Josh Sargent’s first Premier League goals capped a “crazy couple of weeks” as the new father helped Norwich City to a crucial victory over 10-man Watford which moved them out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.
The 21-year-old American became a dad for the first time this month, while Norwich have enjoyed back-to-back wins and are now two points above the bottom three.
“It’s been a kind of blur. To get your first goal and then your second after was pretty crazy,” said Sargent. “It was a big game for us so a great night overall.
“Obviously being in the relegation zone means every game is big for us, but to get a win against the team right in front of us is huge.”
Sargent had endured a frustrating season in front of goal, failing to find the net in 18 league games, but acrobatically hooked Teemu Pukki’s cross from behind him and saw it bounce in off the underside of the crossbar for Norwich’s opener.
His thumping header made it 2-0 after a lengthy stoppage in play because of a floodlight fault and he celebrated wildly, before paying tribute to his newborn child.
“After the first one I didn’t celebrate for my newborn baby so I knew the wife would be on my case. I thought I need to do it now!” he added.
“It’s been a crazy couple of weeks obviously but I’m very happy. It’s been amazing.”
Norwich rubbed salt in Watford’s wounds with a third goal late on – substitute Juraj Kucka poking past his own goalkeeper at the near post.
Watford were further hampered by Emmanuel Dennis’ sending off – the forward shown a second yellow card by referee Mike Dean for a rash challenge on Max Aarons.
Shortly before Kucka poked in Adam Idah’s pull-back, Watford had a goal disallowed when Moussa Sissoko thumped in a stunning volley from an offside position, and Cucho Hernandez later hit the crossbar.
Claudio Ranieri’s side still have two games in hand but it was an 11th defeat in 13 games during his Watford tenure, while Dennis’ sending-off means he will miss another crucial relegation battle with bottom side Burnley on 5 February.
Pressure mounts on relegation rivals
Sargent’s exuberant celebrations, echoed by the visiting Norwich supporters, showed how important this victory was to Dean Smith’s side.
It is the first time this season Norwich have moved out of the bottom three, while defeat for Watford piles more pressure on manager Ranieri.
Norwich were most people’s favourites to go down at Christmas but back-to-back wins over Everton and Watford have seen them shoot up the table from bottom to 17th in just over a week.
The relegation battle promises to continue as Burnley, now propping up the table, have five games in hand on Norwich, having had numerous games postponed because of Covid-19 cases and injuries.
Watford and Newcastle United also have games in hand, but with no side in the current bottom six winning more than five games this season, Norwich will be heavily boosted by their recent victories.
The Canaries face a tough February including games against Manchester City and Liverpool, but Watford are under pressure to bounce back against Burnley in their next match having already dropped points to relegation rivals Norwich and Newcastle in recent games.