A Game Of Two Halves...
A win against the Black Cats would move City six points clear of them. A win, at least on paper looked a good prospect.
As has now become very familiar, City played the same formation with the same personnel that started at Southampton. This is also the same 4-5-1 formation that has seen Norwich become very hard to break down.
The game started with City at full throttle, compared to a listless performance from the visitors. Both Pilkington and Snodgrass were a constant threat and Hoolahan and Holt linked very well too.
Hoolahan again showed what an important player he has become for Norwich over the last few years. So often viewed as a "luxury" player, he is now a vital asset in our team.
Time and again, his first touch was excellent as he brought the ball out of the air and spun away leaving defenders in his wake.
Seb Bassong has been instrumental in shoring up a leaking back line, since his arrival. But he is now adding goals to his all round performances. A Snodgrass free kick was curled in and flicked to Seb off of Cuellar, allowing a simple close range stab into the net for one nil on eight minutes.
City continued to dominate the possession and I always felt that we would need another goal before the break. Sunderland had been poor, and if I`m honest in the first 45 minutes they were the worst away side I`d seen this term.
Fletcher, who can be such a threat was starved of service and fed off very little. Adam Johnson was anonymous and Sessegnon was only able to smash a shot from 25 yards out for a throw in.
Their best opportunity came when Danny Rose was not marked from a rare corner. The ball was played across the box and Rose hit a first time shot low and hard at Mark Bunn who held the ball on the goal line.
On 37 minutes, the second goal came. Bradley Johnson sent a curling pass out towards Pilkington on the left wing with Cuellar for company. He sprinted into the box and cut the ball back onto his right foot as Cuellar sailed by. He then produced a fine right foot effort to smash the ball into the far corner - it was a beautiful finish and shows what a great player Pilks can be.
At two nil, Norwich were absolutely cruising. They had dominated the first half and Sunderland hadn`t had a sniff. Although on 44 minutes they got back in the game, obviously against the run of play.
Craig Gardner was given far too much space and curled a low 20 yard shot across Mark Bunn and into the far corner of the River End goal. It was harsh on City but this is the Premier League and goals can come out of nothing.
After such a dominant first half and with O`Neill able to get at his men at half time, this then turned into the classic "game of two halves".
Right from the start of the second half, which saw the injured Fletcher replaced by home crowd favourite, Connor Wickham, City were on the back foot.
Sunderland were a different side and played with the desire and verve of a team above their current position.
Mark Bunn was forced to show that he can be an able deputy to the injured John Ruddy.
Sunderland wasted chance after chance as first Cuellar badly mis-timed a shot from a corner and then Kilgallon smashed his shot over the bar from 10yds with the goal gaping after Bunn had made a great save from another Gardner shot to tip the ball onto the post.
Bunn had to be on his guard again to make good saves from Sessegnon and Rose and he held on like glue to most things that came his way.
At the other end, the best chance of the second half came when Pilkington forced Mignolet to parry the ball away from his fierce shot.
Everyone`s fave ex-blue, Mr Wickham thought he`d scored when he put the ball into the net after Bunn finally failed to hold a fierce drive, but much to his disappointment he was ruled offside.
It did get a bit hairy at times but Norwich saw the job through to gain another priceless three points from a close rival. Sunderland probably deserved something after their second half showing, which was a world away from how they played in the first 45 but that`s football for you and we won`t cry over that, eh?
That is now four home wins in a row in the league and extends our unbeaten run to eight games. With only fifteen games played in total this is very impressive and the run has seen some big scalps, so far.
Chris Hughton has got the team playing together as a tight unit and they`re very hard to beat. I hope you all took my advice last week and put Seb Bassong into your fantasy footy teams?
The Glorious Canaries have now moved seven points clear from the bottom three and look nicely comfortable in mid-table. If you can dare to look up you`ll note that we are also seven points away from the Champions League spots.
After a ropey start to the season we now look like a very good team. Next up is a difficult looking trip to Swansea that will really test the run we are on, but with the way things are going there is certainly no reason to fear them.
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