Norwich through to Carling second round
CHRIS LAKEY Torquay United 0, Norwich City 2: Norwich City ensured they would not be one of a long list of Championship clubs who fell by the wayside at the opening fence of this year’s Carling Cup competition with a facile victory on the south coast tonight.
Torquay United 0, Norwich City 2
Norwich City ensured they would not be one of a long list of Championship clubs who fell by the wayside at the opening fence of this year's Carling Cup competition with a facile victory on the south coast tonight.
The competition hasn't been kind to manager Nigel Worthington since he took over at Carrow Road: a couple of third round appearances are about all he has to show. But it's a competition which doesn't carry the cache of the FA Cup nor the importance of the Championship - which is perhaps why many of City's rivals will be doing other, probably more important, things when the draw is made for the second round on Saturday.
That City will be in the hat - thanks to Leon McKenzie and Dickson Etuhu - is fine, at this stage of the season at least, and, after all, winning breeds confidence - and City are full of that at the moment.
Fielding just five regulars and able to name only four subs - Paul McVeigh picking up an injury in training on Tuesday - City will take heart that they still managed to repel the danger and avoid the banana skins that caught out the likes of Crystal Palace and Ipswich on Tuesday evening.
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Worthington's decision to make changes meant the 4-3-3 formation was shelved for the night, with Leon McKenzie leading the attack with Ryan Jarvis as City reverted to 4-4-2. There was a are start for Craig Fleming, in place of Jason Shackell, with young Andrew Cave-Brown at right back, although his first start for City was to end in agony after less than half an hour.
Ian Henderson came in for Lee Croft on the right, with Andy Hughes, rather than Darren Huckerby, on the left flank, and Youssef Safri rested from midfield.
Henderson was quickly into the action, breaking down the right and laying off to Cave-Brown, whose cross was cleared by the home defence.
Two minutes later and it was Jarvis who sent in the first shot, a stinging right-footer from the edge of the area that was rising as it cleared the bar by a couple of feet.
City were passing the ball well, keeping possession and trying to dampen Torquay's early enthusiasm. It wasn't easy, as Micky Evans reminded the Canaries with a lovely flick-on at the near post which Gallacher handled comfortably.
A minute later Gallacher had to get down low to stop a good low drive from 25 yards from defender Steve Woods after City failed to clear a Lee Andrews free-kick.
It was clearly not one-way traffic in the opening stages, with neither side given much chance to relax, but Torquay took the early honours as far as chances went - although as it turned out, that was about as good as it got.
But that nearly all changed on 17 minutes, thanks to a cracking through pass by Jarvis which found McKenzie.with a free run on goal, only to see Nathan Abbey come out well and save at his feet.
It was a move which showed real Championship class, but City needed to build on it. Jarvis certainly took the hint, a good run down the right followed by a deep cross which Hughes headed back but to an empty penalty area.
McKenzie sent a looping header from Cave-Brown's cross over the bar as City began to establish some superiority - and it was the ex-Posh man who was leading by example, tantalising the home defence at every opportunity.
Hughes had a shot blocked as City parked themselves in the home penalty area, but their momentum was halted on 27 minutes when Cave-Brown appeared to fall badly and after lengthy treatment and was stretchered off.
It took a few minutes for City to settle again, but normal service was soon resumed, with Torquay finding it more and more of an uphill task.
The problem for City's travelling fans was their team, for all their possession, were not a major threat to Abbey's goal.
McKenzie had the chance to do just that six minutes before half-time, but the acrobatics involved in his shot weren't matched by the effort itself and another effort two minutes later was from a tough angle and cleared.
Jarvis had the chance to give City the lead in time added on in the first half, but having been set up by McKenzie, he couldn't poke the ball past Abbey.
Two strikers, an opportunity each - and still goalless at half-time.
It stayed that way for just three minutes of the second half, with McKenzie finally getting the ball past Abbey, heading in Henderson's cross from City's left flank after a short corner.
It was the perfect start to the half for City and McKenzie - and a deserved lead. The question now was would City press and try and kill off the game or would they fall into the trap of defending a slender lead, albeit against a team from two divisions below them.
Torquay almost answered the question themselves, with Jamie Ward testing Gallacher with a 25-yard free-kick that the keeper did well to keep out.
Torquay pressed momentarily, Darren Garner sending a long-range effort - seconds before being replaced by manager Ian Atkins - but City are dangerous on the break and Spillane almost got a second with a left foot shot which deflected out for a corner.
Suddenly the pressure was on Torquay, who had to defend a succession of corners, and it was from that pressure that City put the game beyond Torquay's reach. Gary Doherty saw a header cleared off the line only for Etuhu to stab home the loose ball from close range on 64 minutes.
It was a big test of Torquay's resolve and City's patience, but there was never any doubt as to whose name would be in the hat for Saturday's second round draw.
McKenzie almost made that a sure fire certainty as the match moved into the last 15 minutes, heading low but seeing Abbey get down well on his line.