Norwich City well placed to strike as season enters home straight
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Now the January transfer window has closed, it's almost as if the season enters the metaphorical home straight.
Key players linked with moves away from the club are in no doubt as to which shirt they'll be pulling on between now and May, and of course after every match there's the inevitable dissection of the Championship table.
While fans speculate on which teams might slip up and start doing mental calculations to plot Norwich's rise up the table, players and managers alike will publicly reiterate that they're only focused on the next game while privately they may be doing exactly the same.
There was an air of expectancy about Saturday's match. Blackpool may have doubled their winning tally for the season in getting two victories in their last four games, but it didn't take long for them to start looking as poor as their league position suggests. Once Gary Hooper scored the first, the Carrow Road crowd could smell a rout, and anything less than a three-goal cushion would have masked the gulf between the two sides.
As is always the problem with a convincing win against a poor team, it is hard to get a realistic perspective of the performance. Even so, City's sublime second goal showed such intricate touches and the type of acute finish that mirrored a move straight from the training ground. A nice change from past games where instead our defending has sometimes resembled a side that have never played together before.
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Hooper's first hat-trick for the club was the perfect response to being left out in the draw at Birmingham, while Wes Hoolahan was effective playing in a system which allowed him to attack and play through the middle. It will be interesting to see if the Irishman gets a start at Charlton, with Alex Tettey ready to deputise should Alex Neil wish to change the line-up away from home.
Amid the hype and speculation of last week's deadline day, most of the talk involving City was about a deal that never emerged as the club failed in their attempts to buy Graham Dorrans from West Brom.
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That late drama almost dwarfed the two deals that were completed, with Tony Andreu following Neil down from Hamilton and Kyle Lafferty temporarily joining Turkish club Rizespor.
Lafferty took to Twitter to admit that it was his choice to go out on loan so that he could 'play games in his position'. His critics would say he didn't do enough to displace Norwich's strikers, but he was perhaps unlucky to often be drafted out on the left wing when his career to date has seen him score goals playing in a central role. Meanwhile, YouTube must have had a flurry of hits for videos featuring Tony Andreu as City fans searched for a glimpse of their little-known new signing in action. Personally speaking, I stopped that ritual after viewing Ricky van Wolfswinkel's goals in Portugal.
As we all know it's impossible to judge any player on highlights, and likewise a cameo appearance in a comfortable win as witnessed on Saturday.
All City fans will be hoping it's a purchase that pays off, and if his performances resemble anything like the Cesc Fabregas-esque figure he's been described as we won't have been short-changed.
It's now crucial Norwich follow up this win with another at The Valley, especially considering Charlton are without a win since November and have lost seven of their last 13 games. Tuesday's match marks the first of four in the space of 14 days, so maintaining momentum is a must.