Double delight for Smith and City
David Cuffley Wycombe 0, Norwich City 1: When the possibility of completing a personal double against Wycombe Wanderers was suggested to Korey Smith the day before Norwich City's trip to Adams Park, he reacted almost with embarrassment.
When the possibility of completing a personal double against Wycombe Wanderers was suggested to Korey Smith the day before Norwich City's trip to Adams Park, he reacted almost with embarrassment.
Smith scored his first senior goal for the Canaries in the 5-2 home win over Wycombe back in August, when he was a surprise selection for manager Paul Lambert's first game in charge, but he was making no promises about an action replay.
“I was out there with a couple of lads yesterday and they said it was my first goal and I had to do it again,” said the 18-year-old ahead of Friday's training session. “I don't know if I can do that but I'm looking forward to it.”
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When Smith first started to make his mark as part of Lambert's first-choice line-up in the autumn, his boss was reluctant to overdo the praise, joking that he didn't want him turning up for training in trendy clothing and a fast car. He need not have worried.
Regular first team football does not appear to have affected the affable teenager as he starts a new year brimming with possibilities.
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If 2009 was eventful, to say the least, for the young midfielder, with a first team baptism, the despair of relegation, new-found celebrity and a trip to 10 Downing Street, then 2010 promises to be even more memorable.
And he started it in the best possible fashion with the only goal after 77 minutes as City beat Wycombe to move into second place in League One on a day when Charlton were left idle by a postponement at Walsall, of all places, and other main rivals Colchester, of all teams, suffered a 7-0 hammering in the FA Cup at Preston.
It was Smith, back after missing three matches through injury, who finally broke Wycombe's resistance when he fired home from Wes Hoolahan's cross after City had been thwarted time and again by goalkeeper Scott Shearer, who made no fewer than five important saves.
The goal came after Shearer had denied both Russell Martin and Chris Martin twice, after first keeping out Simon Lappin's dipping free-kick.
In keeping with recent games, it took the Canaries the first quarter of the match to get into their stride, and they had to be grateful to Russell Martin for keeping them on terms with an excellent piece of defensive work to break down a swift Wycombe counter-attack, when he raced across to block Jon-Paul Pittman's shot and came out with the ball.
Hoolahan signalled City's intentions with a left-foot drive just over the top from 25 yards, and Shearer was called into serious action for the first time when he kept out Lappin's free-kick after a yellow card challenge on Hoolahan by Wycombe new signing Adam Hinshelwood.
Chris Martin was desperately close to opening the scoring after 35 minutes when his free-kick, curled over the wall, struck the crossbar, and Russell Martin almost broke the deadlock against his old club two minutes before the interval when Grant Holt nodded Lappin's cross into his path and the full-back struck an instinctive half-volley that was dipping under the bar before Shearer did just enough to tip it over.
The onslaught continued after the break. Wycombe's Tommy Doherty earned a booking for chopping down Lappin 10 yards outside the area and, from the resulting free-kick, Chris Martin brought a fine save out of Shearer, the 'keeper diving to his left to push the ball round the post.
Shearer then produced a brilliant stop to keep out Russell Martin's powerful 20-yard drive, while it took more than an hour for Wycombe to manage their first shot on target when Pittman went through, but fired straight at goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Shearer produced his fifth excellent save after 71 minutes when Chris Martin cut in from the left touchline and struck a venomous shot that the 'keeper dived to his left to keep out, then Holt had a clever backheel blocked on the line by Lewis Hunt.
City's one genuinely lucky escape came after 76 minutes when Wycombe broke and Matt Phillips' shot beat Forster but rebounded off the post into the goalkeeper's arms.
One minute later came the only goal as Hoolahan, taking possession on the left, pulled back the perfect centre for Smith, coming in behind the front players, to fire home his third goal of the campaign. He may have tired slightly in the second half on his first appearance for three weeks, but he still had the presence of mind to be in the right place at the right time.
Lambert was only slightly more forthcoming about Smith's contribution after victory over his former club. “He has done great. You have got to remember he's only an 18-year-old lad who's just learning the game but he has been a big player for me since I came in,” he said, something of an understatement.