Birthday boy Hanley hails City’s fightback against Saints
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The 30th birthday celebrations kicked off in style for Norwich City skipper Grant Hanley as he headed the winner to earn new boss Dean Smith a victorious start to life at Carrow Road.
Teemu Pukki’s early equaliser had sent the Canaries into half-time drawing 1-1 with Southampton but the visitors were very much on top, with a crucial Tim Krul save denying Che Adams a second goal late in the first half.
City roared out of the blocks for the second half though and Hanley rose at the back post to head in Billy Gilmour’s corner in the 79th minute and lift his team off the bottom of the Premier League table.
“It’s been strange for the players, it’s always difficult when a manager leaves and a new manager comes in, a fresh start,” said the Scot.
“It was important for us players to take this as a turning point in our season and try to show a reaction – and I think we did.
“First half, I think we were poor, we didn’t really play how we wanted to play but we did well to stay in the game and it was important for us to react and get the goal back quickly.
“I thought we were the better side in the second half, we were on the front foot, we were positive, hung in there and got the result that we wanted.”
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Hanley joked that he didn’t want to be reminded about turning 30 and also refused, with a mischievous smile, to reveal what had been said in the dressing room at the break.
On the disappointing first 45 minutes, he said: “Sometimes it’s difficult to put your finger on. You’ve got to remember that you’re playing against top sides, so it’s difficult to really find your way into a game.
“The lads showed character and we showed a good reaction to get a goal back. Half-time was a real important time to get a foothold in the game and control the way we wanted the game to go.
“I feel like we did that and it felt like we were on the front foot in the second half, on top and it was nice to get the result.”
The birthday boy scored his first club goal in almost a year, since a 2-1 win at Cardiff in the Championship when he had also headed in from a corner.
With Andrew Omobamidele having also scored a header during the last home game of the Daniel Farke era, a 2-1 home loss to Leeds, Hanley hopes City are starting to build a set-piece threat.
“I think it’s an area of our game that we need to improve,” he added. “Defenders need to contribute with more goals or assists, whatever it may be, and as part of that the centre-halves popping up with a goal or two because sometimes it makes a difference.
“It’s nice for me to get a goal and it’s something we’ll continue to look to improve, to score more goals from set-pieces. It’s a massive part of the game and it showed that it can be the difference between a point or three points.”