Everything to play for – Hoolahan

AUDIO: Wes Hoolahan highlighted the open nature of the Championship as he prepared for a return to home territory with Norwich City today.

The influential Irish forward was rested for the Canaries’ previous Carrow Road encounter with Middlesbrough, but marked his recall to senior duty with a splendid goal in the 3-1 defeat at Cardiff last Saturday.

Hoolahan was expected to keep his place for this afternoon’s meeting with Burnley – one of many potential rivals for a top six spot in the weeks ahead, and just two points behind fifth-placed City in the table this morning.

“I think there are 14 or 15 teams in this league who could definitely get into the play-offs and with a bit of luck we have a good chance of getting in,” said Hoolahan, well aware of how tight the table remains after nearly a third of the season.

“Leeds were up there then lost two or three games and were down to about 18th, then they won and they’re up to 12th so it can easily change and if you keep winning one or two games you have a chance of being up there.”

The 28-year-old underlined his value to the side at the Cardiff City Stadium with his 20th goal for the Canaries, and his fourth this season, with a diving header from Steven Smith’s cross, getting a boot in the face for his trouble.

“I’ve recovered and I feel all right,” he said. “It was a great cross by ‘Smudge’ and I just got my head on the end of it. That was my first headed goal.

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“It was a tough game after the start we had, conceding two goals in the first 10 minutes.

“But after we went two goals behind we put in a good performance, we played well and had them hemmed in, especially in the first half. We got a lot of crosses in and created a lot of chances.

“I think Cardiff are probably the best team in the league we’ve played so far and it was a good advertisement for the game.”

Hoolahan said there had been some consolation in having a break when he was left on the bench for the 1-0 win over Middlesbrough, the first time he had been omitted from manager Paul Lambert’s starting line-up this season.

“Sometimes you feel like you need a rest and it was a good opportunity for me,” he said.