A much improved Huddersfield Town, boosted by the seemingly miraculous return of Jonathan Hogg, saw off an incoherent Norwich side with a devastating 7 minute spell in the middle of the second half to march ever closer to a guaranteed play off spot.
The visitors, clearly in some turmoil and turning to Town’s erstwhile head of recruitment, Stuart Webber, for redemption, included an array of talented and expensive players, many with top flight experience, but rarely functioned as a team on a night where the hosts regained their energy levels and ran the Norfolk men ragged.
With Mooy deployed further forward to occupy the number 10 role, Billing joined Hogg in the middle and put in an assured performance alongside the miracle man.
A first half of few chances was possibly edged by Town and had Billings excellent shot following a typical Smith foray curled a little more, an early goal would have soothed any anxiety felt by a team vanquished by relegation threatened clubs in the past 2 games.
Kachunga had a header saved by McGovern but, on the whole, Norwich’s defence coped reasonably well against an energised home side and gradually, the Canaries started to come in to the game.
An early booking for Norwich had stamped the referee’s authority on the game – a welcome change from the poor officiating usually on display – and while short on goal mouth incident, the first half was an entertaining contest, and the sight of Hogg crashing in to challenges, winning headers and marauding around the middle of the park protecting his back four as if he hadn’t almost suffered a career threatening injury less than three weeks ago would have been worth the entrance fee alone.
The visitors also posed intermittent danger and in Pritchard they boast a dynamo of a midfield player who can hurt teams when in possession. Up front, Huddersfield born Jerome is strong and experienced but Town’s one time nemesis, Wildschutt, caused few problems and certainly didn’t look worth the reported £7M Wigan screwed out of Norwich.
Cameron Jerome had the ball in the net but was clearly offside, though there were one or two moments in the first half which emphasised that the visitors could not be treated lightly despite their troubles.
Overall, however, Town were the more progressive side and carried threat from both flanks without troubling the keeper too much – Kachunga’s header and a decent Mooy free kick aside. Van La Parra had served up the cross for Kachunga’s clever header and provided another inviting one agonisingly close to on rushing Town players. His decision making, while far from perfect, is improving.
As ever with Town, the first goal was going to be all important and after dominating the first 10 minutes of the second period, a glorious chance was set up by Mooy for Wells with a great through ball. The Bermudian, however, had a little too much time to think and indecision invaded instinct as he hit his shot straight at McGovern. The move had begun at left back with Loewe, involved a great ball through the lines by Schindler in addition to Mooy’s vision and exemplified Town’s fluency to that point.
Struggling to hold on to possession and forced back by yellow shirts, Town lost their way after the miss and another, rightly, disallowed goal from Jerome followed several dangerous looking situations for the visitors, with Ward forced in to a good, if routine, save from a Pritchard effort and one or two less than composed blocks and clearances during the lull.
Any worry, however, was snuffed out as Norwich’s ascendancy was killed by a long ball over the top towards Kachunga which brushed Bennet’s thigh, slowed the pace of the ball and sat up nicely for Town’s top scorer who finished nicely past the keeper, who needed to be much braver.
Norwich’s subsequent implosion was as astonishing as it was welcome to a revitalised and rampant home side. The mental state of the Canaries can only be a matter of conjecture, but the Carrow Road faithful watching on TV and, commendably, from the South Stand in decent numbers, will be very worried at the capitulation and the scale of the job facing Webber.
Seizing the initiative and propelled by the first goal in far too long, Town ruthlessly snuffed out their visibly deflated opponents.
Intricate, close passing between Van La Parra, Wells and Mooy found the Australian free in the area and, somehow, he manipulated the ball past a wrong footed Norwich keeper to double the lead and seal the points.
More good play just minutes later involving the same 3 players saw Wells grab a deserved goal to ice the cake – his contribution throughout had been inventive and important – but he was helped by some very poor goalkeeping.
At 3-0, Town didn’t take their foot off the Canaries’ throats and Kachunga brought a good save out of the otherwise hapless McGregor and a Wells turn in the box saw him crash the ball against the bar with such force that the ball flew for a throw in towards the half way line.
Dispirited Norwich, who disintegrated after the setback of the first goal, could barely conceal their lack of fight and once the final whistle blew, some of them, notably Jerome who stormed down the tunnel, seemed reluctant to extend the courtesy of acknowledgement to the fans who could’ve stayed at home to watch on Sky but made the long, tiresome journey to Yorkshire. We have all been there watching our clubs and could empathise with their despair – especially having witnessed some terrible thrashings in Norfolk over the years.
For Town, the massive boost of 3 important points, a return to at times scintillating form and, above all, the Hogg miracle couldn’t have come at a better time. With Brown and Palmer on the mend and reportedly due back for Easter, even a slim hope of automatic promotion was resurrected.
On to Forest with renewed hope.