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David Wagner lauds ‘top professional’ Kenny McLean after Norwich beat Sunderland

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 2 Mar 2024

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Norwich head coach David Wagner singled out Kenny McLean for praise after watching his side continue their Championship play-off bid with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sunderland at Carrow Road.

Josh Sargent’s late goal earned the Canaries a narrow win and while Wagner was delighted with the American’s display, he felt it was McLean’s contribution that should be highlighted.

He said: “When Kenny woke up on Thursday he was struggling to walk and he was not able to train on Thursday or Friday.

“He had stiffness in the back and full credit to him and our medical staff that he was able to play. He is a top, top professional who does everything he can to be successful, a proper Scottish braveheart!

“Josh also turned in top performance, not just with the goal but the way he linked play and worked hard to close them down.”

Wagner added: “We were up against a good, well-organised team and had to work hard to break them down.

“But I thought it was a deserved win, we created a lot of good chances and also defended really well, restricting them to very few box entries. I was very pleased with the performance and now we have to keep it going.”

The game was settled by an 81st-minute goal from Sargent, who scored for the seventh successive home game and took his tally to 11 in an injury-hit campaign overall.

The USA international shrugged off the attentions of two Sunderland defenders when a Ben Gibson cross came over and when they ball bounced kindly for him swivelled and fired home from close range.

It was a deserved goal for the Canaries who had carved out the better chances.

Visiting substitute Abdoullah Ba hit the woodwork just before the Norwich winner but the hosts were on the front foot for most of the game and goalkeeper Anthony Patterson made a number of good saves to keep them out until nine minutes from time.

The defeat left Sunderland nine points adrift of the top six but interim head coach Mike Dodds isn’t giving up on the play-offs just yet.

He said: “I look back to this time last season when I think we were in a very similar position to where we find ourselves now.

“Then we went on an unbelievable run to take it to the final game of the season and there’s no reason why we can’t do that again.

“I look at the players and I don’t see a group that are giving up on it. They are a group who are really close to turning it around and sooner or later I believe the tide will turn.

“We have now got two matches coming up against two of the best teams in the league and we are really looking forward to it.”

As for the game itself, he added: “Norwich are a really good side, especially at home, and I thought for long spells we nullified their threat, even though we have to do better with their goal.

“Going forward we got into some good positions but we have a lot better quality in the final third than we showed.

“I have got faith in the players but when we got in their area we were a bit tense and erratic.”

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