Canaries striker Oliveira must be wrapped in cotton wool ahead of Ipswich battle
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The football cliché of wrapping a player in cotton wool is rather apt when it comes to Nelson Oliveira and Norwich City right now. Perhaps some bubble-wrap and an oxygen recovery tent are needed as well?
It is impossible to overestimate just how important the striker is to the Canaries cause at present, after pouncing on arguably the best moment of his City career so far against Hull.
Flicking home a classy finish in the sixth minute of injury-time sparked pandemonium at Carrow Road, snatching a point from the jaws of defeat against the stubborn Tigers, who had defended impressively despite being down to 10 men for much of the second half.
It takes the front-man’s goal tally to 17 in his last 32 games for City. That’s better than one every other game and why he was able to make a goal-scoring return to the Portugal squad earlier this season.
The 26-year-old’s Hull heroics earned his fifth Championship goal of the season – three of which have been pivotal to Daniel Farke’s developing team.
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Equalising in the 88th minute after coming off the bench at Fulham on the opening day of the season was soured by his overexuberant celebrations, ripping off his shirt and waving it in Farke’s direction.
Apologies were accepted and goals followed in the 2-0 home win over QPR and the 4-2 loss at Aston Villa, earning that Portugal chance and a goal in a 5-1 thrashing of minnows the Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying.
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That good form continued after the international break with the deciding goal in a 1-0 home win over Birmingham, sliding home from close range in just the third minute.
It kick-started a revitalising unbeaten September but Oliveira played a limited part as his groin issue reared its ugly head, missing four of the seven games and missing out on the Portugal squad.
In response the City staff gave their star striker the first week of the international break as a rest period, before light training and individual sessions allowed him to join in fully towards the end of last week.
He was still only fit enough to be introduced in the 74th minute though, as the Canaries chased that equaliser against the Tigers.
Cameron Jerome has been the man leading the line in Oliveira’s absence and had scored the winner at Reading before the break but struggled to pose a threat on Saturday.
However, the experienced forward deserves credit for winning the vital flick-on from Marco Stiepermann’s long throw, which allowed Oliveira to pounce and spark wild celebrations.
With goalkeeper Angus Gunn joining in the celebrations it brought back memories of John Ruddy doing the same after that famous Simeon Jackson winner against Derby in 2011 – when Paul Lambert’s side loved a bit of late drama.
The roar of the Canaries faithful when Oliveira ensured City’s unbeaten run would stretch to eight games will have been heard in Suffolk, setting up a huge East Anglian Derby battle at Portman Road.
With the Blues losing 1-0 at Sheffield United, it moved Norwich up to eighth and above their bitter rivals – who had been eight points and 20 places better off than Farke’s side at the start of September.
It has set up a cracking game, one which City will have a much better chance of winning if they can get Oliveira fit enough to start.
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