Swinging sixty for Norwich City's star trio
David CuffleyNorwich City 3, Yeovil Town 0: It has been fun while it has lasted, but if ever one game illustrated the importance of Norwich City getting out of League One at the first attempt, then Saturday's victory over Yeovil Town was that match.David Cuffley
Norwich City 3, Yeovil Town 0
It has been fun while it has lasted, but if ever one game illustrated the importance of Norwich City getting out of League One at the first attempt, then Saturday's victory over Yeovil Town was that match.
The West Country side are far from the worst team the Canaries have faced over the past seven months, arriving at Carrow Road in a respectable mid-table position and having given Paul Lambert's men a fight to the finish in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Huish Park in December.
But in most of their 18 home league matches, all but four of which have ended in victory, City have simply been far too good for their guests - as indeed they should be in this division - and on this occasion the gulf in class seemed to be more marked than ever.
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There has been a great deal for City fans to enjoy this season, not least the opportunity to watch a winning team and visit new territory, but one season at this level is quite enough.
Managers are sometimes asked bizarre post-match questions about whether their team scored too early, as was Lambert after defeats at MK Dons and Millwall, but seldom has a match looked over as soon as it did when Wes Hoolahan ended a barren spell with his first goal since Boxing Day.
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Hoolahan's simple tap-in came after just 104 seconds and set City on course for a win that extended their lead at the top of the table to seven points over Leeds and moved them a step closer to a return to the Championship.
Five wins from their remaining 11 games will almost certainly be enough to go up, and given that the best points total by a third- placed side in League One in the past decade is 87 - by MK Dons a year ago - four more victories, allied to City's formidable goal difference, may even do the job.
The next three matches, at Huddersfield and Swindon and at home to Leeds, will surely provide more of a test than Yeovil but after emerging from a brief stumble with three successive victories, the Canaries go into that sequence of games in better shape than their three opponents.
In a season of statistical excess, the Yeovil game provided more mathematical fun.
Hoolahan, skipper Grant Holt and Chris Martin all scored in the same match for the first time since the 4-1 home win over Brighton in November, taking their combined total this season to 60, a neat two thirds of the 90 goals City have scored in all competitions.
The opening goal came from the first corner, conceded by Steven Caulker under pressure from Holt. Holt met Anthony McNamee's flag-kick with a firm header that rebounded off the inside of the near post and ran along the line perfectly for Hoolahan to knock it home on the bounce for his 14th of the season.
Tremendous work by Holt set up Chris Martin for a near-post volley that flew just wide and then, after 13 minutes, Yeovil managed what proved to be their one shot on target in the whole match, Jean-Paul Kalala's effort from a quickly-taken free-kick by Shaun MacDonald bobbling through to under-employed goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
McNamee and Holt, each on two occasions, came close to extending City's lead but the best opening fell to the skipper in first-half stoppage time when he played a smart one-two with Chris Martin and did the hard part by going round goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, but inexplicably fired into the side netting.
Yeovil made a double change at the break by removing ineffective wide players Ryan Mason and Arron Davies and the third quarter of the match was largely eventful but for a superb save by McCarthy after 65 minutes.
A mistake by Terrell Forbes, one of many, enabled Hoolahan to tee up Simon Lappin for a curling left-foot shot that the 'keeper acrobatically tipped over the bar.
The Scottish midfielder, still seeking his first goal of the season, tried again from the edge of the area a minute later but Yeovil's best performer was again well placed to deny him.
The key second goal came, however, in the 69th minute when Holt, appropriately, scored his 26th of the season.
It was Holt who fed McNamee on the right and the winger's cross was headed straight up into the air by Forbes.
Chris Martin challenged McCarthy and, whether it was the striker's presence or the setting sun that unsettled him, the keeper's miscued punch dropped to Holt, who hooked the ball home from close range.
Six minutes later, it was 3-0 as Chris Martin scored his 20th goal of the season.
McCarthy's kick upfield was met by the head of Michael Nelson and when Martin knocked it on to Holt, he battled well to set up the return pass for Martin, whose well-struck shot McCarthy could only help across the line.
At last the scoreline had a realistic look to it, as City took their goal tally in this season's three meetings with Yeovil into double figures.