Norwich City scored five superb goals as they completely dismantled a poor Nottingham Forest at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Alex Neil went back to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation with Nelson Oliveira being the lone striker. It certainly looks as though Neil thinks Oliveira is his number one striker at this time. Alex Pritchard played with Wes Hoolahan and Josh Murphy in the three behind him.
The first goal came after just ten minutes when a Hoolahan corner was cleared to the edge of the area, very high in the air. The ball went up around 40 yards before falling to Jonny Howson on the edge of the area. Jonny watched it fall and then showed incredible technique to score the volley of his life which flew into the top corner in front of the Barclay. He celebrated like it really meant something to him.
It was an extraordinary goal and the lead was doubled six minutes later when Hoolahan put Murphy in on the right after an advantage was played. Murphy fired home from a very tight angle and stood with his arms outstretched in front of the adoring Barclay.
Just two minutes later and Wes Hoolahan showed why he is still the main man, when he received the ball near to thirty yards from goal. He took the ball out of the air with a touch and then hit the ball on the half volley to send a screamer into the goal past the despairing Henderson who injured himself as he tried to save it. He had to be replaced by young Jordan Smith in the aftermath of the celebrations.
Danny Fox had Forest’s best chance from a free kick that he somehow headed across the face of goal and out of play when he seemed certain to score.
Other than that though, it was all Norwich and I was amazed at how open Forest were in that first half. I expected a lot more from them, to be honest.
The second half saw the expected bounce after a probable half time hairdryer for the visitors and they started the second half brightly. They had a fair bit of possession then but it was mostly back and forth between the midfield and defence. Britt Assombalonga never threatened and was comfortably dealt with by Klose and Martin.
The next goal would be crucial and it went to City on 61 minutes when Pritchard picked up the ball 30 yards out and drove on towards goal. The Forest defence backed off and he hit a nice shot from the edge of the area to beat Smith and make it 4-0.
In the 70th minute, Eric Lichaj scythed down Josh Murphy and was shown a second yellow and sent off. That seemed to galvanise the visitors though and they upped their game.
The Norwich back four were undone in the 75th minute when a through ball found Ross McCormack, on as a substitute for Jamie Ward. The summer City transfer target was one on one with Ruddy and scored. He held his hand to his ear as he picked up the ball and ran back to the centre.
He’d received dog’s abuse throughout, when he warmed up and then came on, like the classic ‘What a waste of money’ and ‘Fatboy what’s the score?’
By this time though, Pinto and Dijks had been withdrawn for Whittaker and Bennett, no doubt with one eye on Newcastle.
There was still time though for Pritchard to seal the man of the match award with a sublime left footed finish, again from outside the area that saw Smith grasping at air as it sailed in.
A comprehensive dismantling of a Forest side that had won three of their last four. The corner looks more and more like it may be being turned. Having said that, Tuesday is the acid test as top of the table Newcastle visit the fine city.
When Norwich play like this, I look back at that eight defeats in ten run before Christmas and wonder exactly how it happened.