Hoolahan aims to capitalise on Walsall's lack of action

Michael Bailey Wes Hoolahan had no problem with his substitution on Saturday - and now hopes to catch Walsall cold at the Banks's Stadium tonight (7.45pm). It is the fourth proposed date for the fixture in less than a month, with two postponements for a frozen pitch and Brentford's FA Cup exit keeping the two sides waiting.

Michael Bailey

Wes Hoolahan had no problem with his substitution on Saturday - and now hopes to catch Walsall cold at the Banks's Stadium tonight (7.45pm).

It is the fourth proposed date for the fixture in less than a month, with two postponements for a frozen pitch and Brentford's FA Cup exit keeping the two sides waiting.

The Canaries are sitting pretty at League One's summit after a sixth successive win came against Brentford on Saturday, and they will be eager to carry the momentum into this evening - especially as Walsall have played just once since December 19, a 2-1 home defeat to struggling Brighton 10 days ago.


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With the pitch likely to resemble the heavy recent conditions at Colchester, Hoolahan said: “I think that was Walsall's only game in about four weeks and they haven't played since, so hopefully we can catch them when they're a bit cold.

“Obviously the bad pitches don't help our game because we like to pass the ball, get it down and create a few chances, but hopefully we can adapt to the situation.”

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City are buoyant after Saturday's thrilling win over the Bees in front of a vociferous Carrow Road crowd - three points earned despite Grant Holt's first-half sending off.

Hoolahan was replaced by Oli Johnson early in the second period - just as he looked to be influencing the game - but manager Paul Lambert's decision paid off when the City new boy played a major part in Chris Martin's winner. Said Hoolahan: “No one likes to get taken off, that's just life. Obviously it was for the best of the team and it worked out well, so no complaints. “It was a great win, especially with 10 men playing for 50 minutes. We showed great character and determination to get a win. We didn't sit back and settle for the draw after we lost Holty, but went forward, created a lot of chances and I actually thought we were the better team.

“The atmosphere was probably the best we've had this year, especially when we were down to 10 men, they kind of cajoled us with it and helped us along.”

Hoolahan spent all Saturday being tracked by his marker, Chris Wood, and hopes it does not become a regular feature as teams try to work out how to stop a side unbeaten in the league since October 17.

“I hope not because it was a bit annoying - everywhere I went he kept following me,” said Hoolahan. “No, you've got to deal with these things and it gave other people space on the pitch so hopefully it works out both ways.”

Plus there is a new man on the block who is taking the pressure off City's mercurial Irishman.

“Oli has come in and put a fresh smile there on everybody's face and he's just brilliant in training, and then you've seen when he's come on, he's created a goal and he's scored a goal,” said Hoolahan.

“Obviously it helps not to have to do everything yourself and Oli has come in and it's as if he's been here a few months - and hopefully he can keep it going.”

Holt, who received a straight red for his reckless challenge on Brentford midfielder Toumani Diagouraga, starts a three-game suspension tonight and Hoolahan believes the City skipper will be a big miss.

“He's scored 23 goals this season and he's a big, big player for us and hopefully we can win a few games and get him straight back in when he comes back,” said the Irishman.

“It's everything. He's always got a good positional sense up front and his work rate is unbelievable.”

With Charlton losing 1-0 to Leyton Orient last night and Leeds travelling to play-off contenders Swindon tonight, the promotion race is heating up, which is why Hoolahan admitted a little cheer at Jermaine Beckford's FA Cup equaliser for United at Tottenham on Saturday - one which adds a replay to Leeds' already crowded fixture list.

“I was delighted he scored because it gets them an extra game, so hopefully they can put their mind on that instead of the league,” he said.

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