Norwich boss Paul Lambert was a satisfied man tonight, after his side brushed aside League Two Gillingham at Carrow Road to record their first win of 2010/11.
Despite a nervy start, with the Gills taking an early lead, City grew as the game went on and ran out 4-1 winners after a brace each from Chris Martin and the returning Grant Holt.
Both forwards, who starred together as the Canaries romped to the League One title last season, grabbed a goal apiece in each half after Chris Palmer had given the Kent club a shock lead.
And Lambert was delighted with the way his team bounced back in convincing fashion, after that opening day Championship defeat to Watford.
“I’m delighted to get into the next round,” he told reporters tonight. “Any football match you have to try and win and some of our attacking play is terrific at the moment.
“We didn’t take it lightly. It’s hard because the expectancy level is always on us. No disrespect to Gillingham but they could come here and enjoy themselves.
“They had everything going for them with us losing on Friday and we had to make the running. But the crowd were great again for us.”
It was a typically lacklustre start in front of a smallish crowd, well certainly smaller than Carrow Road has been used to in recent years, but City did fashion the first opportunity.
On two minutes, Martin lobbed Gills ‘keeper Alan Julian when bearing down on goal but his effort was high and wide.
The Canaries went one step closer four minutes later when David Fox’s classy free-kick clipped Julian’s left-hand post but on 12, the Kent club took an unlikely lead through Palmer.
It was sloppy defending from the hosts to be honest and after a scramble on the edge of the box, the Gills midfielder struck with a neat drive to put them a goal to the good.
It could have got even worse 12 minutes later when Danny Spiller’s free-kick found the head of Adebayo Akinfenwa, but it crashed against the bar, and City had been spared a two-goal margin.
From this point, however, it was all Norwich and on 26, just two minutes after Akinfenwa’s near-miss, Martin put the Canaries on level terms.
The returning Grant Holt, making his first start since the end of last season after ankle and thigh problems, played in the Beccles goal-machine with a beautiful chipped pass and as per usual, Martin slotted the ball into the net with aplomb.
But if the skipper was happy with that assist, he was even more delighted on 31 minutes when he put Lambert’s men into a 2-1 lead.
Last season’s 30-goal forward had a wonderful Russell Martin cross to thank but Holt headed into top corner as if he had never been away. City now had their tails up.
A Martin free-kick was to crash against the bar, with the Canaries searching for a two-goal cushion, but in an action-packed period of the half, Akinfenwa again should have struck for the Gills. His header, after Ruddy saved well from Jack Payne was inches wide.
The second-half took a while to click into gear but when it did, it was worth waiting for, with the home side increasing their lead to put the game out of reach.
It was another glorious cross from the right that caused the damage and this time it was Korey Smith who provided Holt with the ammunition to double his tally on 55 minutes.
The Hertfordshire youngster floated a superb ball in to the Norwich captain and his side-footed strike gave visiting ‘keeper Julian no chance.
In all honesty, it went a tad quiet after that, with the Canaries seemingly home and dry. But that man Akinfenwa was intent on causing havoc again and his pull-back was well volleyed by Luke Rooney on 66. Unfortunately for the Kent outfit, his shot was well blocked.
Martin had a free-kick well saved with 11 minutes left on the clock but apart from that, it was petering out to a comfortable City win.
There was one last piece of action to satisfy the home punters, however, and Martin made it 4-1 with a cool finish in stoppage time.
A hopeful lob found its way to substitute Oli Johnson but while he and the Gills defence were deciding what to do next, a confident Martin snuck in and rounded the goalkeeper before slotting into an empty net.
Game, set and match….and doesn’t 4-1 look like good in the morning papers?
City: Ruddy; R Martin, Nelson, Ward, Drury; K Smith, Fox (Gill 69), Lappin; Hoolahan (McNamee 79); Holt (Johnson 64), C Martin. Subs not used: Rudd, Hughes, McNamee, Francomb, Askou.
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