Photo Gallery: No shortage of choice for Norwich City’s Premier League challenge
Norwich City 3, Parma 0: Paul Lambert could be forgiven for waking this morning with a headache. Not the sort induced by birthday celebrations after he turned 42 on Sunday – more of the footballing variety as he wrestles with key selection dilemmas.
Parma signalled the end of the phoney war. Battle commences for real at Wigan in this weekend's Premier League curtain-raiser.
Lambert, when pushed post-match as he held court in his office pitchside by the home dugout, admitted he had a 'rough idea' of the 11 men who will carry the hopes and dreams of the Canary Nation this coming weekend.
One suspects the outlines of that jigsaw puzzle are a good deal clearer in the Scot's own calculated mind.
The question is whether Roberto Martinez and the inevitable battery of Wigan scouts despatched to watch City in their various pre-season disguises can second guess the Norwich chief.
Lambert deployed the tried-and-tested midfield diamond for the best part of 50 minutes. Bradley Johnson's introduction and Simeon Jackson's withdrawal saw a return to the two holding midfielders unveiled at Southend with, first, Wes Hoolahan and later the fit-again Chris Martin supporting a lone frontman.
The urge to experiment appears less marked in defensive areas. Russell Martin's precautionary exit during the warm up after feeling a twinge in the same calf injured against Real Zaragoza robbed Lambert of the chance to name the same backline that started a week previous against Coventry.
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Kyle Naughton's elevation from substitute's bench to fill Martin's vacant right back slot is a testament to Lambert's successful recruitment policy.
The young Tottenham starlet possesses the same quality, the same unflustered air as fellow loanee Ritchie De Laet. Another composed pre-season display from the Red Devil against a lively Parma front two merely rubber-stamped his credentials as a top flight centre back Lambert can rely on.
Parma's tall, angular, orange-booted Graziano Pelle and Wesley Sneijder doopelganger Sebastian Giovinco were a handful at times for De Laet and Zak Whitbread.
Italian international playmaker Giovinco dropped deep to feed Pelle who feinted to his right but John Ruddy was perfectly positioned to drop on his 25 yard strike.
Parma's initial thrust hinted they were more than capable of providing another stiff work-out for City. Technique and movement without the niggle Zaragoza brought with them across the English Channel in midweek.
Yet it was Norwich's collection of midfield talents who gradually established superiority. David Fox and Hoolahan look tailor made for football at this rarefied level.
White-collar footballers who can pick a pass, unlock a defence, free an overlapping wide player. A commodity City have in abundance – full-backs comfortable in possession, wingers with the work ethic to track back.
Andrew Surman scored the goals. Elliott Bennett again gave a convincing argument he merits serious consideration for a Wigan start down the right. For Parma, read Coventry the week before. Carrow Road, the Ricoh. All that was missing from Bennett's 51 minute outing was another special right-foot strike. Not for the want of trying.
The former Seagull moved menacingly off his flank just past the half hour mark before unleashing a swinging delivery that briefly threatened Antonio Mirante's goal until it dipped and moved away to the slip cordon. By then Bennett had already served further notice of his dangerous stock ball.
A superb cross picked out the on rushing Grant Holt who leapt unchallenged, but saw his header skim wide. Then another longer range pass found Simeon Jackson who shrugged off Gabriel Paletta but smacked at the advancing Mirante's legs.
City were now firmly on top. Hoolahan dished out some of his own mercurial medicine to Giovinco with a control and turn in one seamless movement but his intended cross sailed over Holt. Norwich needed an end product. Step forward the skipper who bundled home Naughton's initial cross after it had been deflected into his path by a charitable visiting defence.
Lambert rang the changes following the interval. The flow remained largely unaltered. Parma offering only a sporadic attacking threat – Norwich the greater urgency. Places on the Wigan team sheet clearly sharpening the mind of the replacements and fellow team-mates getting an uninterrupted run out.
Holt and Hoolahan combined to eventually set up Surman who swept the ball past Mirante from just inside the area. Christian Zaccardo picked the wrong guy when he briefly tangled on the floor with Marc Tierney in front of the dugouts. Bradley Johnson introduced himself forcefully to Parma's captain Stefano Morrone on half way. Alessandro Lucarelli took exception. Johnson had no intention of taking a backward step. Referee Michael Oliver diffused the minor spat with a soothing word or two. Nevertheless, the message was clear for watching Wigan scouts:Norwich have plenty of steel amongst the silk.
Surman underlined the point with an instinctive near post burst to apply a finishing touch to Anthony Pilkington's cut back. Another wide player trying to catch Lambert's eye. Another dilemma for the City boss.
• Norwich City: Ruddy, Naughton, De Laet, Whitbread (Barnett, 51), Tierney (Drury, 70), Fox, Hoolahan (C Martin, 70), Surman, Bennett (B Johnson, 51), Holt (Morison, 70), Jackson (Pilkington, 51). Subs not used: Rudd, K Smith, Lappin, Wilbraham.
Goals: Holt (34), Surman (62, 86)
• Parma: Mirante, Felstcher, Morrone (Nwankwo, 79), Zaccardo, Lucarelli, Giovinco, Borini (Modesto, 61), Paletta, Ze'Eduardo (Coppola, 85), Valiani, Pelle (Biabiany, 74). Subs not used: Pavarini, Galloppa, Crespo, Brandao, Blasi, Sansone, Abderrazak, Santcroce.
• Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
• Attendance: 13,067