Grant Holt’s second hat-trick of the season and a first for Simeon Jackson paved the way for a crushing, 6-0 Canary success this afternoon against a truly hapless Iron side.
Scunthorpe’s cause was not, in fairness, helped by a 31st minute red card for defender Paul Reid as he sent Holt tumbling for a penalty.
But with Wes Hoolahan finding both a kindred spirit and talent in new loan signing Dani Pacheco and Holt continuing in his rich vein of striking form, so the Norfolk side dominated proceedings from first minute to last; their grip on that second automatic spot never loosening for a moment.
In fact, given the role goal difference could yet play between now and the end of the season, their biggest league success for over 30 years merely tightened that grip – irrespective of the fact that Swansea’s patchy form re-surfaced with a 2-1 defeat at Preston North End.
Substitute Jackson caught the mood to perfection – bagging three goals of his own in, arguably, the most one-sided nPower Championship encounter for a long, long while.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so I’m not going to look any further forward than that,” said City boss Paul Lambert afterwards, with the Canaries now enjoying that four-point cushion over the South Wales pairing of Swansea and Cardiff.
The Canaries travel en masse to The Liberty Stadium, Swansea, next weekend.
The one slight disappointment was a hamstring injury to Wes Hoolahan.
“We’ll just have to see how he is during the week,” said Lambert. He has, at least, now got other options – not least Pacheco.
“I thought that as debuts go, that was as good a debut as I’ve seen,” said the City chief.
“And I’m actually more pleased with the hat-trick for Simeon [Jackson], than I am for Grant, in a funny way.
“Grant’s expected to score, while it’s been difficult for Simeon. People have been questioning him and a lot of the criticism has been unfair.”
Pre-match and Lambert – in every likelihood – kept his word with his old Bhoys pal Kenny by handing Pacheco a place in his starting line-up; something that he had to then deny both Wolves’ Sam Vokes and Arsenal’s Henri Lansbury.
Seeing just how the 20-year-old Liverpool starlet fared against an Iron back four that featured two ex-Canaries in the shape of Michael Nelson and Andy Hughes merely added yet more spice to the occasion as Norwich looked to keep their eager mits firmly on that second automatic promotion spot.
As the home games against both an injury-racked Doncaster Rovers and a desperate Preston North End had proved, it would take a brave City fan indeed to predict this afternoon’s encounter as a foregone conclusion.
But there was no doubt that Norfolk expected… and if Pacheco could deliver, then Lambert’s star would rise ever higher in the firmament.
The fact that Pacheco had a more than passing resemblance to Thetford’s finest Ian Henderson was by the by.
There was little wrong with his first two touches; the first to spread the ball wide, first-time, to Hoolahan; the second to sweep the ball across the Iron box in search of strike partner Holt.
Little more than ten minutes later and the Spaniard had his first assist in Norwich colours to his name.
Andrew Surman provided the return ball as Pacheco headed for the by-line, his near-post cut back was meat and drink to Holt who gleefully poached his 19th goal of the season from some eight yards out.
Surman almost doubled City’s advantage on 22 minutes with a sweet strike through the inside left channel that whistled a foot wide of Joe Murphy’s left upright. It was all bright, breezy and connected. And the home faithful happily lapped it up.
Scunthorpe’s afternoon didn’t get much better in the 31st minute when Pacheco clipped a ball back into that inside-left channel for Holt to turn and chase.
Across came Reid with a desperate and belated lunge to up-end Holt that ended with a red card for the former and a 50th City goal for the latter as he planted the penalty home with simple assurance.
Norwich were cruising this. If John Ruddy saw the ball again it would be something of a shock.
The big question for half-time was whether Holt would bag a hat-trick and Pacheco would add a goal to his two assists.
Quite what the possession stats would reveal was – for now – anyone’s guess. Mine would be 95:5.
Scunthorpe struggled to get out of their own area as Hoolahan toyed mercilessly with them – he’d ping the keeper’s left upright on the hour-mark with a beauty from 25-yards.
Moments later and Holt had his hat-trick – his 21st goal of the season coming off a pin-point Andrew Crofts’ cross and a free, 61st minute header from eight yards out.
Job well and truly done for the day, the skipper made way for Vokes on the 65th minute. Pacecho followed five minutes later. A standing ovation was the young Spaniard’s reward for a debut rich in invention and promise.
Jackson buried a few demons when he poached the fourth on 75 minutes; having robbed Michael Raynes of the ball, he then proceeded to whip the ball over a stranded Murphy.
It took him two minutes to find his second of the game as The Iron fell apart.
Substitute Lansbury drilled a low cross into the near post where Jackson waited to nick the ball home. His third arrived in injury time as Surman slipped a low cross through the Iron box and the Canadian did just enough to dig the ball out from underneath his feet and on into the bottom right-hand corner.
News that Swansea had slipped 2-1 behind merely set the seal on the celebratory mood.
‘Norwich were going up, up, up… Right now the Canary faithful just can’t get enough – and who can blame them?
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