Goal machine Holt catalyst for Norwich City
Paddy Davitt Southend United 0, Norwich City 3: Norwich banished any lingering FA Cup hangover at Roots Hall last night to step up their League One promotion assault.
Southend United 0, Norwich City 3
Norwich banished any lingering FA Cup hangover at Roots Hall last night to step up their League One promotion assault.
Goal machine Grant Holt struck a clinical second half brace sandwiched around homegrown youngster Korey Smith's deflected strike to settle a drab affair.
Not that Paul Lambert, his closely knit squad or the packed away ranks cared one jot after successfully coming through another tricky away test.
Lambert shuffled his pack but the Scot's tried and trusted league blueprint survived the minor surgery to his starting line up.
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Scotland international Stephen Hughes replaced the combative Darel Russell after the midfielder failed to shake off the dead leg injury picked up in City's cup exit.
Jens Berthel Askou was restored to the centre of defence alongside Gary Doherty while Peterborough loanee Russell Martin made his debut at right-back with Jon Otsemobor left out of Lambert's matchday squad.
Martin's fellow loan arrival Anthony McNamee had to settle for a watching brief from the dug out.
Lambert also kept faith with teenage back-up keeper Jed Steer on the bench - a further indication Michael Theoklitos' future appears to lie away from Norfolk.
Hughes immediately slotted into Russell's holding berth with Simon Lappin and Smith tucked in to man City's engine room in the frenetic early sparring.
Scott Malone robbed Holt to trigger a rapier attacking burst from the hosts but Lee Barnard's curler flew just over Fraser Forster's bar following Jabo Ibehre's precise lay-off.
The on loan MK Dons frontman twisted away from Berthel-Askou but overlapping full-back Simon Francis carved his cross behind as Southend moved on to the front foot.
Damian Scannell's crude body check on Simon Lappin presented Hughes with a set piece chance but Scott Malone headed clear with Chris Martin racing to the near post.
The ever-alert Wes Hoolahan almost profited from Jean-Francois Christophe's miscued clearance only for the defender's hack to drop fortuitously behind.
Norwich's talisman then intelligently picked out Adam Drury with a cute reverse ball but the City full-back was crowded out.
Canaries' skipper Holt jinked inside Sean Morrison before testing Steve Mildenhall with a 25-yard daisy cutter.
City's packed away end broke into a chorus taunting the hosts' blue and white colours during a lengthy injury stoppage after Alan McCormack twisted awkwardly trying to pressure Holt.
After the re-start Chris Martin was unable to gather Hoolahan's slide rule pass but Lambert's men were now asserting a measure of territorial dominance after Southend's early fire had subsided.
Drury continued to be the favoured out ball for City's patient midfield as Southend retreated to their 18 yard box - but the visitors' potent front two were feeding off slim pickings in the final third.
Lappin and Chris Martin worked some space down Southend's exposed right flank but Martin's cross flew beyond Holt.
The under-employed Forster grasped Francis' hanging cross underneath his bar before launching a swift counter that saw Lappin drill wide of Mildenhall's left hand upright.
Chris Martin swivelled away from Morrison but his rasping strike flew over midway through the opening period.
The Norwich frontman's one-man crusade showed no sign of abating when he latched on to Holt's inviting header but smashed into the same terracing minutes later.
Forster was finally pressed into meaningful action to tip away Ibehre's goal bound half volley in the one real moment of quality from either side before the break.
Lambert held a mini pitchside conference with Hughes during a stoppage for the first caution - Scannell catching Drury with a clumsy late challenge. Scannell skipped past Drury on the resumption but Askou was across to bail out his fellow defender.
Hoolahan's underhit diagonal blew the chance of a sharp Norwich counter as the game meandered to half time.
Askou moved out of the backline to halt Franck Moussa before Doherty calmly headed back to Forster.
Holt again tried to unlock Southend's well-drilled defence with an improvised burst - cutting in off the left flank only to tamely clip at a diving Morrison.
Chris Martin then slipped in Lappin but the Scot again dragged at Mildenhall from the edge of the box.
Norwich were forced into a re-shuffle at half-time with Drury failing to appear after his heavy first half collision with Scannell.
Tom Adeyemi was introduced with Lappin switching to Drury's vacated left-back berth.
Southend dangerman Ibehre climbed above Doherty but mis-directed Malone's fizzing centre over in an early second half warning for the Canaries.
Korey Smith mugged Christophe in midfield before driving at the heart of the Southend defence and picking out Hoolahan who struck the diving Mildenhall's legs from 16 yards.
Hoolahan's inswinging free kick had Lambert throwing his hands to his head as Mildenhall came through a crowd scene to claim unopposed.
The game sparked into life in the 55th minute with two chances at either end - Doherty's strike on the turn slammed Malone from Hughes corner before Scannell hammered over with only Forster to beat after Southend flooded forward.
Doherty needed all his nous to intercept McCormack's weighted through ball on the edge of the City box.
Franck Moussa's snap header flew over as the contest threatened to descend into another prolonged lull with neither side able to wrestle the initiative.
Malone's teasing cross evaded Scannell and Ibehre barely six yards out on the hour mark when just the slightest touch spelt trouble for Forster.
Chris Martin hit the deck in a wrestling match with Adam Barrett inside the Southend penalty box then protested his innocence after the assistant put him in the frame.
Deadly assassin Holt broke the deadlock on 68 minutes - drilling an angled right footer into Mildenhall's bottom left hand corner from 14 yards.
Lee Barnard was inches from dragging Southend level seconds later when his glancing near post header rolled wide with Forster rooted to his line.
Mildenhall acrobatically pushed Askou's close range header over from Hughes' corner with City's travelling support poised to celebrate again. Smith did double Norwich's lead on 77 minutes - latching on to Chris Martin's ball to calmly slot from an identical position to Holt's earlier finish via a slight deflection off Malone.
Forster went full length to claw away Barnard's 20-yard shot with Southend striving to set up a grandstand finish. Ibehre bundled home in the same final seconds but the referee responded to Fraser's protests to disallow the 'goal' for handball.
McCormack then upended second half arrival Luke Daley deep in stoppage time - Holt calmly sending Mildenhall the wrong way to seal an emphatic win.
t Southend: Mildenhall, Francis, Malone, Christophe, Morrison, Barrett, McCormack, Barnard, Scannell, Moussa, Ibehre.
Subs: O'Keefe, Asante, Walker (for Scannell, 78), Bentley, Freedman (for Moussa, 78)
Booking: Scannell (late challenge on Drury, 34), Christophe (challenge from behind on Holt, 73)
t Norwich: Forster, R Martin, Doherty, Askou, Drury, Hughes, Holt, Hoolahan, C Martin, Lappin, Smith.
Subs: Steer, Nelson (for Smith, 90), McVeigh, Adeyemi (for Drury, 45), McNamee, Daley, (for Hoolahan, 80), McDonald.
Booking: Holt (shoving match with Scannell, 57)
Goals: Holt (68, 90), Smith (77)
t Referee: P Crossley (Kent)
t Att: 8,732 (1,957 Norwich fans)
t Man of the Match: Grant Holt - deadly.
t Time added on: 2 mins / 3 mins
t Shots on: Southend 3, Norwich 7
t Shots off: Southend 6, Norwich 3
t Fouls conceded: Southend 8, Norwich 11
t Corners: Southend 5, Norwich 4
t Offsides: Southend 1, Norwich 2