Norwich City 5, Bristol Rovers 1
David Cuffley SLIDESHOW: Grant Holt scored twice as Norwich City produced a first-half goal rush to sweep aside the challenge of Bristol Rovers at Carrow Road.
Grant Holt scored twice as Norwich City produced a first-half goal rush to sweep aside the challenge of Bristol Rovers at Carrow Road.
The recalled Chris Martin's superb free-kick gave the Canaries the lead after eight minutes, but Rovers, third in League One before kick-off, levelled after 26 minutes with a Jeff Hughes penalty.
However, three goals in the space of nine minutes gave Paul Lambert's men control and a handsome 4-1 interval lead.
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Wes Hoolahan restored City's lead from a penalty after 31 minutes after he was fouled by Byron Anthony, and skipper Holt scored two minutes later from Simon Lappin's corner.
Five minutes before half-time, Holt scored a splendid second to complete an eventful half and take his goal tally to nine for the season in all competitions.
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After the break, Martin could have bagged a second and Holt, substitute Stephen Hughes and Korey Smith all went close to stretching City's lead, but it was not until stoppage time that substitute Jamie Cureton wrapped up the scoring after excellent work by Hoolahan.
It was another very comfortable home win - and City's fourth victory in eight league games under Lambert.
The City boss made just one change to the starting eleven from Tuesday's 4-0 victory over Leyton Orient with Martin, who scored the opening goal four days ago, replacing Paul McVeigh, who was among the seven substitutes.
Eighteen-year-old Declan Rudd was given the green light to continue in goal after impressive displays against Gillingham and Orient, so on-loan Fraser Forster, available after suspension, had to settle for a place on the bench.
Rovers, with four wins in five League One away games, fielded the same eleven from their 3-2 midweek win at Southampton and manager Paul Trollope named the same seven substitutes, including Andy Williams, who scored a stoppage-time winner at St Mary's Stadium.
Rovers kicked off in dry but gloomy and windy conditions, defending the Barclay goal.
Holt and Lines tangled going for an early free-kick from Lappin with the City skipper's header going wide.
Rovers forced a third-minute corner, with Coles getting his head to Campbell's kick but his effort looped off target and Russell headed clear.
City won a free-kick after seven minutes when Lines tripped Hoolahan on the edge of the area - and it led to the opening goal from Martin.
Referee Hall moved the ball back at one point as Lappin and Martin hovered over the kick, before Martin stepped up to curl a perfect right-foot shot past 'keeper Andersen for his fourth goal of the season.
Martin had the ball in the net again less than two minutes later but the effort was disallowed for handball, though he argued the point at some length with the referee.
Lappin fired wide from outside the area after a quickly-taken free-kick awarded for a foul on Martin.
A splendid move almost led to a second goal when Holt found Smith and his first time ball reached Martin in the penalty area, and he produced a neat sidestep but blasted his shot against the bar - however, the offside flag signalled that the miss was academic.
Rudd had not been unduly troubled but produced a fine save after 23 minutes to keep City on terms, diving to his right to push Kuffour's shot past the post.
Rovers drew level after 26 minutes from the penalty spot. Askou was adjudged to have fouled Kuffour and was shown the yellow card, Jeff Hughes stepping up to beat Rudd from the spot.
City almost regained the lead a minute later when Hoolahan worked his way deep into the Rovers area and his cross was nodded back by Holt to Martin, who headed narrowly over.
City regained the lead just after the half-hour when Hoolahan scored from the penalty spot. Anthony was adjudged to have fouled Hoolahan and, after a short delay, he stepped up to beat Andersen with a left-foot shot.
It was non-stop action and the Canaries went 3-1 up two minutes later. Lappin's inswinging corner from the right was allowed to sweep across the six-yard box as far as Holt, who drilled home a low shot for his eighth goal of the season.
Lappin became the second City player booked seven minutes before the break when he fouled Lines.
Hoolahan tested Andersen again with a curling left-foot shot from more than 20 yards as the home side continued to press.
But the home side did not have long to wait for the fourth goal as, five minutes before the interval, Holt powered forward, brushed off the challenge of Anthony and crashed in a left-foot shot for his second of the match.
t Half-time: Norwich City 4, Bristol Rovers 1
Rovers had a lucky escape in the opening seconds of the second half when Anthony wrestled Holt to the ground but referee Hall decided the offence was outside the box when it appeared to be a yard inside. Hoolahan's free-kick was cut out by Andersen.
There was a blow for City four minutes after the break when Spillane, chasing Lescott, pulled up sharply and appeared to pull his hamstring. He was helped off and had to be replaced by McVeigh, with Smith dropping to right-back.
Martin missed a golden chance to make it 5-1 seven minutes after the interval when he headed wide from Drury's excellent cross.
Rovers made their first change after 56 minutes when Williams was sent on in place of Wright, and two minutes later Blizzard replaced Lines.
Drury was shown the yellow card after 59 minutes for a foul on substitute Williams.
Lappin fired wide from long range after taking a short pass from the busy Hoolahan.
Rudd was brought into action twice when he pushed Regan's shot into the side netting, then saved from Dickson, who let fly from a narrow angle.
The Canaries had been less dominant since the break, but Holt was close to completing his hat-trick after 69 minutes when he met Smith's cross with a first-time shot that Andersen saved low to his right.
Rovers made their final change with 20 minutes left when Dickson made way for Duffy.
With less than a quarter of an hour left, Lambert made his second change with Russell replaced by Hughes.
Hughes was only just off target eight minutes from time when he floated in a right-foot shot from outside the area, before Holt made way to a great ovation, to be replaced by Cureton.
Smith very nearly made it 5-1 in the final minute when he shot wide after a one-two with substitute Cureton.
But there was one more goal to come as Hoolahan did brilliantly to set up Cureton for goal number five in stoppage time.
t Norwich City: Rudd; Spillane (McVeigh, 51), Doherty, Askou, Drury; Russell (Hughes, 77); Smith, Lappin; Hoolahan; Holt (Cureton, 82), Martin. Subs (not used): Forster, Adeyemi, Daley, McDonald.
t Bristol Rovers: Andersen; Regan, Anthony, Coles, Lescott; Wright (Williams, 56), Campbell, Lines (Blizzard, 58), Jeff Hughes; Kuffour, Dickson (Duffy, 71). Subs (not used): Evans, Elliott, Reece, Swallow.
t Referee: Andy Hall (West Midlands)
t Attendance: 24,117
Norwich: Martin (8), Hoolahan (pen, 31), Holt (33, 40), Cureton (90).
Rovers: Hughes (pen, 26)
t Bookings: Norwich: Askou (26), Lappin (38), Drury (59)