Pukki (51), Idah (87)
Pukki and Idah fire Canaries seven points clear again
- Credit: Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia combined yet again for Norwich City, to re-establish the Championship leaders' seven-point lead at the summit - after finally breaking the resistance of bottom side Wycombe Wanderers.
Pukki's 18th of the season, set up by Buendia in the 51st minute, broke the deadlock after the Canaries emerged from half-time with greater attacking intent.
Adam Idah then came off the bench to get his first goal since September, scrambling in at a corner in the 87th minute to make sure of a hard fought win
The fifth consecutive victory, in surprisingly warm temperatures on a sunny early spring day in Buckinghamshire, pushed City 10 points clear of third place as they hit 70 points with 13 games remaining.
Daniel Farke made two changes to his starting XI, with Ben Gibson returning in central defence and Onel Hernandez making his first league start since October, with Todd Cantwell missing out with a calf injury.
The hosts came into the game 11 points from safety and bottom of the table despite an improvement of form, winning two and drawing one of their last four, beating play-off chasing Reading at Adams Park on Tuesday night.
Gareth Ainsworth’s spirited side – who were denied a draw by a late Mario Vrancic free-kick at Carrow Road in October – had conceded a league-high of 51 goals going into the game and were without centre-back Ryan Tafazolli, who had been sent off against Reading.
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The Chairboys were very disciplined in their defensive shape but needed keeper David Stockdale to make a crucial save in the 12th minute, as Vrancic very nearly repeated his magic trick, curling a central free-kick towards the top-right corner.
Wycombe had a former Canaries academy prospect in their ranks, with midfield youngster Anis Mehmeti making the breakthrough into senior football this season having left Norwich in 2019.
The 20-year-old couldn't take his big moment in the 33rd minute though, as yet another long ball was pumped towards big striker Uche Ikpezu, who nodded the ball into the left channel and saw Mehmeti smash a left-footed blast wide of the near post.
Two minutes later and the Albania youth international was appealing for a penalty, after breezing past Oliver Skipp and going down at the slightest contact.
Home boss Ainsworth roared with frustration after referee Robert Jones dismissed calls for another foul on Mehmeti soon after and was spoken to be the referee about his behaviour on the touchline.
Hernandez's low cross from the left found Kenny McLean on the far side of the box in the 38th minute but the Scot could only blast wide.
Then the visitors were denied by the crossbar, with Buendia popping up to loop a Gibson cross goalwards, leaving Stockdale stranded, and Pukki could only lash the loose ball well wide.
Mehmeti, clearly desperate for a goal against the club that released him, cut on to his right to the left of the D and curled a low shot past the far post in the second minute of added time, as the bottom side continued to give the leaders a good run for their money.
Farke appeared to keep his substitutes in the dressing room with the starting XI for his half-time team talk but made no changes initially.
Hernandez had a golden chance to open the scoring four minutes after the break but isn't known for his aerial ability and made a mess of a close-range header after good play from Max Aarons on the right.
The breakthrough finally came from that feared link-up of Buendia and Pukki though, the Argentine getting to the bye-line on the right and crossing low for his 10th assist of the season, with City's top scorer finding a yard of space to snap a shot goalwards which deflected past Stockdale from close range in the 51st minute.
Two minutes later and Hernandez couldn't make the most of a lovely flick into the box from Vrancic, only managing to hook the ball wide as Stockdale closed in.
Buendia should have had his 10th goal of the campaign as well in the 55th minute, after McLean found Hernandez in space on the left and the winger cut inside and shaped to shoot, but instead spread a low pass to the creative maestro, who smashed over from close range.
Farke's team talk had clearly done the job, with the leaders putting their foot on the pedal, although Ikpeazu kept them honest with an acrobatic effort, hooking wide from amid a goalmouth scramble.
Wycombe boss Ainsworth could see the way the game was going and responded with a highly unusual quintuple substitution, although the daunting physical presence of experienced striker Adebayo Akinfenwa wasn't among the five replacements.
The Chairboys continued to pump the ball long but City survived a series of corners from substitute Joe Jacobson, with Tim Krul punching one away which Scott Kashket drove wide from the edge of the box.
Idah and Lukas Rupp replaced Hernandez and Vrancic with five minutes remaining and soon after Krul had to hold a low shot from another of the substitutes, Daryl Horgan, as the hosts pushed hard.
Idah saw a shot deflected wide in the 87th minute after a lovely pass from Rupp and from the resulting corner the Canaries put the game to bed.
Buendia curled in low to the near post from the left and McLean nudged the ball on, with Ireland forward Idah reacting first to bundle home from close range.
It was a second goal of the season for the 20-year-old, five months after scoring the late winner at Huddersfield on the opening day of the season - having missed two months of mid-season with a knee and foot injury.
It was also particularly satisfying, having been sent off for a petulant reaction during the home win against Wycombe, but more importantly ensured Norwich are seven points clear of second-placed Brentford ahead of the Bees' coming to Carrow Road on Wednesday (5.30pm).
NORWICH (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Hanley (C), Gibson, Giannoulis; Skipp (Sorensen 90+2), McLean; Buendia (Placheta 90+1), Vrancic (Rupp 84), Hernandez (Idah 84); Pukki (Zimmermann 88). Unused subs: Barden (GK), Tettey, Dowell, Hugill
WYCOMBE (4-5-1): Stockdale; Grimmer, Stewart (C), Knight, Obita (Jacobson 67); McCleary (Kashket 68), Mehmeti (Horgan 67), Gape (Ofoborh 68), Wheeler (Thompson 68); Onyedinma; Ikpeazu Unused subs: Anderson (GK), McCarthy, Akinfenwa, Samuel
Booked: Wheeler, Gape, McCleary
REFEREE: Robert Jones (Merseyside)