Daniel Farke commended his Norwich players for a gritty performance as they returned to the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a 3-1 win at Millwall.
Goals from Marco Stiepermann, Christoph Zimmermann and Teemu Pukki saw the Canaries rise back above Leeds, with a sixth victory in eight league games handing them a two-point advantage.
Farke was thrilled to see his team overcome the combative attitude exuded by Neil Harris’ Millwall and believes his team are surpassing expectations at every turn.
“It feels a lot better than the last time I came here [a 4-0 loss in August 2017]. It’s a really tough place to come,” said the Norwich manager.
“They were highly motivated but my lads were brilliant and we’ve picked up a vital win.
“After this test, it feels even more pleasing that we could withstand it. For me, it was one of our most complicated games in recent weeks. We play beautiful football but we also score from set-pieces and our defenders chip in when they can.
“To be there [top of the table] with 69 points is a shock to many but it is no coincidence. We’ve worked very hard to be where we are.”
The Championship title race is likely to throw up more than its fair share of twists and turns before the season is out, particularly with Marco Bielsa’s Leeds providing such fierce
competition, but Farke is urging his players to enjoy the thrill of the ride.
He said: “There’s no pressure for us. Nobody expected us to be up where we are, they expected us to be mid-table.
“We pay no attention to what other teams do. We just have to focus on ourselves and picking up results.
“We know the Championship can change very quickly. Any team is capable of putting a good run together.”
Stiepermann was in the right place at the right time to open the scoring, following up after Jordan Archer had done well to deny Onel Hernandez, but Shaun Williams headed home Steve Morison’s flick-on off the woodwork just before the break to restore parity.
With 21 minutes left Zimmermann made it 2-1, arrowing home a bullet header after he rose highest to meet Emiliano Buendia’s corner, and Buendia set up Pukki to wrap the game up 10 minutes later as the Finn fired home his 28th goal of the season.
Defeat left Millwall 20th in the table and a point shy of the relegation zone.
An FA Cup quarter-final tie against Premier League side Brighton may be on the horizon but Lions chief Harris is urging his team to focus fully on their survival battle.
“The league’s the best it’s ever been in my opinion, with the strength in depth of the teams,” said Harris.
“It’s now about us taking the responsibility and getting the results and not relying on other results to bail us out.
“Bolton’s a much bigger game for us than playing Brighton in the FA Cup. We aren’t going to win the FA Cup.
“Staying in the Championship is our priority and I know that’s the mindset of the players as well.
“Norwich were excellent. Their attacking threat is superior to anything else in this division.”
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