Ashton - Morison making presence felt
The striker whose stoppage-time goal sank Newcastle United on their last Premier League visit to Carrow Road has joined the growing band of admirers of the man currently leading the Norwich City attack.
Dean Ashton admits that he never relished the lone striker role during his career, which included 12 months with the Canaries, but believes Steve Morison has made an excellent job of it.
Morison is currently City’s top scorer with five goals, and though at times he has been paired with Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson, he was once again ploughing a lonely furrow up front in last week’s 5-1 defeat at Manchester City.
“He’s coping very well with it. I don’t envy him the role, it was never something I particular enjoyed but he seems to revel in it,” said Ashton, inset.
“He works extremely hard and doesn’t give defenders any time on the ball and he’s battled away and scored goals.”
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Morison’s late goal at the Etihad Stadium was his fourth in five matches – guaranteed to give him a boost, said Ashton.
“It’s always very important to get on a run because it breeds confidence,” he said. “Even if the team isn’t winning all the time, you feel like you’re going to score every game.
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“And with Grant Holt getting important goals as well when he’s come on, it’s a good situation to have – and it gets the fans talking as well.”
As City prepare to face sixth-placed Newcastle at Carrow Road tomorrow (3pm), 28-year-old Ashton said his winning goal against the Magpies in April 2005 was one of the highlights of his year with the club.
Ashton produced a brilliant header from Thomas Helveg’s centre in injury time to seal a 2-1 win for Nigel Worthington’s team, after a late Patrick Kluivert goal had cancelled out Youssef Safri’s stunning opener.
“It was definitely one of my fondest memories of being at Norwich. It was a very important game at the time,” said Ashton.
“Saf had scored a fantastic goal earlier on but there had been a couple of games where we had been ahead and let points slip away, so when they equalised in the dying minutes it was heads down a bit. But we managed to turn it round and for me to get the winner was really, really good. It was one of those quite slippy nights and the ball skidded off my head and the surface and just beat Shay Given. It’s one of those great memories to look back on.”
The win over Newcastle was one of four successive home victories for City as they battled against relegation, but it was ultimately not enough to keep them in the top flight. Ashton is optimistic the current side under Paul Lambert will survive, however.
“I think they have had a tough start, having to play Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City away and just Arsenal at home,” he said. “At the same time, they’re not miles away from the relegation zone, but from what I have seen they seem more than capable of holding their own.”
Ashton, forced to retire from football in 2009 because of an ankle injury he suffered on England duty, knows a good deal about the Magpies’ boss, who paid Norwich �7.25m for him as West Ham manager back in January 2006, a few months before the Hammers’ memorable FA Cup final against Liverpool.
“It doesn’t surprise me Newcastle have had a good start because Alan Pardew is great at managing his players and getting them to play for him. They have a good set of players, and have not had too many injuries until now,” he said. “I worked with him at West Ham and he was a fantastic man manager, getting the best out of his players, and training was always very enjoyable.
“Everyone seems to be enjoying it week in, week out. There are similarities between Newcastle and Norwich, no huge names but good characters in the team and the players all get on well with each other.”
Nevertheless, Ashton, who scored 18 times in 46 games for City, is backing his old club tomorrow.
“I would like to think Norwich will get a result. I saw the last game against Queens Park Rangers and I thought they looked comfortable even when QPR equalised. I think I’ll put my money on Norwich,” he said.