Norwich City manager Alex Neil was full of praise for his players as they moved back into contention for automatic promotion with a convincing 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest.The victory took the impressive Canaries to within three points of the Sky Bet Championship summit on a day when promotion rivals Watford and Middlesbrough both suffered defeats.
Neil insisted his side were never out of the running for a top-two finish despite a below-par run of one win in four games - but was delighted to narrow the gap on the pacesetters with just seven matches left to play.
"That's certainly up there with the best performances since I have been here," he said. "We were up against probably the form side in the Championship, who had only lost one out of 10 before today, so I believe, and the way we dominated the match was extremely pleasing.
"I thought our movement and quality on the ball were top class and we could have a lot more than three goals with the chances we created and the crosses we got into their box.
"The players deserve a huge amount of credit - there were some outstanding individual performances out there today."
The Canaries never looked back after taking the lead on the stroke of half-time when Jonny Howson marked his 100th appearance for the club by tucking home Wes Hoolahan's through ball.
It was 3-0 by the hour mark, with Norwich stretching their lead on 56 minutes through Cameron Jerome's cheeky back-heel finish from Martin Olsson's cross.
Hoolahan then rifled home from the spot after Olsson had been brought down by substitute Chris Burke, who later made partial amends by tapping home a 75th-minute consolation goal after John Ruddy had spilled a shot from Jamie Paterson.
It was a stark contrast to the previous home game when Derby hit back from a similar half-time deficit to grab a point, and Neil said: "I reminded the players of that game at half-time and told them we had to force the issue when the game restarted, and not allow them a route back into it.
"The lads did that and it was a superb 80 minutes from them. We got a little bit scrappy in the last 10 minutes but at the end of the day we have won the game 3-1.
"It's a good response to one or two people who were questioning us after the draw at Huddersfield last week. We were five points off the top at the start of the day and now it's only three. It's so tight - one win and you are right up there again, one defeat and you slip back - we are certainly in a good position going into the [international] break."