City’s strengthening hold on the top three of League One showed little sign of easing at Carrow Road this afternoon as Paul Lambert’s men racked up an all-too comfortable, 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic.
First-half strikes from skipper Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan all but ended the game as a contest long before the break as Norwich continue to look too good for present company.
They look strong, organised, settled and confident.
The fact that you barely noticed Russell Martin’s home debut at right-back proved that point; he looked as if he had been playing in that role all season – that’s what happens when you step into a winning machine.
Purring sweetest of all are the three-man strike force of Holt, Hoolahan and Chris Martin who once again had far too much to offer an Oldham defence leadenly marshalled by an ageing Sean Gregan.
Afterwards and City chief Paul Lambert was duly delighted. His side are churning out wins with a pretty brutal efficiency.
“I thought they were brilliant,” said Lambert, with today’s result merely strengthening Norwich’s grip on third spot.
“I thought some of the football we played was excellent against a well-organised team.”
At the heart of City’s success, however, lies their ability to score goals by the bucket load – even if newly-crowned November Player of the Month Fraser Forster was called upon, eventually, to flick the ball away low to his right to deny Danny Whitacker.
“We switched off at a vital time,” admitted Lambert. “Even though you’ve got that much dominance of a game, it just shows you you can never rest until its finished.”
In part that was the product of the scoreline; 2-0 is always one of those where the question is to either stick or twist. All too often in season’s past, Norwich have come a-cropper as a result.
Times, maybe, are a-changing.
“That’s the nature of the game – you have to try and see it through and get the job done. Sometimes teams will have a go at you – and you have to be switched on.
“If it goes to 2-1 it can make you a bit nervy; it can make the crowd a bit nervy – with the size of the crowd that we’ve got. So it can do – but all credit to the lads. I thought they were great.”
The headlines, of course, will belong to the usual trio as the combination of Holt, Martin (Chris) and Hoolahan take their combined tally to the season to 40.
Given this is still only the first week in December, that is quite some achievement. And should events continue to pan out as all hope, will be one of the principal reasons why the Norfolk side make such light work of the third tier of English football.
All three were evident in City’s two, decisive goals before the break.
Martin broke purposefully down the right in the 21st minute before delivering a dipping cross to the far post where Holt re-adjusted superbly to head his 19th goal of the season into the roof of the net.
A diving header off a bouncing ball – never an easy technical feat. But the City skipper made it look just that; further evidence that he remains in prime striking form.
Hoolahan’s 11th was more of his own making as he released Martin away down the left with a superb, 30-yard pass.
Ball pushed back to the supporting Adam Drury, the Dubliner was there on the right-hand corner of the box to first accept the cross, then push it first touch beyond his marker; second touch to sweep it left foot away inside Darryl Flahavan’s right upright.
The fact that Sean Gregan got the faintest of touches to the ball en route made little difference. It was Hoolahan’s magic at work; no-one else’s.
After the break and it was all a bit second-to-third gear stuff.
Norwich never really saw the whites of the keeper’s eyes again; but then they didn’t really need to. The job had long been done.
Anthony McNamee was granted his first start in a City shirt since his switch from Swindon Town – time enough to suggest that there was a spot of pace and trickery afoot as and when Lambert and Co ever fancied switching to a flat four across the middle in Hoolahan’s absence.
But credit to the travelling Latics faithful – all 120-odd of them – ‘We only want one shot…’ was their mournful call come the hour-mark.
That they had just one to take home with them up the M62 before the end – that and the tamest of downward headers five minutes from the end – summed up just how far Norwich have come of late – and just how routine occasions like this are starting to become.