Goals from Elliott Bennett, Simeon Jackson and Robert Snodgrass were sufficient to see Norwich cruise through to the FA Cup Fourth Round. A comfortable 3-0 win over a hapless Peterborough outfit was no more that City deserved from a game that, for long periods, resembled a training match of the type seen every day at Colney.
Posh manager Darren Ferguson’s pre-match boast that his side would give it ‘a right good go’ came to nothing, as did his prediction that ‘it could be we get a bit more of the ball than you’d normally expect against a Premier League side’. As it transpired City dominated possession throughout and were never troubled.
Chris Hughton delivered wholesale changes as promised, with City’s starting XI showing no fewer than eight changes to the side that lined-up against West Ham; only Ryan Bennett, Snodgrass and skipper, Russell Martin surviving. Declan Rudd was handed the keeper’s jersey, with Leon Barnett, Marc Tierney and Simon Lappin all making appearances after long periods on the sidelines.
Elliott Bennett, David Fox and Jackson all made the step up after substitute appearances at Upton Park and Bradley Johnson was recalled after missing the New Year’s Day fixture due to a one-match ban.
Posh were also forced into changes with defender, Gabriel Zakuami away on Africa Cup of Nations duty and strikers Lee Tomlin (suspended) and Dwight Gayle (cup-tied) also missing.
With the 5000 strong Yellow Army – in a crowd of 12,971 – giving the day an FA Cup ‘old skool’ feel, the game began amidst a rocking atmosphere inside London Road.
It was the home side who, as expected, made a high-tempo start and some ponderous early defending allowed Joe Newell an early shooting opportunity; fortunately for City his shot was deflected wide. From the resultant corner George Boyd worked himself an opening but fired harmlessly over the bar.
Once they had weathered the early – and brief – Posh storm, it was City who started to dominate with Fox controlling the game from centre of the pitch. A sign of things to come arrived on 20 minutes when Elliott Bennett – playing in the ‘Hoolahan’ role – created an opening for himself but saw his thumping drive well turned over by Peterborough keeper, Olejnik.
City continued to dominate but had to wait until 30 minutes for the breakthrough when, following a jinking run from Snodgrass, Bennett’s expertly taken first touch gave him the time to slide the ball past Olejnik from close range. The goal was no more than City deserved and sparked renewed life – if it were needed – into the travelling yellow masses.
Goal number two arrived just eleven minutes later and came courtesy of an exquisite through ball from the excellent Fox. Given time and space in the centre circle, he was able to pick out Jackson’s fine run – off the shoulder of the last Posh defender – and some fine chest control and composure gave him time to dink the ball over Olejnik and into the empty net.
On the stroke of half-time it almost became three, when Snodgrass saw his curling free-kick tipped over the bar by the over-worked Peterborough keeper.
Despite a half-time rallying call and two substitutions, Darren Ferguson’s men continued to make no impression on their Premier League opponents in the second half. It was very much a case of ‘as you were’ as City – with Fox and Johnson pulling the strings – continued to dictate proceedings.
In their rare forward forays, it was Peterborough’s right wing-back, Mark Little who provided the threat; him being the only bright spark for Posh on an otherwise fruitless afternoon.
Goal number three arrived on 71 minutes and, ironically, came after a brief spell of Peterborough possession. The ever lively Elliott Bennett was able to seize on some loose passing across the home defence and his well-timed through-ball set Snodgrass clear. Faced with a one-on-one with Olejnik there was only ever going to be one winner and – in front of the Yellow Army – the Scot rounded of an excellent afternoon’s work with a cool finish.
The goal and the ensuing celebrations in front of the magnificent travelling army were just reward for the way they’d turned a tricky looking cup-tie into one akin to a home game.
The home fans had to wait until the 87th minute for Rudd to make a save when, from an out-swinging corner, Bostwick turned a half-hit shot goalwards, but City’s keeper saved comfortably.
So… a comfortable afternoon for the Canaries; one that was surprisingly low-key given the bluster emanating from London Road and their fans prior to kick-off.