Seventh heaven as Canaries move to verge of promotion

Teemu Pukki of Norwich celebrates scoring his sides 1st goal during the Sky Bet Championship match a

Teemu Pukki Celebrates firing Norwich in front against Huddersfield with Todd Cantwell - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

It may not be sealed mathematically yet but there can be little doubt that Norwich City will be popping the promotion Champagne corks in the next few weeks, following an absolute thrashing of Huddersfield at Carrow Road.

An utterly sensational first half saw the leaders romp into a 5-0 lead thanks to an early brace from Teemu Pukki being added to by superb goals from Todd Cantwell, Emi Buendia and Kieran Dowell - with Buendia setting up three of them.

The victory moves the leaders eight points clear at the summit on 87 points, which has been enough for promotion in all but three of the last 20 Championship seasons. 

It’s unfeasible that the division’s dominant side will not add more points during their remaining six matches however, as they are currently unbeaten in 12 games.

So the 17-point gap to Brentford in third - who were held to a goalless draw at home by Birmingham - already appears extremely comfortable, even with the Bees having a game in hand at home to struggling Rotherham later this month. 

The Canaries made the three changes that were expected, with Max Aarons, Dimitris Giannoulis and Oliver Skipp all returning to the starting XI, and the injury-hit visitors made five changes including a late keeper switch as Manchester United loanee Joel Pereira replaced the ill Ryan Schofield. 

With light snow falling, it didn’t take long for the leaders to warm up, with Pukki opening the scoring in just the eighth minute after Giannoulis had been denied his first City goal. 

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Cantwell’s classy stepover saw the Finland star nip in front of Naby Sarr to poke in from close range and his 24th of the season followed in the 20th minute.

Buendia's beautiful ball into the right channel allowed Pukki the time to pick his spot and blast into the top-right corner after drawing the keeper.

Three minutes later and it was 3-0, Cantwell charging down the left and squaring to Pukki, who found Buendia on the edge of the D and the Argentine fired an effort which curled away from Pereira and bounced satisfyingly in off the left-hand post for his 12th goal of the campaign.

City were cutting through the Terriers like a hot knife through butter and it was 4-0 in the 29th minute after  Aarons found Buendia in the box and the man from Mar del Plata turned to tee up Cantwell, who smashed his sixth of the season into the top-left corner.

The visitors didn't know what had hit them and it was five before the break, with Buendia notching his 15th assist of the campaign after a double one-two with Dowell, who was given a simple close-range finish 

Huddersfield made changes early in the second half and did show some spirit but one of their fresh players, Sorba Thomas, squeezed a shot past Aarons which Tim Krul did really well to tip around his near post.

The sixth came from the penalty spot, with Skipp barged over by Isaac Mbenza after a charging run into the box. Pukki blasted into the bottom-right corner to complete just his second Canaries hat-trick and rack up his 25th of the season - and 17th in his last 15 matches for club and country.

Mbenza nodded a corner against the post for Town and Krul again preserved his clean sheet when denying the follow up from Danny Ward.

Buendia and Pukki put their feet up in the 77th minute and Jordan Hugill was able to get in on the act from the bench, scoring his fifth of the season to make it 7-0 after fine play from Aarons to set up an easy finish.

It made sure of the club's best-ever league victory in the second tier, matching the 7-1 thrashing of Reading four years earlier but without conceding.

There is no risk of the Canaries taking their foot off the pedal though, with Watford still very much in the hunt for the Championship trophy, sitting eight points behind after conceding a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough on Monday. 

Farke has the opportunity to become the first City boss to win the second-tier title twice – a feat achieved by just three managers since the formation of the Premier League in 1992. 

Kevin Keegan managed that special double with Newcastle (1993) and Manchester City (2002), as did Peter Reid with Sunderland (1996 and 1999) and Mick McCarthy with the Black Cats (2005) and Wolves (2009). 

If the Canaries can conclude this strange behind-closed-doors season in the best manner possible then they would also become just the fifth club to have won the title five times since the second tier of the Football League was introduced in 1892 – joining Leicester and Manchester City winning (seven) and Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland (five). 

Watford will have the chance to reapply some pressure ahead of Saturday’s trip to lowly Derby though, as the second-placed Hornets host play-off chasing Reading on Friday night. 

NORWICH (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Omobamidele, Hanley (C), Giannoulis; Skipp, McLean (Sorensen 70); Buendia (Placheta 77), Dowell (Stiepermann 70), Cantwell (Hernandez 86); Pukki (Hugill 77). Unused subs: Nyland (GK), Mumba, Tettey, Vrancic 

Booked: None 

HUDDERSFIELD (3-4-2-1): Pereira; Stearman (High 46), Keogh, Sarr (Edmonds-Green 66), Duhaney, Bacuna, Hogg (C - Thomas 54)  O'Brien (Brown 66); Holmes (Rowe 54), Mbenza; Ward. Unused subs: Leutwiler (GK), Elphick, Campbell, Sanogo 

Booked: Mbenza (foul on Skipp, 60) 

REFEREE: Jarred Gillett (Australia) 

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