No doubt as to who was the belle of the derby ball tonight – Canary skipper Grant Holt.
The 29-year-old became the first City player since Hugh Curran in 1968 to grab three goals against the oldest of Norwich’s enemies as the Norfolk side swept back into the play-off reckoning on the back of that 4-1 win in front of the biggest Carrow Road crowd for a generation.
Afterwards and the City striker admitted that it was quite possibly his best day yet in a City shirt.
Curran’s hat-trick came away at Portman Road in a League Cup tie; to grab the third goal of his hat-trick right in front of the Barclay made today’s events that much more special – Holt’s place in derby folklore now assured.
It was, in short, an afternoon to treasure for everyone north of the border; for the south folk, it would be one that they would swiftly wish to forget as yet more pressure was piled on boss Roy Keane following today’s fourth straight reverse.
“Best moment in a Canary shirt? Yes, definitely,” said Holt, rightly awarded the Man of the Match award for his stirring efforts.
“You’ve got to put it at least up on a par with lifting the trophy last year – it was a fantastic feeling.”
It brought to an end a run of four straight draws for Paul Lambert’s men and more than made amends for events at Reading when Holt – in similarly barn-storming form – found his afternoon’s work brought to a premature end by card-happy referee Michael Oliver.
But for the wisdom of an FA Appeals committee, Holt could have joined Lambert in sitting out this game; instead he found himself re-writing derby history with that three-goal performance.
“I think we’ve been playing well and not getting the three points, but I think everyone can see from today that when we attack, we attack well. And we can certainly hurt teams.”
Holt threw himself into what proved to be a great derby occasion with a passion from the off – picking up the day’s first yellow card within the opening four minutes as tempers briefly frayed.
He was never far away from the action; it was his alertness to rob Damien Delaney of the ball shortly before the interval that saw the Town goal-scorer be sent off for a professional foul.
Given that Town were already 2-1 down by that point, it was always going to be a long, long way back for the Suffolk side.
Holt’s third on 76 minutes and Wes Hoolahan’s cheeky dink two minutes later ensured that the Canaries could celebrate their biggest-ever league success against their East Anglian rivals this evening.
“It was a good win – a good team performance – and I’m sure everyone will be going home with a big smile on their face tonight,” added Holt, as he racked up goals seven, eight and nine for the season.
City, he revealed, had a game plan from the off. And it worked a treat.
“We started off by working hard; we got them pressed up from the start; got them in their area – and it worked for us,” he explained. “I think the goal settled the nerves a bit; a bit disappointed that we conceded from a set-piece again, but we showed that when we are on it, when we are playing well we are a great team.”
Goal No2 came from a peach of a defence-splitting pass from on-loan new-boy Henri Lansbury. It certainly earned the skipper’s thanks.
“It was a great ball and I though Henri was fantastic,” said Holt, as the on-loan Arsenal 20-year-old made an instant impact on his switch to Carrow Road.
“It’s never easy to come in in the middle of the week, but I think he’s showed everyone today how good he is. When he’s on the ball he’s technically very good.
“And, as I said, the ball was fantastic – though I thought the run was better than the ball though!”
Having got to two, the tricky bit was getting that elusive third; a header from a David Fox corner had already skipped wide of a post before a combination of Hoolahan and Chris Martin teed up the third.
“That’s my first-ever league hat-trick, so it shows how hard it is to get it,” he admitted. “I had a header; I had one where Chrissy Martin cleared it off the line for them in the first-half for my hat-trick; another one that got blocked; a header that I maybe should have done a little bit better with.
“So it is frustrating, but thankfully it came in the end.”
As for the atmosphere, that he said was something else.
“You can’t put it into words how good it is – I don’t think there’s anywhere better when Carrow Road is rocking,” said Holt.
“As I player I’m paid to score goals, but to score three goals in a fixture like this is absolutely fantastic.”
And few people north of the border would disagree with that sentiment tonight. No doubt as to who is the Pride of East Anglia this weekend.