Canary skipper Grant Holt wrote himself into derby legend this afternoon with a Carrow Road hat-trick against the oldest of enemies as City romped home to a 4-1 win – their biggest-ever league success against Ipswich Town.
Roy Keane’s hopes of avoiding getting sacked in the morning were hardly helped by the first-half dismissal of Damien Delaney as Holt again threatened to thunder through clear on goal en route to becoming the first Norwich player to score a derby hat-trick since Hugh Curran in 1968.
Nor did Darren O’Dea do the under-fire Keane any favours with a horror moment as Holt opened his account in the 13th minute.
In fairness, Town could do little about the second; it was Henri Lansbury’s peach of a through-ball on his Canary debut that wholly undid did City’s Suffolk visitors.
In between, Delaney had briefly levelled, but it proved a brief respite only as the Canaries drove forward with by far the greater belief and purpose.
Holt’s third – and Wes Hoolahan’s first – in the space of two minutes deep into the second-half killed the contest completely and ensured that on this occasion the form book was spot-on.
The history book, meanwhile, needed re-writing after today’s events were witnessed by the biggest Carrow Road crowd in 26 years.
“Grant is a typical, old-fashioned No9,” said City boss Paul Lambert afterwards. “With no disrespect, you won’t get too much finesse for him, but his finishing today was top drawer. I thought he was unplayable today; absolutely brilliant.”
Ditto his mid-week loan signing from The Emirates.
That came from Lansbury.
“His ball for the goal was Lionel Messi-like,” said the Canary chief. “You can tell why he’s at the club that he’s at – he’s going to be a top, top player.”
His mood wasn’t exactly matched by Keane.
“It was a long afternoon for us,” said the Town chief, now on a run of four straight defeats.
“It was pretty tough last year when we didn’t 14 or 15 games, but there was a lot of expectation going into this season. And, yes, its always tough when you’re not winning games.”
He wasn’t about to question the officials decision to dismiss Delaney. “We haven’t been winning games with 11 players, let alone with the ten. But Norwich are a good team; they’re in good form and they punished us.”
The contest wasn’t slow to warm up. Holt was in the book after four minutes for wrapping his legs round Jack Colback’s knees; all sorts briefly followed, before ordered was restored.
By when Grant Leadbitter had claimed the first shot of the day; a low 25-yarder that John Ruddy comfortably collected down to his right.
Lansbury’s first contribution of note wasn’t his best; a nasty shank of a cross that flew straight into the Norwich & Peterborough End. Not what they teach at the Arsenal Academy, one presumes.
Gianni Zuiverloon – freshly arrived on loan from West Brom to fill that troubled right-back berth – proved his worth after ten minutes when he clipped the ball off the toes off both Chrissy Martin and Andrew Surman after Lansbury’s second touch almost squeezed them through on goal.
It was all tight and tense; as all derbies invariably are. It would only take one mistake… Which O’Dea duly delivered in the 14th minute.
Caught horribly in possession by Holt, the Canary skipper shrugged off the struggling Town defender and calmly marched into the Town box and swept the ball beyond Marton Fulop into the bottom corner.
‘You’re getting sacked in the morning… ‘ chorused a gleeful Snake Pit. A regular refrain as the game progressed.
Keane’s lone answer arrived in the 28th minute as Town – briefly – clawed their way back into the contest.
Tamas Priskin rose highest to meet a deep free-kick; his nod-back dropped through a Canary six-yard-box where Delaney was on hand to nod home from little more than two yards out.
Suddenly advantage had shifted; it was Norwich giving the ball away for fun.
Cue Master Lansbury. On 35 minutes he delivered the kind of vision and delivery that Wenger demands; he split the Town defence wholly assunder with one, perfectly-weighted ball that Holt happily tucked beneath Fulop.
Within a minute, Keane’s afternoon had taken another turn for the worse after Delaney mis-controlled the simplest of balls and saw Holt spring away from him – clear in on goal.
A tug and a tumble later and Delaney was off; Town were down to ten men and back on the ropes. Where they remained.
After the break, the pace and the passion initially slackened.
David Fox pinged one over: David Norris got booked for a lunge at Lansbury; City over-complicated in their search for that killer third.
Holt sniffed his hat-trick from a 65th minute Fox corner; his header fell just beyond the far upright. Martin was all-too casual from a great 68th minute cross from namesake Martin; Fulop spread himself well to save.
City were, in fairness, looking far more the likelier to score. But this was a derby; the fears would linger until the final whistle while a single goal separated the two, age-old rivals.
That prospect ended in the 76th minute as Holt’s day was complete.
Substitute Hoolahan pulled down Russell Martin’s deep cross; Chrissy Martin would feed the skipper and as Town’s defence parted, so Holt swept in number three from near the penalty spot.
Four took little took no more than two more minutes to arrive as Martin nicked the ball in for an over-lapping Hoolahan to clip over an increasingly exposed Fulop.
Game well and truly over.