Two more goals from Canary skipper Grant Holt duly delivered Norwich their ninth, straight home league win this afternoon after visitors Exeter City were – finally – brushed aside 3-1.
His first arrived after just eight minutes from yet another perfect delivery from Wes Hoolahan; suggesting that this was about to be another regulation victory for Paul Lambert’s troops.
In the event, it took another 70 minutes before Norwich made that early advantage count; Chris Martin converting a Holt knock-down from five yards out.
Even then, however, Exeter refused to lie down. Substitute Marcus Stewart pulled a goal back on 80 minutes, only for Holt to calmly round the keeper for his second, Norwich’s third. Only then was the job finally done; three more points safely bagged.
“Delighted to win,” said Lambert simply, swift to pay tribute to the ground staff for getting the game on – even if it took Exeter 12 hours to arrive.
“You’ve got to give the ground staff credit; I saw the office staff were out there the other day helping out – and it just shows how people are all pulling together.”
Once again the Holt-Hoolahan show had made all the difference.
“As everyone knows Wes’ eye for a pass is up there with the best and Holt always seems to find himself the space to score,” said Lambert, who managed to survive the curse of the Manager of the Month award to keep Norwich driving onwards and upwards.
“It was a tough, tough game – and you’ve got to give Exeter credit. They came here and made it difficult for us.
“But from our own point of view we just have to win as many games as we can and we’re certainly doing that at the moment.”
It certainly wasn’t all one-way traffic. Exeter had their moments – not least five minutes before the break when Alex Russell’s five-yard diving header saw the ball, rather fortuitously, ricochet wide off Fraser Forster’s right shin.
The City keeper had spread him instinctively enough, but still knew little about Russell’s near-post effort. Moments later and he needed an alert Simon Lappin to clear off the goal-line as Exeter continued to press.
Forster had already spread himself bravely at the feet of Adam Stansfield as he looked to scamper onto the end of a little through ball; all of which gave the hardy band of Exeter supporters something by way of a reward for their icy, long-distance travels.
Nevertheless, the impression remained that the home side had just to step up their game one more notch for the contest to be decided.
It had, after all, taken little more than eight minutes for Lambert’s upwardly-mobile men to help themselves to the game’s opening goal.
And it was a real, help-yourself effort as Hoolahan was allowed the time and the space on the Canary right to pick out a free Holt on the far post with the perfect of hanging crosses.
Goal no 21 for the season duly followed. Quite what the reaction of Exeter boss Paul Tidsdale would have been is best left unguessed… fury, in all likelihood.
If Hoolahan is the creative spark and Holt is the master finisher, his side had given both all the time and space they ever need to ply their respective trades. And all with the game less than ten minutes old.
Thereafter, it was all crying out for a second to end the afternoon there and then.
Twice Michael Nelson thumped big headers over from inviting Lappin corners; keeper Paul Jones would save very well from a rising Adam Drury drive as the over-lapping Canary full-back arrived on the end of some fine approach play from Holt and Hoolahan.
Martin (Chrissy) threatened; Korey Smith headed over just after the re-start. The game was there to be killed.
In the event it took another 30-odd minutes of the same before Martin (Chrissy) was on hand to do the decent.
Lappin’s deep cross stood up perfectly for Holt to knock it back across the six-yard box where Martin was on hand to squeeze his 14th goal of the season beneath a diving Matt Taylor.
If anyone thought that was that, ex-Town hero Marcus Stewart had the nerves jangling when he pulled one back in all-too soft a fashion on 80 minutes.
It was left to Holt to ease everyone’s fears when he strolled through the middle of the park, calmly rounded Jones and rolled the ball into an empty net. He had hardly broken sweat for Nos 21 and 22 of his own, remarkable campaign.
Once again, Hoolahan was the provider. A little ball into his skipper’s path that duly prompted the Red Sea to part.
There was just time for new-boy Oli Johnson to almost sweep home a stunning strike within two minutes of his arrival before everyone headed home with the kind of warm, contented glow that yet another Carrow Road success brings.
The news that Leeds had dropped two points at home to Wycombe merely kept the winter’s chill that much further at bay.
Leave a Reply