Korey steals scene from City's star trio

Chris LakeyNorwich City 3, Yeovil Town 0: And the winner is ... As Hollywood's glitterati digest who won what at last night's Oscars, Norwich City fans are looking forward to their own awards ceremony - and at the rate their team is going, it could be well before the curtain officially drops at the end of this League One season.Chris Lakey

And the winner is …

As Hollywood's glitterati digest who won what at last night's Oscars, Norwich City fans are looking forward to their own awards ceremony - and at the rate their team is going, it could be well before the curtain officially drops at the end of this League One season.

City are to the league what Lord of the Rings and Titanic were to Oscars past - odds-on favourites to scoop the big prize. The fact that their nearest and dearest rivals keep shunning the publicity of top spot by repeatedly missing their lines is simply adding to the feeling around Carrow Road that you can actually use the P - for promotion - word at last.

Lambert's 11 may be swimming in a sea of mediocrity at times, but you can only beat what's in front of you - and victory number 23 against a lame Yeovil outfit means it's getting close to the time when you think about ordering the open top bus.


You may also want to watch:


All of which must not be mentioned within earshot of Braveheart manager, Paul Lambert, or there will be blood. Lambert isn't the sort of manager who looks too far ahead, not in public at least. One game at a time and all that. The end game only comes at the end, not a day before.

Lambert may not provide soundbites of the type that certain perma-tanned managers in British football regale us with each week on their way to another relegation battle, but, hey, as long as the team's winning do the fans care?

Most Read

He leaves his players to do the business on the field and then showers them with praise. And after 10 wins and two defeats in their 12 games of 2010 - and, by the way, that includes a blip - who's to blame him?

This was City's best win since the 5-0 success at Colchester in mid-January - the first time since then they'd won a game by more than a one-goal margin - and what was impressive is that it could have been more. That it wasn't is not a cause for complaint: City did what they had to do, they did it in some style, and when the jobs of Grant Holt and Chris Martin were done, courtesy of late goals, they were immediately taken off.

By then, City's dominance was such that had there been anything but a home win the game would have been declared null and void and a replay called for. It's hard to believe that these two sides battled out a cracking 3-3 draw at Huish Park just three months ago - hardly can Carrow Road have hosted such a one-sided match.

On these occasions it's usual to say the opposition were rank awful, but remember how Yeovil played in that match in December? They were excellent that day, players like Ryan Mason and Jean-Paul Kalala showing qualities that belong further up the league.

But after Wes Hoolahan put City ahead within the opening two minutes it became increasingly clear that Yeovil were out of their depth. At times they looked as if they'd accepted defeat before they'd kicked off. The gulf in class was evident, but how many teams have a striking triumvirate of the quality of Hoolahan-Holt-Martin?

None. No other team in the division has three players in double figures for league goals this season - unless you count Southampton, whose recent acquisition, Lee Barnard, scored 17 of his 23 for Southend. Saints are one of only five teams with a pair of strikers who have 10 or more goals for them, and even second-placed Leeds have just one - Jermaine Beckford - who has gone past that mark.

City's amazing Holy Trinity has now scored 60 goals in all competitions and while the praise has to be spread around, it's hard not to keep coming back to their contribution, even if it doesn't always reflect what actually happens.

Hoolahan played a slightly different role on Saturday; he tackled and even won headers and his passing was as good as ever.

Holt had a hand in the Irishman's opener when his header from Anthony McNamee's corner came off the woodwork - leaving Hoolahan with a simple tap-in for his 11th league goal of the season - and he made it 2-0 on 69 minutes, slamming the ball home for his 20th after Martin's presence had forced a mistake out of Yeovil keeper Alex McCarthy.

By then he'd missed a glorious chance, right at the end of the first half, when he got round the keeper but fired into the side-netting. But he still had time to set up Martin 15 minutes from the end.

Martin now has 14 league goals for the season and he looked better than he has in the last couple of games. His movement off the ball was top drawer: the arrival of Stephen Elliott has perhaps had an immediate effect.

That's enough for any team, but there was a lot more about this performance: Gary Doherty and Michael Nelson were rocks at the back, even if the waves of Yeovil attacks weren't exactly crashing in front of them. McNamee played a big part in goals one and two and his general play was excellent.

But the man who stood out above all of that - which was quite an achievement - was Korey Smith. The midfielder is a rookie compared to his team-mates - he's made fewer senior career appearances than any of them, but he's grown up quickly since Paul Lambert put him into his team last August. Rarely does he have a bad game but on Saturday he excelled. His tackling was crisp and clean, his energy levels bang up there with the best of them, his passing accurate and his technical skills high - the ball doesn't bounce off his shins, it sticks to his boots.

Smith drives forward relentlessly, but he's no headless chicken: he's a genuine asset who will do well should City go up - which brings us back full circle. City going up. Will they or won't they?

If they don't, it will be the biggest turnaround since, er, the beginning of the season - and there's no room in one campaign for another one of those.

Lambert and his team are not only in the driving seat, if they get through the rest of the month and trips to Huddersfield and Swindon with a home match against Leeds to round it off, then they'll be thinking about switching to cruise control.

Huddersfield have lost their last two, shipping seven goals in the process. Swindon were thumped 4-0 at home by Bristol Rovers. Leeds were held by Brentford at Elland Road.

No one wants to tempt fate, but City are timing their walk up the red carpet to perfection. If they're still top at the end of March, Lambert is going to need to start writing an acceptance speech as well.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus