Neil sets sight on Premier League

Date published: Saturday 16th May 2015 3:09

The Canaries are now just one win away from a return to top-flight football after sealing their place against Middlesbrough at Wembley with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over East Anglian rivals at Carrow Road.

Neil, who only took charge of Norwich in January, has masterminded a breath-taking assault on promotion and he believes his side have the capabilities of completing an instant response to the Premier League, 12 months after they were relegated.

“I am extremely proud of the players,” he told Sky Sports.

“Coming off relegation last year to then build up the steam last year and finish the season on a high has been great.

“Then to go through against one of your closest rivals is the cherry on the cake.

“We want to go and win against Middlesbrough. We found it tough against them here, as they tried to frustrate us with men behind the ball.

“This is a one-off game, and I expect both teams to go at it hammer and tongs, and if we play like I know we can, then we can win.”

After an attritional opening 45 minutes, the game swung in favour of the hosts when Christophe Berra was sent off for handling Nathan Redmond’s goal-bound effort.

While acknowledging the importance of referee Roger East’s decision, Neil was praised his side’s persistent display against a dogged Ipswich Town side.

“I don’t think there was much in the game,” he added.

“Ipswich came here to frustrate us, get the crowd on top of us and then try and force us into errors.

“I thought the game was relatively even in the first half and not a great deal between the sides.

“I put Nathan Redmond and Wes (Hoolahan) into the team for that bit of quality. Steven Whittaker nicks the ball, then Wes slides Nathan through and we managed to get a penalty and a red card off the back of it.

“That was the difference and completely changed the match.

“I was disappointed to concede a goal after that, but I thought we showed a lot of character and a great deal of quality as well, and I thought that made the difference.

“It is not easy (play-offs) with all the pressure from everyone talking about it, and when teams come to frustrate you it makes it harder.

“The message at half time was keep calm, keep playing, ignore what the crowd says, keep doing what we were doing and we will get another goal, and we did.”

Cameron Jerome, who sealed the Canaries’ passage to Wembley with the third 14 minutes from time, agreed with his manager the penalty decision swung the game in their favour.

“It took a decision to change the game,” he said. “Fortunately Wes stuck the penalty away and we went on to get another couple of goals.

“Credit to Ipswich, with ten men they came fighting and made us sweat and work to the end. It is a relief to be in the final.”

Watch the Sky Bet Championship play-off final – Norwich City v Middlesbrough – live on Sky Sports, May 25.

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