Four goals in 40 storming, first-half minutes proved all Norwich really needed this afternoon to keep them surging up the League One table.
Two goals for skipper and Man of the Match Grant Holt – Nos 8 and 9 for the season – provided the foundation for City’s comfortable 5-1 success against third-placed Bristol Rovers.
And while Jamie Cureton might add a deserved fifth seconds from the end, it was Chris Martin’s return to Paul Lambert’s starting plans that once again lit the fuse.
For just as his arrival against the Os in mid-week had sparked that belated 4-0 win, so come the Saturday and it was his peach of a 25-yard free-kick with just eight minutes gone that set the tone for the compelling first-half display that then followed.
Norwich might have slipped down a couple of gears after the interval, but if you take the second 45 against Orient and the first 45 against Rovers together, that’s eight goals for and one – a penalty – against in 90 minutes of League One football.
Still some turnaround for a club that could ship seven at home three, short months ago.
Lambert – no surprise – had his feet planted firmly on the floor tonight. A win’s a win. Is a win. That was all that mattered. End of.
“It’s probably boring for you lads because we’re winning,” said the City chief, as the Canaries headed north at an increasing rate of knots.
“I’m delighted with the players; with the crowd; delighted for everybody at the football club. They’re the ones that deserve the credit.”
And the manager, too, in fairness. He’s picked the club up off its knees – even if City continue to owe Bryan Gunn a large debt of thanks for Holt’s arrival.
“It’s brilliant to win and if you can do it with a bit of finesse – great,” said Lambert, clearly not one to get carried away.
“But if you can’t just win the game. I’ve been in the game long enough to know that you can play brilliant all you want, but unless you win the game it doesn’t really matter.
“The game’s all about winning. All about winning.”
In fairness to Master Martin, he could have been three goals to the good by the half-hour mark as he made the very most of his starting recall – that and a more central position off the tireless Holt.
As sweet as his eighth minute free-kick was, goal of the game would have been the one that should have followed Korey Smith’s beauty of a 23rd minute pass that rolled in behind the last defender only for Martin to slam his final shot against the bar.
His blushes were spared by the far linesman who ruled the chance off-side; just as the referee had mysteriously ruled out a second strike three minutes after the first for handball.
City’s luck – or the referee’s ability – wouldn’t change much after the break. The second period was barely a minute old before Holt and his heels were being clipped two-foot inside the box; a foot out was the official’s considered verdict. #fail, in the language of Twitter.
No matter. City were by then having a ball – even shrugging off a 24th minute Rovers penalty to storm into a deserved 4-1 lead.
Wes Hoolahan tucked a spot-kick neatly home after being hauled over by Byron Anthony before Holt helped himself to No8 for the season at the far post after an ill-cleared corner fell at his feet.
It was all jolly good fun – particularly as early news from Oakwell began to circulate.
Fun that would up another notch five minutes before the break as Holt drove on and outside a floundering Anthony and swept a fine, left-foot drive back across the keeper and inside left-hand post.
The City skipper was one off double figures goal-wise; no mean feat for the first weekend in October. City, of course, were also now 4-1 up – no mean feat with 40 minutes of the contest gone.
That they took 45 minutes to that fifth after the break was of little concern.
Rovers never threatened to add a second either as Gary Doherty and Jens Berthel Askou held firm; Hoolahan’s latest twisting run and turn finally allowing second-half substitute Cureton to guide No5 into the top corner on the 90th minute job long since done.
Leave a Reply