Photo Gallery: Norwich City look the part as Premier League edges closer

Coventry City 0, Norwich City 3: The Canaries looked like they belonged in Premier League surroundings. Paul Lambert will hope that remains the case when the pre-season sparring comes to an end a shade past 3pm on August 13 at Wigan.

Coventry's magnificent Ricoh Arena is an Olympic venue in every sense. A modern piece of football architecture. Sadly, the team needs major re-construction. Financial problems and takeover talk have impacted on manager Andy Thorn's room for manoeuvre in the market this summer.

The Sky Blues played their full part in Norwich's farewell game to the Championship on a sun-kissed Carrow Road day back in May. Blue skies and sweltering temperatures again greeted the clubs – but that appeared the only thing left in common on this evidence.

Lambert could pick from nearly twice as many substitutes, even without injured trio Elliott Ward, James Vaughan and Anthony Pilkington. City's proactive business model during the close season allowed him to again switch all ten outfield players and still have a team on the pitch for the final 30 minutes that looked light years away from their youthful opposition.

Peer through the haze of multiple changes in all three of Norwich's recent friendlies against Football League clubs and patterns start to emerge.

Lambert and his coaching team, quite rightly, will aim to give nothing away to friend or foe alike before the big day dawns at the DW Stadium. Bereft of Ward, City's backline which started the game at the Ricoh had a settled look to it.

Zak Whitbread was the only starter retained from the goalless draw days earlier at Southend. Alongside him Man United's thoroughbred defender Ritchie De Laet. The Belgian international came with a reputation as a versatile, play-anywhere-along-the-back-four addition. That may well be what it says on De Laet's footballing CV. Under Lambert's tutelage, he has operated solely as a centre-back since the club's return from Germany.

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To call him pacy is to err on the side of gross understatement. Just past the hour mark, De Laet gave Coventry forward Lukas Jutkiewicz three yards head start and was still in the lead over the next ten before the assistant's offside flag spared the striker's blushes.

Either side of the centre backs, Marc Tierney and Russell Martin were Lambert's tried and trusted over the Championship course and distance during the second part of last season. Kyle Naughton and Adam Drury will have their say but given the primacy of full-backs in City's midfield diamond formation you suspect that is not an area of the field Lambert will indulge in experimentation.

Norwich used the full width of the Ricoh's lush surface in the opening quarter. Ironic, perhaps, their first goal back on English soil should originate centrally. Chris Martin's vision and cushioned first time pass intended for Grant Holt squirted sideways for Aaron Wilbraham to roll underneath Joe Murphy inside the Coventry penalty box.

The Championship side to their credit responded well. The energetic Gary McSheffrey started to roam in front of the Canaries' backline, looking to exploit pockets of room. The hosts dominated territory and possession for a concerted spell – in itself perfect preparation for periods of Premier League football when Norwich will find themselves starved of space and also the ball. That John Ruddy remained largely a spectator underlined Norwich's defensive organisation and solidity.

Sammy Clingan's long-range strike brushed Andrew Crofts with Ruddy at full stretch, but the resulting corner came to nothing. Ruddy was finally pressed into service three minutes from the interval to parry Clingan's whipped free kick before Simon Lappin's set piece met with a similar fate.

When Cyrus Christie's wayward left footed effort ballooned into acres of empty sky blue seats ten minutes into the second period you almost sensed Ruddy's frustration. Little to do except work on the tan.

By then, Crofts had exited the stage, a precautionary measure after getting a kick towards the end of the first period. Coventry's Freddy Eastwood had also departed clutching his hamstring. The perils of pre-season.

Sixty-five minutes in and Lambert's outfield starters had all taken their leave. Drury was the latest to be tried in a central role after Russell Martin's Southend stint. Naughton underlined his versatility on the left. George Francomb on the right with Leon Barnett getting more vital minutes after his lengthy injury lay-off.

Elliott Bennett topped the bill among Norwich's second wave. The 22-year-old clearly felt at home in the West Midlands. No surprise given he was born just a few junctions up the M6. Bennett can certainly pick a pass. Steve Morison merely had to flick his neck muscles to despatch Norwich's second from a pinpoint, dipping, delivery. Bennett did it again shortly after. Cutting across the ball as it arrowed perfectly into Simeon Jackson's stride before the Canadian's attempted curler clipped a Coventry defender.

Better was to come. Drifting inside off the right wing, two touches to set and an instinctive lash which veered past Murphy.

A goal to grace the Arena. Morison still had time to drag a low stab against the base of a post and contrive to miss the follow up.

The gulf in class was now evident. Norwich finishing on the front foot –but Lambert knows the start is all that matters come next month.

• Coventry City: Murphy, Keogh, Hussey, Clingan, Baker (Thomas, 55), Jutkiewicz (Wilson, 66), Eastwood (O'Donovan, 48), McSheffrey, Christie (Wood, 71), Cranie, Birgirimana. Subs not used: Dunn, McPake, Cameron, Jeffers.

• Norwich City: Ruddy, R Martin (Francomb, 63), Whitbread (Drury, 53), De Laet (Barnett, 63), Tierney (Naughton, 63), Crofts (Johnson, 47), Smith (Bennett, 65), Lappin (Surman, 65), C Martin (Hoolahan, 60), Holt (Morison, 60), Wilbraham (Jackson, 60). Subs not used) Rudd, Fox, Adeyemi.

• Goals: Wilbraham (2), Morison (67), Bennett (87)

• Referee: P Gibbs (West Midlands)

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