New boys bring new hope for Canaries

Chris Lakey Norwich City breathed new life into their Championship survival battle after a stunning night of football at Carrow Road last night.

Chris Lakey

Norwich City breathed new life into their Championship survival battle after a stunning night of football at Carrow Road last night.

City fans have waited patiently for manager Bryan Gunn's new signings to have an impact - but he unleashed his big guns in attack last night and they shot promotion-chasing Cardiff to pieces.

Alan Gow inspired the victory, but it was the goals of fellow strikers David Mooney and late sub Cody McDonald - who was a London Underground scaffolder playing for non-league Dartford just a few weeks ago - which could prove to be so precious.

Mooney - on loan from Reading - struck four minutes into the second half, pouncing on Wes Hoolahan's through ball and forcing an error out of the keeper which he punished with a shot into the roof of the net.

It wasn't until time added on that McDonald eased the nerves with a finish that promises so much for the future, rounding the keeper before tapping into an empty net.

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Gunn described it as the best 90-minute performance of his reign - but warned against complacency.

“It was exactly what I asked for,” said Gunn, winning for the second time in 10 games. “I went in after the game and asked where Saturday (at Blackpool) came from. To have that performance in between the two, QPR and tonight's performance, you scratch your head, but we can't look back on that. We're looking forward now.

“Individuals tonight stood out, but it was a great team effort as well. The 14 men really deserved that result and we need to get the feet back on the ground and make sure we take advantage of a home game against Plymouth on Saturday now.”

It was a night for debutants - Gow was starting a game at Carrow Road for the first time, Mooney was making his first start and McDonald was making his full debut. Even defender Adrian Leijer got in on the act with his first appearance.

“Dream for Cody,” Gunn said. “He's been a breath of fresh air at the training ground since he arrived. He never gives up on anything, as we saw tonight. He gives our defenders headaches in training. He's come on tonight, with a great entrance to professional football for him and he'll be another one that we have to take down from the clouds and make sure that we have a sensible build-up to the game on Saturday.”

While Gunn praised City's team effort, it was hard to look too far away from the performance of Gow, a player who came to Norfolk for a trial last summer but was inexplicably allowed to escape through the net when City failed to follow up their interest.

“Alan Gow was excellent,” said Gunn. “He's very much a flair player and I think we saw that tonight. He gave them problems. Him and David Mooney formed an excellent partnership. They never let their two central defenders settle. Although there was a height advantage you couldn't really tell. They competed well in the air, but when they got the ball in and around their feet and the movement between the two, through balls that were played, it was exciting to watch from the side. The only disappointing thing about the first half was that we didn't capitalise on the chances being made.

“I was asked last week what Mooney would bring and I said goals - a refreshing appetite as well like Cody because he has not played Championship football. He is on loan from Reading where he is regarded as being an excellent finisher and we saw that tonight. He worked his socks off, he came off with cramp because he has obviously not played a lot of game at this level.”

While much of the attention was centre don the strikers, Gunn also had a word for City keeper David Marshall, who kept his second midweek clean sheet in a row with some important saves.

“I thought David Marshall and his contribution tonight was first class,” said Gunn. “It's his second clean sheet in a week and goalkeepers and defenders pride themselves on that and defensively we were sound., but when we were breached we had an excellent goalkeeper there to pull off the saves.”

Gunn had said the game was “massive” - and so it could prove as City moved up a place and are now just one point behind Barnsley, who occupy the final safe spot.

Results among their rivals generally went their way: Barnsley drew at home to Birmingham, Blackpool drew, as did Southampton, who swapped places with City. Forest lost at Watford, while Plymouth are still not out of danger after losing at Swansea.

But if there is to be a knock-on effect it will have to come on Saturday - when Norwich play Plymouth in yet another six-pointer.

This was just City's 10th win in 38 games, but it came against a team which had lost just one of their previous 16 league games - inspiration, if any was needed, for the weekend.

“We have set our standard but there are eight games left, 24 points to play for and we have got to believe if we maintain that level of performance we can win those games,” said Gunn. “But we have to maintain it. We might have to rise above it. Tonight was probably the best performance the players have out in since I've been manager as a 90 minutes overall. We have had excellent halves against Barnsley and Southampton, but now we have got to make sure that we reproduce that on Saturday. It might not be the same game but we have got to make sure we have the same application.”

Gunn confirmed that Carl Cort's recent exertions had forced him out of the game b ut that he, like c entral defender Jason Shackell, who went off at half-time with tight hamstrings, should be fit for Saturday.

Defeat for the Welsh side put a dent in their promotion hopes.

Manager Dave Jones said: “I was disappointed with the whole performance because we never really got going. The creative players didn't perform to the level they are capable of. We looked a little bit lethargic and didn't get to the tempo we wanted to.

“The two goals we gave away are not like us and not good goals to give away.”