Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa travelled to a frosty Carrow Road to take on a battling Norwich side that had gone 10 games unbeaten in league and cup. Wins over Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham, Sunderland and Swansea had turned fortunes around for the Norfolk based club. With a 5-0 thrashing at Fulham on the first day of the season, second season syndrome appeared prevalent in Norwich’s case, performances were poor and Chris Houghton was taking criticism from supporters who yearned the loss of Paul Lambert to Aston Villa. Performaces remained poor until a promising win over Arsenal, a new found spark appeared after a momentous win over a European giant. Players grew in confidence and the free role Wesley Hoolahan was given from his manager allowed him to pull the strings playing just behind work horse Grant Holt.
An away draw against Lambert’s men in October left City fan’s joyous in the return back to Norfolk, a place in the Quarter Finals of the Capital One Cup followed after a 2-1 win over Tottenham, whilst a second win of the season against a strong Stoke outfit turned fortunes around for Houghton and Norwich City. A tough draw away at Reading kept the unbeaten run going whilst a beautiful flicked header from Anthony Pilkington brushed aside last years Premier League runners up, Manchester United. Two away draws followed, firstly away at in form Everton who were without talisman Marouane Fellaini who was severely missed, then Robert Sondgrass was able to cancel out Rickie Lambert’s 32nd minute goal in a tough game at St. Mary’s.
An impressive first half display at home to Sunderland was enough to see the 3 points for Houghton’s men although Matthew Killgallon’s embarrassing miss could have easily shared the spoils. Even with wins over Manchester United and Arsenal, Norwich’s most impressive win can be seen away at Swanswa, Micheal Laundrup’s side had just beaten Arsenal at the Emirates and were proving an incredibly strong side especially at home. A dominant first half performance from Houhgton’s men and a strong resolve in the second 45 minutes was enough to see Norwich leave Wales with all 3 points and extend their unbeaten run to 10 games a new club record in the Premier League.
Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa stood in the way of a Semi-Final in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, a competition Norwich had won in in 1962 and 1985 under the alais ‘The Milk Cup.’ Houghton’s men were in top spirit and were favourites against an underperfoming Aston Villa. With chants of ‘how green is your grass’ as Lambert stood on the touchline, the early exchanges proved a cagey affair. A Steve Morison cross hit the post and out of favour striker Darren Bent, starting up front with Benteke, missed a glorious one on one opportunity. It was Norwich who drew first blood after Steve Morison poked past Shay Given, but from that point onward Aston Villa took control. Brett Holman dominated the midfield and euqalised just two minutes later, before Bent was replaced by Andreas Weimann due to injury. This turned out to be a stroke of fortune for Lambert as Weimann looked sharp and scored twice late on with Benteke getting a fourth. Villa were worthy winners at Carrow Road, the scorline was a touch harsh on the Canaries but Lambert deserved his Semi-Final draw.
Houghton’s team have still gone nine games unbeaten in the Premier League and a home game against Wigan on Saturday gives them a chance to go 10 games unbeaten once again, but a tough few games follow, with Chelsea and Manchester City both travelling to Carrow Road, just how long can Houghton keep Norwich fans in wonderland over the festive period.