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City fans knew what a special goal they had just witnessed

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 February 2017

Jonny Howson celebrates his superb opener against Nottingham Forest. Picture: FOCUS IMAGES

Jonny Howson celebrates his superb opener against Nottingham Forest. Picture: FOCUS IMAGES

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

Last week the video clip of Justin Fashanu’s famous strike against Liverpool was doing the rounds online.

I may not have been around to see it live in 1980, but like many supporters it has been part of my Norwich City education growing up.

Gossy’s volley and learning about that win in Munich was top of the curriculum, but Fashanu’s Goal of the Season definitely featured in an early lesson.

Thirty-seven years later, almost to the day, Jonny Howson’s spectacular goal lit up a Carrow Road crowd in the same way against a side in red and white. While Forest may not be the champions-elect like Bob Paisley’s team were back then, each of us in attendance on Saturday knew we’d witnessed something pretty special.

That was before Wes Hoolahan followed it up with a screamer of his own, and Alex Pritchard netted one that on most other days would have been the main talking point.

It was that kind of afternoon, when even what sometimes feels like an obligatory conceded goal couldn’t dampen the delight.

It’s rare that every goal in a game oozes quality, but on Saturday that was the case. Hoolahan’s pinpoint pass for Josh Murphy’s first league goal in five months and Pritchard’s other solo effort were both worthy of note. Even Forest’s was a well worked counter attack finished superbly by Ross McCormack, who seemed to forget that his side were 4-1 down when he put his fingers to his lips in the direction of the Barclay stand.

Pritchard’s finest performance in a Norwich shirt showed exactly why Alex Neil was prepared to pay so much for his services. His creativity on the ball, directness and energy when both attacking and needing to win the ball back was a joy to watch and proved how much of an asset we have on our hands. Such a fine display followed his two assists at Wigan in midweek when his set piece deliveries inflicted the damage.

It was only the 23-year-old’s eighth Championship start this season, and fourth alongside Hoolahan. Neil’s reluctance to name both midfielders in the same starting XI is perhaps understandable given their attacking nature. Saturday though proved how effective they can be against the right opposition, and when the two central players do their jobs defensively.

Howson’s form has always been affected by his confidence levels, and hitting the sweetest strike of his career so early on set the tone for a commanding display in the middle which was complimented well by Youssouf Mulumbu.

His calmness with the ball at his feet and ability to pick out a pass kept City ticking over, an attribute which has failed Alex Tettey on several occasions this campaign and may well keep him on the bench depending on how Neil sets up tomorrow night.

This new found optimism may have wavered slightly after City could only draw at Wigan on Tuesday night, but the feeling that actually Norwich may well sneak into the play-offs has the potential to fly off the charts with a result against Newcastle.

A month ago, when we were reeling from a defeat at Rotherham, this situation seemed so improbable. Whatever Neil has done to ignite this spark in his players that’s seen City win four and draw one of their five games since, he deserves a lot of credit.

Whether you were a member of the staunch Neil Out camp or not, the common ground between all of us has always been the will for Norwich to succeed. Only time will tell if what we now hope was just a much prolonged wobble will leave City with too much ground to make up come May. Beating the Championship leaders tomorrow though would go some way to restoring the faith that this squad and management team are capable of getting results against promotion rivals.

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