Hoolahan celebrates Norwich City century with first hat-trick of his career

Wes Hoolahan celebrated his 100th Canaries appearance in style with a first career hat-trick clinching a remarkable 4-2 comeback win against Sheffield United at Carrow Road.

Hoolahan entered the fray at half-time with City trailing to Andy Reid's clinical free-kick and Richard Cresswell's right footer after Michael Nelson had briefly headed Norwich level.

The Irishman kept his nerve to win a penalty spot duel with Blades' keeper Steve Simonsen not once but twice after Grant Holt was adjudged to have been upended just past the hour mark, followed 20 minutes later by Kyle Bartley's handball.

Hoolahan then capped a day to remember in stoppage time when Holt teed up City's talisman to seal a victory that moved Paul Lambert's side to within a point of second-placed Cardiff.

'That was my first hat-trick of my career so I enjoyed it a lot, as you can imagine,' he said. 'It was frustrating not to start the game, because you always want to be playing, but we have a great squad here and the lads have done brilliantly so it's been a good day.

'I think we have played better at home this season and not won. The games against Portsmouth and Hull spring to mind. We battered them for 70 or 80 minutes and then got two goals against us on the counter attack – so maybe things have turned our way in this game.'

Hoolahan missed from the spot earlier in the season during a goal-less league draw at leaders QPR, but had no qualms about stepping up again to send Simonsen the wrong way twice.

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'I didn't plan to go to the opposite direction,' he said. 'It's a case really of when you run up you watch to see if the keeper goes left or right beforehand and if he does then you want to put it in the opposite side.

'The second one was probably more difficult because the keeper was guessing whether I was going in the same corner, but I managed to just pass it into the net.

'For the third I just had to slot it after good work from Grant. I probably had too much time and it just sneaked in, but it was great play from Holty to break away, draw the keeper and then square it to me. He showed a lot of awareness.

'It was a good day for me to come off the bench, score a few goals and we win the game.'

Hoolahan insisted Norwich's march to the League One title last season and the surge into the Championship play-off spots underlines the resolve of Lambert's troops in the face of regular adversity.

'I don't know what it is about us,' he said. 'We just keep going and going and the gaffer always drills it into us. We never give in until the final whistle and we got our rewards with a few goals at the end. We are always confident of getting back into games and if we get the first then we back ourselves to drive on and get another. Maybe we got a bit of luck with the first penalty but these things even themselves out over the course of a season. The second penalty was a definite handball, the first was a touch dodgy and they probably had a shout for a penalty at the other end. Maybe when you are down near the bottom those things seem to go against you and it is hard to take, but they are not a bad team and I expect them to come back up the table.'

City continue to harbour loftier ambitions with yesterday's thrilling win the perfect preparation for the pending weekend visit of table-topping Rangers.

'This sets us up nicely now for QPR,' said Hoolahan. '(Crystal) Palace was frustrating, especially travelling down there on Christmas Day but that is how it goes and I am looking forward to Saturday. We might be a point off second but there is a long way to go. For me, let's just keep ticking away and then see where we are in February or March time.'