Iwan Roberts: A day of firsts - but can Canaries complete the set?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There was a few firsts last Saturday at Carrow Road ... the Canaries won their first Premier League home game of the season, Dean Smith won his first game in charge of Norwich at the first time of asking and it was the team's first home win in the top flight since they beat Leicester 1-0 on February 28 2020.
It was also the first time Norwich had won back to back Premier League games since they won at West Brom and then beat Newcastle 3-2 at home in March/April 2016.
And it was the first time my son Ben had been to watch a Norwich game at Carrow Road since my last game down there against Preston on May 1 2004 - so he must have brought the team a little bit of Roberts luck.
It was the worst start possible to the game for Dean - mind you, it wasn’t as bad a start as his Villa side made against Southampton in his last game in charge there when Adam Armstrong scored after just three minutes; at least his new team kept the Saints out until the fourth minute of a shocking first half. Fortunately, Dean worked his magic at half-time and there was no comparison in the level of performance in a top-class second-half display.
I think for the first time this season, Norwich had a little bit of good fortune as Southampton keeper Alex McCarthy gifted Norwich a couple of early Christmas presents with some shocking goalkeeping! To be fair to both Teemu Pukki and Grant Hanley, they both got their headed efforts on target, but let's be honest, McCarthy really should have dealt with both.
I was delighted for both goal scorers - that was Teemu’s fourth league goal in 12 appearances, not bad for someone who was being written off by some fans after just a few weeks of the season. Likewise, big Grant has taken some stick from some supporters - had some had their way he wouldn’t be anywhere near the starting XI, so I was chuffed to bits for the big fella when I heard he’d scored the winner. Some people really have short memories!
Back-to-back wins and all of a sudden Norwich are just three points from safety and fans have hope and a genuine belief that the club can fight off relegation back to the Championship.
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This weekend the lads have an opportunity to do something the club hasn’t done since December 2012. Norwich last won three consecutive Premier League games when Chris Hughton’s men beat Sunderland, Swansea and Wigan. It’s a tough ask as Wolves are flying, having lost just one of their last seven league games, five of which they’ve won, and sit in sixth place, this after losing their opening three games without scoring a goal.
I loved games against Wolves when I played for Norwich and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise why. I always felt that I had a point to prove to the Wolves faithful after just a season with the club. I don’t think they saw the best of me, even through I scored 12 league goals in 33 appearances, three of which came at The Hawthorns - to this day I’m still the only Wolves player to have scored a hat-trick there.
I had some joy against Wolves in a Norwich shirt but nothing will beat those two-legged play-off games we had against them in 2002. A bit like Southampton last Saturday, this game gives Dean an opportunity to get some revenge on a team that beat his Villa side back on October 16, with three goals in the last 10 minutes to win an incredible game 3-2.
Finally, I hope he has a quiet game on Saturday, but it’s great to see Raul Jimenez back to full fitness and scoring again after that near career-ending fractured skull he received playing against Arsenal just under a year ago. I’ve just watched a documentary about what happened on that fateful night and Raul is lucky to be alive, let alone playing again. As I said, it's great to see him back out there doing what he does best.