City striker Chris Martin admitted he was the most relieved man in Carrow Road when he despatched goal No13 away for the season – the prospect of heading into London for the players Christmas party with that miss hanging over his head wasn’t one to dwell on.
“If I didn’t score today, I wouldn’t have lived that one down,” said Martin, after smashing the ball wide of a yawning opening goal as the Canaries turned up the heat on visitors Huddersfield Town after a merely lukewarm opening 45 minutes.
Wes Hoolahan – almost inevitably – was Martin’s principal provider. Both for the one that got away and the one that he tucked away. In between, the on-form Dubliner had opened the scoring with a fine solo effort.
Gary Doherty’s fourth goal in three games duly sealed an excellent 3-0 success 12 minutes from the end.
“That’s two glaring misses I’ve had now – but hopefully that’s the last one,” added the 21-year-old, fast recapturing the kind of form and performance that first marked him out as one to watch under ex-Canary boss Peter Grant.
“I don’t really know what I was doing,” he joked afterwards. “I just tried to get a strong contact on it and it just ended up skidding off my foot.
“And I’d just thought: ‘Goal!’ I saw Wes with the ball and thought if I just keep onside here I can just tap this in at the far post, but it didn’t work out.”
It is to his considerable credit that when a second clear-cut opportunity arose – thanks in no small part to another, magnificent raking through-ball from said Mr Hoolahan – Martin was as cool as you like as he deftly slotted the ball into the bottom corner as keeper advanced and defender chased.
“It was a great ball from Wes and luckily I ended up popping it in the corner,” said the former England Under-19 striker, his professional career firmly back on the straight and narrow after the odd, early hic-cup.
He did, in fairness, have a small part to play in Hoolahan’s opener; a little touch to set the Canary playmaker on his way.
“It was just a little pass but I can’t take anything away from Wes; I’m not trying to claim an assist because it was a great goal and a great run from him. And I was probably the most relieved man in the stadium when it went in!”
Cue a complete turnaround in the game’s fortunes as the Terriers ran for cover – as Norwich ran the show.
“They were certainly one of the best teams in the first-half, I think,” said Martin, as Lee Clark’s men offered a real zip and verve to their play.
“But as most people saw, the second-half was a totally different story and we played some of our best stuff in the second-half – it was probably one of our better performances.
“I think we got amongst them a bit more; all the lads knew the importance of the game and we just got closer to them; tighter to them; there was more tackling going on and it lifted the crowd – and lifted us as well.”
There was an element of chalk and cheese to events before and after the break.
Afterwards Terriers chief Clark admitted it was “madness” for his side to be 2-0 down within 20 minutes of the re-start after enjoying such ascendency before the interval.
Clearly something was said; City’s transformation was not wholly down to the sight of Stephen Hughes replacing youngster Tom Adeyemi at the break. Hoolahan, in particular, had a ball in the second period as yawning gaps suddenly started to appear right through the heart of the Huddersfield back line.
“He [Lambert] just said to us that we were sloppy – but we knew that,” said Martin. “And the importance of the game; that we needed the three points.
“And we had to forget about the first-half. There was no point in dwelling on it and I thought we did that – and we were very positive second-half.”
This weekend’s seventh straight home win leaves the Canaries just four points shy of Charlton who dropped two, big home points in an extraordinary South London derby with neighbours Millwall.
The fact that the latter clawed back a late leveller – with ten men – for the game to end 4-4 suggests that City’s Boxing Day clash with the New Den’s finest could be lively.
“It should be a big game,” said Martin.
“They’re a very good team – and so are we. We’re on a very good run and we’ll be confident here as we have been for a while now. We’ve had some very good results at home, so I’m sure it’ll be an exciting game.”
A Christmas cracker for everyone to savour.