain games, particularly when teams are quite open and play with one certain midfield player, the quality which Wes has got, he’s done what he’s capable of doing and that’s create chance after chance for us.
Wes and I have a really good understanding in terms of using him at his best and getting the most from home. I’ll look after him and he tells me, he looks after me when he goes out onto the pitch.
Another player who was absent for the Newcastle fixture was Timm Klose, who Alex Neil claimed is a “key figure” for the Canaries.
I thought he was terrific tonight. When he plays like that, he’s a key figure for us. I think that’s been his best performance in recent weeks.
Neil also praised Robbie Brady, who he felt had reached his best and felt expectations following Euros 2016 could be at fault for that.
We actually said to Robbie before the game that we need a little bit more from him because he’s been better than what he’s shown recently and then he pops up with that so I’m really pleased for him.
I think there’s a lot of expectation levels of young boys at times and he’s only 24 so he’s still a young lad and I think the expectation levels on him because of how good a Euros he had, sometimes he needs to come to terms with that and focus on performing as well as he can and not worrying about the hate and what people are saying.
Twitter: Robbie serving up some Irish magic! #ncfc https://t.co/xtB6gEzhGx (@NorwichCityFC)
There was one minor disappointment for the team, with City conceding to a free header but the Scottish manager believes there’s still room for improvement.
At that stage of the game, we were comfortable and although we had to defend the box, the cross comes in too easy and we’ve got two players at the backpost against one and he gets a free header so it’s certainly something we need to improve on.
The boys are disappointed because we wanted a clean sheet tonight but the most important thing is winning the game.
Twitter: Bouncing back. #ncfc https://t.co/Bt5DnQyrGJ (@NorwichCityFC)
Finally, as the Canaries head into International Break, Alex Neil believes the team are “right on track” to be promoted come May, despite the result midweek.
I think it just shows how things go in peaks and troughs. Say after we won 3 or 4 on the bounce and everyone was down after Wednesday and it was the end of the world, and then we win again today and now we’re back on track again and everybody’s happy so it’s good.
I think over the years if you look at historically the teams that go up on average gets two points per season. If you get two points per season, I think 95 per cent of the time, you get promoted so if you look at that as a statistic, then we’re right on track or ahead of track.