Monday 22 January 2018

Irish Under 21 star Pilkington backs Norwich to achieve Premiership survival

ANTHONY Pilkington is in no doubt Norwich's team spirit can help them achieve the collective goal of Barclays Premier League survival.

The Canaries came from behind to beat 10-man Queen's Park Rangers at Loftus Road yesterday, where Rs captain Joey Barton scored after just 11 minutes and was then sent off for an apparent headbutt on Bradley Johnson.

While Barton's dismissal may have caught the headlines, Paul Lambert's men chalked up a second away win to put more distance between themselves and the bottom three.

Lambert made five changes yesterday to the starting XI - including a first Premier League appearance for former St Mirren midfielder Simon Lappin - and is expected to bring in a couple of new faces to help the current group, who have all impressed on their step up to the top flight, many for the first time.

Former Huddersfield winger and Republic of Ireland Under 21, Pilkington, who scored the equaliser yesterday, his fifth goal of an impressive debut Premier League campaign, feels should Norwich steer clear of a relegation dogfight, it would be a real team effort.

"We have got a great squad and whoever comes in does really well, and it is up to them to keep the shirt," Pilkington told reporters.

"We changed the team again and it worked brilliantly. Everyone is working together and there is a great team spirit in there.

"All the boys and all the staff, we are working really hard to get our aim at the end of the season."

After being outclassed by Tottenham at Carrow Road on December 27, Norwich netted a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 1-1 with Fulham ahead of yesterday's victory, sealed by a late strike from Wales forward Steve Morison.

Lambert's men probably now need around another five wins from the remaining 18 games to help them pass the fabled 40-point mark.

Pilkington, 23, feels results like the one at Loftus Road could prove priceless come May.

"It is massive - hopefully at the end of the season we will look back at these wins and that is what has kept us up," he said.

"Any win away from home in this league is huge and against one of the teams that are going to be in or around us come the end of the season.

"We are pulling away from the pack now. Hopefully we can keep picking up points, and I am sure we will be sitting nicely come May.

"That is all we are looking for, is to be in this league next season."

Norwich again failed to keep a clean sheet yesterday, and Lambert is expected to look to strengthen his defence in January.

However, the return to fitness of Daniel Ayala, signed from Liverpool, after a knee injury has come as a timely boost.

"Daniel was outstanding again. For someone of just 21 years of age he was terrific on the ball and hopefully he keeps progressing at this club and has a great future," said the Norwich manager.

"We have [defender] Elliott Ward and [striker] James Vaughan to come back as well and that should make us even that bit stronger."

Norwich will be in FA Cup action next weekend at home to Burnley.

Lambert accepts he may have to give some of his players a breather.

"We have got another hard programme coming up after the cup tie, so I might do [change things]," he said.

"Whatever team I pick I think will be able to go and win a game, so I am not going to disregard the FA Cup, because we will have too many people coming to watch us.

"We will try to go through, but I also know the league is vital to us."

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