Norwich City 3, Exeter City 1
PUBLISHED: 12:00 09 January 2010 | UPDATED: 17:25 10 November 2010
Norwich City beat the weather and League One strugglers Exeter City to chalk up their ninth successive home win at Carrow Road.
Grant Holt scored twice to take his season's tally to 22 and Chris Martin notched his 14th goal of the campaign as the second-placed Canaries gained ground on their promotion rivals.
Holt's eighth-minute goal gave City an interval lead and then three goals in five minutes late in the game produced a lively end to the encounter.
Martin made it 2-0 before substitute Marcus Stewart reduced the arrears, only for Holt to settle the issue with his second of the match.
City have now gone 12 league games without defeat and there was more good news as leaders Leeds were held to a 1-1 draw by Wycombe, so their lead was cut to six points but with a game in hand.
The match was one of only two in League One and seven in England overall to survive the severe winter weather, with referee Darren Deadman happy for the game to go ahead after an early morning visit to the ground.
Manager Paul Lambert was able to name an unchanged side after the 1-0 win at Wycombe but there were two changes on the bench.
Goalkeeper Declan Rudd was named among the substitutes for the first time since November after being sidelined by a knee injury for eight weeks, replacing Jed Steer, and one of Friday's new signings, striker Oli Johnson, from Stockport, was included at the expense of Josh Dawkin.
Before kick-off, Wes Hoolahan was presented with the player of the month award for December, and it was announced that Lambert had been named Coca-Cola League One manager of the month, also for December.
It was a bitterly cold afternoon thanks to a biting wind, but there were only a few pockets of empty seats in another bumper crowd.
Lappin produced City's first shot at goal from Hoolahan's pass in the third minute, but it was on his weaker right foot and lacked power, with goalkeeper Jones able to collect easily.
It took less than eight minutes, however, for the Canaries to go ahead when Holt headed his 21st goal of the season with the Exeter defence caught flat-footed.
Hoolahan crossed, left footed, from the right flank and Holt dropped off defender Duffy at the far post to plant a firm header past Jones.
Holt's next effort, from another Hoolahan pass, was wildly off target but City continued to hold the upper hand.
There was an escape for City in the 20th minute when Golbourne, with a suspicion of handball, put Fleetwood through but Forster dived forward to beat the striker to the ball, then Drury did well to block Tully's powerful drive.
A slick passing move created another opening for City after 26 minutes, Hoolahan sending Holt away but when he chose to lay the ball back for Lappin, the midfielder's shot was deflected, taking the sting out of it, and Jones gathered it comfortably.
Duffy was shown the first yellow card in the 33rd minute for a blatant trip on Chris Martin, but Darel Russell's free-kick was easily cleared.
Forster gathered Stansfield header following a Fleetwood cross as Exeter broke but it was a tame effort.
Nelson forced Jones into another save when he met Lappin's corner with a firm header.
With 37 minutes gone, Drury was foiled by a fine save from Jones, tipping his powerful shot over the top after a flowing move involving Smith, Holt and Hoolahan.
Nelson headed over again from another Lappin flag-kick as City continued to dominate.
Harley was just off target with a low drive that crept through the home defence, then Forster was in the right place to block Russell's header from a Golbourne cross, and as Exeter stepped up their efforts, Russell Martin kept out a goalbound effort from Tully by clearing from a yard in front of the goalline.
Another neat City move triggered by Smith ended with Darel Russell crossing and Lappin trying to loop a header over Jones, but the 'keeper was equal to it.
Golbourne was a threat on the left and brought Forster into action in first-half stoppage time with a powerful left-foot shot from a tight angle.
- HALF-TIME: Norwich City 1, Exeter City 0
A fresh snow shower greeted the start of the second half and within two minutes of the restart, Smith headed just over the top from Drury's excellent cross.
Chris Martin almost made it 2-0 eight minutes after the break when he took Lappin's pass and moved within shooting range, but his curling effort was well saved by Jones, who grabbed the ball at the second attempt.
Hoolahan and Chris Martin did well to carve an opening for Holt on the left side of the Exeter area but the skipper spoiled the move with a stray pass.
Exeter skipper Taylor made a fine interception to stop Holt's pass reaching Smith in the danger area as the hosts threatened again.
With just under half an hour left, Exeter made a triple substitution with Sercombe and former Ipswich pair Stewart and Logan introduced.
Sercombe almost made an immediate impact with a swerving volley that flew just wide, followed moments later by a vicious low drive that Forster pushed round the post.
Harley then curled a free-kick past the wall but straight at Forster, after Lappin was adjudged to have tripped Stewart.
The Canaries had lost momentum and Cozic was just off target with a left-foot shot as the home crowd began to voice their concern.
But they were relieved after 77 minutes when Chris Martin made it 2-0 with his 14th goal of the season.
Hoolahan fed Lappin on the left and his cross to the far post was knocked back by Holt for Martin to score from close range, despite a half-block by the defender on the line.
But, with 10 minutes left, substitutes Sercombe and Stewart combined to reduce the arrears for Exeter.
Forster was unable to hold Sercombe's long-range effort and Stewart coolly tucked in the rebound.
Stewart and Darel Russell were booked after they grappled over the ball.
However, Holt restored City's two-goal advantage two minutes later when Hoolahan put him through and he sprang the offside trap, sidestepping Jones to score his 22nd of the season.
Johnson was introduced for Hoolahan and almost scored a superb solo goal when he finished a jinking run with a curling right-foot shot that just cleared the angle of post and bar.
- RESULT: Norwich City 3, Exeter City 1
Norwich City: Forster; Russell Martin, Doherty, Nelson, Drury; Darel Russell; Smith, Lappin; Hoolahan; Holt, Chris Martin.
Subs: Rudd, Otsemobor, Gill, Adeyemi, McNamee, Johnson (for Hoolahan, 83), McDonald.
Exeter City: Jones; Duffy, Taylor, Seaborne; Tully, Cozic, Alex Russell, Harley, Golbourne; Fleetwood, Stansfield.
Subs: Marriott, Edwards, Saunders, Sercombe (for Alex Russell, 62), Dunne, Logan (for Fleetwood, 62), Stewart (for Stansfield, 62).
Referee: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire)
Goals: Norwich: Holt (8), Chris Martin (77), Holt (82). Exeter: Stewart (80)
Bookings: Norwich: Russell (80). Exeter: Duffy (33), Stewart (80)