Iwan Roberts: Swans have got the Huckerby factor working for them
- Credit: Archant
No goals in four games, a first defeat in the league since a 1-0 loss at Watford on Boxing Day - and Norwich suddenly find themselves second in the Championship after Brentford’s magnificent win at Reading on Wednesday night.
Maybe we were a bit too early predicting that the Canaries would run away with this title; in fact, if Swansea win their game in hand, Norwich could find themselves in third.
A week ago, Swansea were the better side as they beat Norwich 2-0, it's as simple as that. They controlled the game for long periods and in the end it was a comfortable win for Steve Cooper’s men to extend their unbeaten home run to 11 - seven of which they’ve won.
Norwich had 60pc possession in the game but never really did enough when they had the ball. They never showed the intensity in their passing that’s been there for most of the season, and if you are too slow in moving the ball against such a well-organised defence you’re going to find it very hard to break them down.
There’s never a bad time to score a goal. I’ve heard people say when a team’s scored in the opening minutes of a game, “oh, they’ve scored too early”, but I’m not having that at all. You simply can’t pick and choose when you want to score.
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However, I do believe that when you score goals at certain times they can be a killer blow to the opposition, and I think this was a case in point on Friday night. Andre Ayew scored only his second goal in 11 matches just before half-time, which changes everything during the interval for both head coaches. And then, three minutes into the second half, Conor Hourihane smashed his third league goal in as many games past Tim Krul.
There was no coming back for Norwich as Swansea hadn’t conceded three goals in a league game since Brentford put three past them on July 29, a result which won the Bees a place in the play off-final. In fact, Swansea have conceded two goals in a game only three times this season, so that shows the size of the task in front of Norwich after Hourihane scored Swansea’s second.
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Talking of, Hourihane, he’s been an absolute revelation since signing for Swansea last month. For me he was the best signing of the transfer window in the Championship, and his inclusion down at The Liberty gives them a real chance of automatic promotion.
I look at the impact he’s had in a short space of time and it reminds me a bit of when we signed Darren Huckerby back in the 2003-04 season. Now I’m not trying to compare Conor Hourihane to Hucks as a player, but more the huge positive impact he’s had on the whole Swansea squad since he walked into their changing room.
I’ve said it many times, but in that 2003-04 season we had a good squad, one that had a decent chance of finishing in the top six, but not quite good enough for automatic promotion.... well not until one Darren Huckerby walked through the door at Colney.
As soon as Hucks walked in our belief went through the roof, and even in the October of that season we knew that barring something going horribly wrong, we would finish in the top two.
I get the sense the Swansea boys got that same feeling when they saw Steve Cooper walk Conor Hourihane through the door, that he could be a game changer for them. Swansea haven’t been prolific this season, but all of a sudden they’ve scored 11 goals in their last four games. Add goals to the league’s tightest defence and they’ve got a proper chance.
As I mentioned, his goal last Friday was his third in his first three league games for Swansea, that’s just one less than Lukas Rupp, Oliver Skipp, Kenny McLean and Mario Vrancic have scored in 85 appearances between them this season.