Second-half strikes from Wes Hoolahan, Chris Martin and – inevitably – Gary Doherty sealed Huddersfield’s fate this afternoon as the Canaries kicked off the festive spell with a thumping 3-0 home win over the Terriers.
Already cruising over the finishing line after Hoolahan’s 12th and Martin’s 13th goals of the season, Doherty’s fourth goal in three games duly set the seal on another hugely, heart-warming 90 minutes at Carrow Road as City racked up their seventh, successive home win in compelling style.
Or rather another hugely heart-warming 45 minutes. Because Huddersfield were good; first-half they shaded it as Norwich conceded space, possession and chances to Lee Clark’s men.
Second-half, however, and it was a wholly different story as the Canaries took the contest by the scruff of the neck and never threatened to let go.
“I thought they were extraordinary,” said City boss Paul Lambert, afterwards.
“Particularly after Southampton. To go out there; the long journey back and everything. I thought they were extraordinary.”
City were, he said, ‘jaded’ before the break. After it, however, and they were revealing new depths to their spirit and determination.
“What was said in the dressing room stays there, but I wasn’t too disappointed.
“And sometimes you have to ride a storm before you can come through it. But it’s not about me… it’s the lads that have to do it; they have to come through it.”
Huddersfield were, he said, a decent feather in Norwich’s cap. “They are a strong side; no doubt. They’ll be top six – definitely. But as I said, it’s down to the players. They’ve been extraordinary.
“They’re the ones that have done it; they’re the ones that have given the club back that winning feeling.”
From kick-off, it was clear that the Terriers were in little mood to roll over and have their tummy tickled.
In the spirit of their manager, they had bite, energy and no little skill as they set about their hosts with gusto.
Indeed, in a tight and competitive opening 45 minutes, it was City who found themselves on the back foot the more often.
Ex-Town youngster Jordan Rhodes came closest to breaking the early festive deadlock with a diving header in front of Gary Doherty that Fraser Forster could only instinctively thigh away to safety.
Some of City’s near-wounds were self-inflicted.
Both Russell Martin and Michael Nelson got caught horribly in possession before the first-half was out, though it was youngster Tom Adeyemi who paid the price come the break – it was all a little too much too soon for the Academy prospect; on came the older head of Stephen Hughes at the interval to try and make more effective use of any possession Norwich enjoyed.
Martin offered the one – and only – real moment of attacking note just before the break as he made the most of a decent, driving run from Darel Russell to skim a 20-yard shot just wide of Alex Smithies’ left-hand post.
It was about as Norwich got to prising a spirited Terriers side apart. Unlike the majority of visitors to Carrow Road this season, Clark and Co were no mugs.
But whatever was said at the break, worked. A total treat, to be honest.
City stepped up at least two gears come the re-start, drove into the opposition with new purpose and relish and on 56 minutes got their due reward as Hoolahan made it the round dozen for the season.
It was a decent goal too. Handed 20 yards to run into, the Dubliner skipped away from one challenge and drilled a low shot towards the bottom corner. Smithies could only help the ball inside his left upright and Norwich got the decisive break they needed.
Cue unbridled joy among the home faithful. City had delivered the perfect warming tonic as the cold began to grip again.
Some 20 minutes later and Martin made amends for an earlier ghastly miss when he calmly slotted home City’s second on 74 minutes following a drilled through-ball from Hoolahan.
Once again, his vision had unearthed a big, soft centre to Huddersfield as Martin motored goalward and finished with an appropriately icy cool finish.
Class had simply told. Wesley was having a ball; running the show through the middle of the park.
Hoolahan’s ball, Martin’s finish. Too good for this level.
Doherty added the icing on the cake 12 minutes from the end as he lashed home his fifth goal of the season from in and around the penalty spot after Huddersfield had failed to deal with a Canary corner.
It was the sure and certain finish of a man at the top of his game. He, too, is better than this division. As, on this evidence, are Norwich.