Greed is good for Norwich City’s Championship prospects
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
This was how it was supposed to be all along; Norwich City dismissively sweeping aside inferior Championship opponents as they cut a swathe through the division.
It tells you everything about the enduring struggles at home this season there was a scarcity to the events that unfolded at Carrow Road.
The dismissal of Huddersfield's Murray Wallace, after a desperate attempt to deal with Cameron Jerome's athleticism and power earned him a deserved red card, undeniably altered the dynamic. The Terriers had shown enough in the opening quarter to suggest they carried an attacking threat in the potent shape of Nahki Wells and the drive and purpose of Sean Scannell, with Grant Holt's wily nous thrown into the mix for good measure.
John Ruddy had produced the first of a clutch of impressive stops to deny Wells, who then slammed a rebound against his bar, but even placing the second half salvo in that context, most would have expected Neil Adams' side to prevail in the same manner they ground Wigan into submission days earlier.
The remainder of the opening period was a mixture of frustration and wayward application in front of goal, with Jerome and Gary Hooper culpable, but what unfolded in the vapour trail of Nathan Redmond's half-time arrival was masterful.
Huddersfield were surgically dismantled on an afternoon that was a long time coming.
For all their vulnerabilities, when this City collective is afforded too much time and space they remain a ruthless entity. Huddersfield were simply unable to fill the holes and plug the gaps in the manner Reading or Rotherham or Charlton managed so successfully.
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That sense of a line in the sand drawn in sweat and toil the previous weekend against the Latics was underlined on home soil.
Norwich finally look a cohesive unit. Players who came down with Premier League reputations are beginning to justify the billing.
The cyclical nature of Championship combat and the prolonged downturn Norwich have emerged from guard against any sense Adams' squad is rapidly developing an immunity to the boom and bust culture of England's second tier.
City will still be buffeted by the vagaries of fluctuating form from this point forward, but as Huddersfield struggled to resist the darting flashes of green and yellow in their midst you could detect a rising mood of optimism and an injection of self-confidence.
It was an afternoon of pure avarice after the famine that had gone before at Carrow Road; a win royally embellished.
From Ruddy's excellent shot-stopping to a second consecutive clean sheet for a much-maligned backline woven around Carlos Cuellar and Russell Martin that exuded a calmness and security.
From Redmond proving he does possess the clinical edge to score and assist in huge quantities at this level to long-overdue goals for Jerome and Lewis Grabban and another cameo from Hooper that illustratied why he offers so much more than a penalty box presence.
All capped by Wes Hoolahan's return from injury and a reminder of his visionary craft with the Irishman's pass for Grabban's fifth.
How different the mood music now from Reading, when pent-up frustration at City's declining fortunes released torrents of negative energy centred around Adams and the club's top brass.
Norwich's players appear to have embraced and responded to a different thrust and tone set by the manager. That much is clear not only by the evidence on the pitch but Adams' soundbites and team selection.
England Under-21 starlet Redmond again had to defer to a midfield that prized solidity and a streetwise edge above a willingness to attack and entertain in its purest form.
In the aftermath of Wallace's red card there was an audible demand for a policy shift as City struggled to find the breakthrough. Adams kept faith with his methods and personnel until sanctioning decisive action at the interval with Redmond's entrance.
City's squad are not the only ones who have emerged from a dark place. Adams has got more right than wrong in the past two Championship games and Norwich have reaped the benefits, but the manager himself sounded a cautionary note in the aftermath of an emphatic victory.
The Canaries' recent productivity has merely put them back in touch with the leading principals. Derby this weekend will be a different proposition at the start of a festive run that will tell us a lot more about City's appetite over the long haul.
For now, Huddersfield should be savoured. Holt was not the headline act on his first playing return since a spell that defined him and his former club. Running skirmishes with the referee proved his most visible contribution on an afternoon where Norwich's defensive resolve and attacking power held sway. Fittingly, he was acclaimed deep in stoppage time as he chased a lost cause in front of the Lower Barclay before the man himself acknowledged the warmth and depth of feeling on the final whistle. Time has moved on. Now this Norwich must pen a new chapter.