Barnett relishing Old Trafford test of Canaries' credentials

 

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The Independent Online

Leon Barnett believes teams will no longer underestimate Norwich City as the Premier League newboys prepare to head to Old Trafford this weekend with a smile on their faces.

The Canaries followed up a win at Bolton with their first home victory, a hard-fought 2-1 success over Sunderland at Carrow Road on Monday night.

Centre-back Barnett set Norwich on their way with a close-range opening goal on the half hour, before Wales frontman Steve Morison doubled the home side's lead at the start of the second half with a bullet header following more static defending from Steve Bruce's side.

With eight points from their opening six games, Barnett feels Paul Lambert's men – who were in League One just two years ago – have shown they can compete at the highest level.

"When you play in the Premier League, you know teams are going to throw everything at you and it was credit to us that we defended well and did not really give much away. We deserve a bit of credit sometimes," said the former West Bromwich centre-back.

"It is going to be a hard season for us and you need to enjoy winning, now we can go to Old Trafford with a smile on our face." Barnett, 25, added: "There is not much Premier League experience [in the squad], so everybody is happy to put in a shift and play as hard as they can for the team – you can see that on the pitch.

"We have matched teams when we came up from League One into the Championship, and I don't see why we can't do that again now.

"A lot of teams in the Premier League will have underestimated us, which has gone in our favour really because we are a hard-working side."

Barnett accepts few will give Norwich much chance of returning from Manchester with any points, but that will not concern Lambert's squad.

"When we go to Old Trafford, people won't be expecting anything of us, but hopefully we can put in a good performance," he said. "There will be no real pressure on us, and it is not going to be easy because they have star quality players, but all the lads are looking forward to it."

Norwich, meanwhile, are waiting on results of tests on striker James Vaughan, who hobbled off with a knee injury after coming on as a second-half substitute.

Sunderland defender Kieran Richardson, who scored his side's consolation strike, has apologised to the club's fans for the manner of their defeat to Norwich.

Richardson told the club's official website: "I was pleased to score but the result overall is very disappointing. We were on a high after the Stoke game, but we didn't play well. We had possession in the first half, but it wasn't effective. It's a shame because we have let the fans down and I am sorry for that."

Sunderland had arrived in Norfolk full of confidence after trouncing Stoke 4-0 on Wearside last weekend, a result which eased the pressure on Bruce after a difficult start to the season.

However, they were undone at Carrow Road. Richardson, 26, said: "I thought we were good enough to get back into the game, but it wasn't to be. In the second half, we didn't put our foot on the ball at all. We didn't get in possession, whereas at least we had some of the ball in the first half.

"We still had chances in the second half, though. Connor [Wickham] had a chance with a header and was unlucky – on another day that would have gone either side of the keeper and gone in."

The defeat left the Black Cats in 14th place in the table with only five points from their first six games, and just a single point above the drop zone.

Bruce had hit out at the "hysteria" which had accompanied the club's results during the opening weeks of the campaign in the run-up to Monday night's fixture, but the performance and result at Carrow Road will have done little to appease his detractors.

He continues to enjoy the support of chairman Niall Quinn – Sunderland have privately played down speculation that the Irishman could quit the club for a role at Manchester City – and owner Ellis Short.

However, a rapid improvement in fortunes is required if the manager is to avoid further criticism.

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