Huddersfield 3 Norwich City 0
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City crashed to a pathetic 3-0 Championship defeat at promotion hopefuls Huddersfield Town on Wednesday.
City's defensive generosity was again evident at the John Smith's stadium with Elias Kachunga, Aaron Mooy and Nahki Wells cashing in during a damaging eight-minute spell midway through the second half to inflict a 12th away league defeat on the sorry Canaries.
Alan Irvine restored Timm Klose to central defence and switched Russell Martin to right back in an expected positional shuffle to deal with the absence of suspended duo Ivo Pinto and Mitchell Dijks. Klose last featured prior to Alex Neil's departure in a 5-1 Championship hammering at Sheffield Wednesday in early March. Yanic Wildschut made his first start under Irvine's temporary control with Jacob Murphy omitted from the XI. Murphy was joined on the substitutes' bench by his twin, Josh, along with James Maddison and Ben Godfrey. Youssouf Mulumbu also made a rare appearance in the matchday squad but Wes Hoolahan was not risked after picking up a thigh injury prior to the international break.
Huddersfield head coach David Wagner restored fit-again midfielder Jonathan Hogg to his team and Wells was preferred to Collin Qauner up front as the promotion-chasing Terriers looked to pick up a first win in three.
Town's vibrant start belied the nervousness around the John Smith's prior to kick-off after those recent stumbles. Dangerman Tommy Smith squared up Steven Whittaker before rolling in Peter Billing, who thumped a strike against the outside of Michael McGovern's far post.
Rajiv Van La Parra burst free on the opposite flank but his angled cross lacked the direction to trouble the Canaries. The pace and intensity of Huddersfield's work again brought into sharp focus the difficulties encountered too often by Norwich in this gruelling Championship campaign. Wagner's men looked sharper and quicker in both deed and thought during the early sparring.
That vulnerability was perfectly illustrated when Alex Tettey desperately halted Mooy to earn a 10th minute yellow card.
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Alex Pritchard's first team exposure has been one of the few bright spots in recent weeks. The big-money arrival from Tottenham performing with an urgency and desire that hints at a young man keen to lay down a marker to the new regime for next season. The midfield general tested Danny Ward with a snapshot from the edge of the area the home keeper claimed at the second attempt.
Irvine had pinpointed the Terriers' potent threat in wide areas and there was further evidence of that when McGovern clawed out Kachunga's far post header.
But City gradually managed to establish a degree of parity across midfield, with the precision of Huddersfield's early work beginning to wane. Yet there was none of the potency that typified their best attacking work in a wretched campaign. Wildschut burst past Chris Lowe but ran the ball out of play to blow a position of promise. Cameron Jerome was able to take the ball in but his distribution was too often sporadic. Mooy checked onto his right but curled a shot over McGovern's bar at the opposite end in the midst of a prolonged lull in productivity from both sides.
Kachunga, the man who struck a match-winning brace in the reverse fixture at Carrow Road, tried to move through the gears with a penetrative burst inside Whittaker but the final effort lacked any venom.
Huddersfield-bred Jerome did bundle the ball home in the 38th minute but Irvine's celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee's flag for apparent offside as he ranged onto Tettey's low cross.
The quality threshold continued to drop alarmingly after the interval from each side but Wells spurned a superb chance to nudge Huddersfield in front when he raced free but McGovern guessed correctly to kick his guided shot away. The Northern Irishman denied Wells again from long range as the desperation from the terraces for a breakthrough appeared to transmit itself to Wagner's men.
But that desire to commit men forward created space on the counter for the Canaries to exploit. Pritchard's trickery earned a free kick that dropped invitingly for Wildschut, who miscued wildly.
Pritchard brought Naismith's drilled pass under his spell but Ward was fully behind the low shot as the Terriers' were forced back for a sustained spell. But that routine vulnerability to Norwich's defensive work re-surfaced in the 65th minute when the indecisive Bennett was brushed aside by Kachunga who raced onto Smith's raking pass to coolly slot into McGovern's bottom right-hand corner.
Norwich's backline parted again in the 70th minute to allow Mooy to twist his way through a posse of defenders to guide a strike past McGovern before Wells rifled underneath McGovern to complete a devastating burst.
Nelson Oliveira and Josh Murphy were introduced in the midst of the carnage but it was Wells who rattled the bar again with McGovern beaten.
• Huddersfield: Ward, Smith, Hogg (Lolley 81), Billing, Kachunga, Mooy, Lowe (Holmes-Dennis 83), Van La Parra, Wells, Schindler, Hefele (Hudson 87). Subs (not used): Coleman (GK), Cranie, Payne, Quaner.
• Booking: Hefele (foul on Naismith, 42)
• Goals: Kachunga (66), Mooy (70), Wells (73)
• Norwich: McGovern, Martin, Bennett, Klose, Whittaker, Tettey Oliveira (71), Howson, Wildschut, Pritchard (Josh Murphy 79), Naismith, Jerome. Subs: (not used): Ruddy (GK), Mulumbu, Jacob Murphy, Maddison, Godfrey.
• Bookings: Tettey (foul on Mooy, 10); Martin (foul on Van La Parra, 35); Howson (foul on Van La Parra, 77)
• Time added on: 2 minutes / 3 minutes
• Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancs)
• Attendance: 18,706